Sunday, May 08, 2011

 

Pro & Con for Big Wind & Inter-Island High Voltage Transmission Line


By Henry Curtis

Hawai`i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI)


The Hawai`i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) is not an energy agreement. If it were, then “clean energy” would be defined somewhere. It isn’t. Not in the agreement and not in state law.

The HCEI is an agreement between former Governor Linda Lingle and HECO that was signed just after oil hit its all time high in the summer of 2008.

The former Governor wanted to reward her financial backers. Castle & Cooke funded mostly Republicans. They wrote large checks to Republicans and also gave small amounts to a large number of Democrats. First Wind gave a minority share of their Maui wind projects to a key Lingle supporter.

HECO wanted economic security during a period of rising and volatile energy prices. HECO feared that as the price of oil rose they would have to raise the cost of electricity, which would encourage more people to leave the grid, which would require spreading the utility’s fixed costs over a smaller rate base, which would require raising rates again, encouraging even more customers to leave the grid, and so on and so forth. They feared a death spiral.

Competitive Bidding

HECO initiated a Competitive Bidding process by publishing a Request for Proposals for 100MW of renewable energy for O`ahu.

In response, Castle & Cooke proposed 400MW of wind power on Lana`i, while First Wind proposed 400 MW of wind power on Moloka`i and smaller wind farms in Kahuku and Haleiwa.

HECO, Castle & Cooke, First Wind & Governor Lingle proposed a backroom deal whereby Castle & Cooke & First Wind would each build a 200MW wind system on Neighbor Islands, connected to O`ahu via a high voltage undersea cable.

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) noted that this rigged bidding process did not conform to the spirit of the Competitive Bidding process, but accepted the proposal anyway. Commissioner Kondo dissented. (He has since left the PUC and now heads the Hawai`i Ethics Commission).

HECO is traditionally the retirement home for senior Democratic Party officials. Senator Dan Inouye saw a way of funneling pork via the military for this project by insisting that the cable come ashore on O`ahu at either the Pearl Harbor Naval Complex or the Kaneohe Marine Corps Station.

Gubernatorial candidates immediately lined up behind the project

Gubernatorial Candidate Neil Abercrombie: “I have said that becoming independent from foreign oil is Hawaii’s most important energy endeavor. I believe wind projects are part of the energy independence for Hawaii we envision. Projects like Big Wind need to move forward with the full understanding and commitment of the communities that will bear the largest burden of these projects. We must ensure that all people share in the challenges and benefits of our moves toward energy independence in a way that is fair and equitable. We cannot shy away from, or worse, exploit divisions and conflict. We need to join hands with respect, listen to each other, and move forward together without undue delay, through community-based initiatives and public education.”

Gubernatorial Candidate James Duke Aiona: “The Big Wind project is one component of ensuring a clean energy future, which includes the expansion of wind farms, the development of an undersea cable, and the utility infrastructure upgrades that would allow the integration of a renewable energy electrical grid. By providing a statewide electrical grid and a more flexible and secure system, an undersea interisland cable will help our state move toward a clean energy future. The cable, and the Big Wind project, will help improve our energy security by reducing Hawaii's dependence on the volatile global petroleum market.”

Gubernatorial Candidate Mufi Hannemann: “Big Wind (i.e., large-scale wind farms) remains one of the most cost-efficient, mature alternative energy technologies available for development in Hawaii. We are blessed to have multiple renewable energy sources to tap into, with wind being one of the most reliable and cost-efficient. In order to stay on track with the state’s energy initiative of establishing renewable energy sources to replace our dependence of imported oil (which I support), we must continue to promote the adoption of Big Wind projects.”

Moloka`i and Lana`i residents became the first to express opinions. Some felt they could get a community benefits package. The Moloka`i Community Service Council wanted the wind farm to help them buy Moloka`i Ranch. Others on both islands objected to the destruction of their `aina to power O`ahu. Lana`i residents noted that Castle & Cooke has not honored past agreements with the community.

Self-Sufficiency

The simplest way for O`ahu to deal with its own energy issues is to require solar water heaters on all buildings, to require that hotel windows open to trade winds, that solar dryers (clothes lines) are permitted in all condo and town houses and that rooftops become a resource for housing renewable energy facilities. None of this is occurring.

HECO spent 3 years seeking to get a photovoltaic panel on their Ward Avenue facility. They asked Hoku (the recipient of massive 221 taxpayer subsidies) to install it. Eventually HECO gave up. The roof is available and unused.

