Tuesday, December 28, 2010


When will the last HECO generator be unplugged?

by Larry Geller

Looking back at 2010, I wonder if we can say we’ve made measurable progress in energy independence. On Oahu, our energy future is tied firmly to the prospects for replacing our current generating infrastructure, in particular the generators owned and operated by Hawaiian Electric. As alternative energy ramps up, those generators need to be spun down. But things seem to be going well for the generators and not so well for the alternatives, as 2010 winds down.


Looking up

Things ought to be looking up at HECO. Every new development announced (for example, Koa Ridge) means more people plugging in. The generators will be spinning far into the future. More oil will be burned, more coal shoveled into the hoppers.

But is that what we want?

Looking down

What we need is more gloom and doom in the HECO boardroom. We need projections showing that over time, generating electricity from fossil fuels (which is their business, the source of their profit) will be declining.

They should be planning for the day when they will unplug that last generator.

Heck, we should have a date when we expect those generators to be unplugged.

Just as nations have goals to reduce carbon output to combat global warming, Hawaii needs some realistic targets for energy independence and better food sustainability. The two are related. The plan, though, seems to be more development (e.g., Koa Ridge, “Envision Laie”).  These are not public plans, this are developers working to pave over our island.

Every time ag land is taken to be replaced with development, HECO’s prospects go up, and the chances to replace those generators recedes. We need timelines, goals and above all, execution. We need to make things happen. Hawaii has been weak on execution in too many areas of endeavor.

So Koa Ridge will mean more coal and oil burned--a longer life for a dinosaur method of generating power. [To their credit, Castle & Cooke propose to manage their own storm water, a bandwagon I’m currently on.]

Electric cars, should they become popular, will mean still more coal and oil burned.

I tend to believe what I see on the ground rather than what passes for plans. I don’t see wave power, I don’t see much wind, I don’t see the end of our dependence on fossil fuels. I do see the power of politics and of big corporations working to maintain the status quo. I see developers running rampant over the landscape. I don’t see bicycle paths. I don’t believe we have the legislation we need (for example, a good feed-in tariff) that will lead us to replacing generators with renewable energy sources.

I don’t see any solar panels yet at HECO’s Ward Avenue substation:

HECO to Pursue Photovoltaic Power at Utility’s Ward Avenue Facility

Contact: Peter Rosegg, 543-7780     December 15, 2006

New project would be second largest PV system on Oahu

(Honolulu, HI): Hawaiian Electric Company plans to seek proposals early in 2007 from solar-energy companies to build, own and operate a photovoltaic system on its Archer Substation located within HECO’s Ward Avenue facility. Photovoltaic (PV) cells convert sunlight directly into electricity.

The solar-energy company selected would sell power from the PV installation to Hawaiian Electric and would be able to claim federal tax credits that the utility can not. HECO may also seek an option to buy the facility in about five years.As currently envisioned, the PV system for the roof of Archer Substation would be rated at about 155 kilowatts of power, making it the second largest on Oahu after a U.S. Navy project on Ford Island. The Archer project, estimated to cost $1.3 million, is planned to be in operation in late 2007.

Hawaii has a new administration, a new boss. Maybe in 2011 we have a chance at some progress. I’m always hopeful.


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