Responses to the Environmental Impact Statement Scoping Notice

Life of the Land (December 2010): “The inter-island cable will be the longest transmission line in the state, and the installation of 400 MW of wind will be Hawaii’s largest single energy project ever brought on-line at one time. The proposal is the second multi-island energy project to be extensively studied, and if built will be the first of its kind in existence in Hawai`i. If successful it will transform Hawai`i. It will merge separate island grids into a unified multi-island grid. At the same time, as a result of its cost and the size of the renewable systems being planned, it will displace other alternatives that might achieve the same thing, with different technologies, different costs, and with different winners and losers. This is known as opportunity cost (the cost of passing up the next best choice when making a decision). Legally speaking, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is supposed to analyzes the various alternatives. The required alternatives section is missing in this Hawai‘i Interisland Renewable Energy Program (HIREP) Environmental Impact Statement Preparation Notice (EISPN). Rather than the required “hard look” at alternatives, the EISPN does not even engage in a soft look.”


PRO

Windward Ahupua`a Alliance (May 3, 2011): “I support the interisland cable and am glad that it is on the Gov’s short list. If it weren’t so serious, it would be funny that so many so-called environmentalists oppose wind or solar or biofuels while pretending to be solid opponents of fossil fuels. What do you plan to use? Hamsters running on wheels?”


CONCERNS & OPPOSITION


Maui Tomorrow Foundation (April 4, 2011): “Maui Tomorrow Foundation agrees with the statements below from DBEDT Office of Planning and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that alternatives must be explored.”

Ka Lei Maile Alii Hawaiian Civic Club (April 4, 2011): “Ka Lei Maile Alii Hawaiian Civic Club opposes the generation of power on Lanai and Molokai for use by people on Oahu. Our club is located on Oahu. We support the generation of power on Lanai and Molokai for the use of the people who live there.”

KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance (April 4, 2011): “KAHEA supports renewable energy but opposes SB367.”

Friends of Lanai (April 3, 2011): "Energy conservation on O’ahu and throughout our state would get us much closer to our clean energy goals."

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, Feb 28, 2011): “We recommend analysis of additional alternatives as early as possible

U.S. Dept of the Interior: Fish and Wildlife Service (Feb 25, 2011): “The NOI [EIS Notice of Intent] does not indicate that an appropriate range of alternatives will be analyzed

U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (Feb 28, 2011): “We advice a precautionary approach

State of Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT) Office of Planning (March 1, 2011): “It is necessary for the draft EIS to explore alternatives.”

DLNR State Historic Preservation Division (Feb 23, 2011): “Because this is a programmatic EISPN, it does not include specific information … We believe this approach is problematic.”

Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA, Feb 22, 2011): "OHA has strong reservations based on this early phase of the HIREP programmatic plan.”

Maui County (February 28, 2011): "In our opinion …resources in the vicinity of Oahu have been arbitrarily excluded

Historic Hawai`i Foundation (March 3, 2011): “HHP recommends that the EIS include alternatives

Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (March 1, 2011): “The EIS must explore reasonable alternatives

Isaac Davis Hall, Esq. (March 1, 2011): “It is not possible to find that this methodology complies with NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] or HEPA [Hawai`i Environmental Policy Act]”

Indigenous Consultants, LLC (Mililani B. Trask, Principal): “According to Molokai resident Walter Ritte, the entire Island of Molokai could be energy self-sufficient with 1 windmill but is being forced to accommodate over 100.″

American Bird Conservancy, Washington D.C. (March 1, 2011): “Wind power can be an important part of the solution to global warming. …The state of Hawai`i will be a particularly challenging place to develop wind energy because the islands are already the bird extinction capitol of the world.”

Conservation Council for Hawai'i (March 1, 2011) "NEPA and HEPA require a study of alternatives. ...The EIS should describe and analyze the conservation alternative, especially on O'ahu, which would clearly have less of an adverse impact to wildlife, habitat, and other natural resources."


The Nature Conservancy (March 1, 2011): "TNC has held a Conservation Easement at Kanepu`u, Lanai since 1991. The Kanepu`u Preserve was created to protect and enhance the dryland forest community that is now rare across the islands. Road access to development in the area should be routed around the Preserve to avoid potential negative impacts. The EIS currently does not include an explicit evaluation of invasive species impacts. Well trafficked roadways are well known to be a primary conduit for the transport and introduction of invasive species, and the EIS should address mitigation to prevent prolifieration of current invasive plant species found within the affected area and to prevent introduction of new invasive species to the affected area. Further, specific fire prevention measures should be implemented along roadways to prot ect the neighboring Preserve."

Blue Planet Foundation (March 1, 2011): "A thorough analysis of the clean energy alternatives to the interisland wind project should be thoroughly examined in the EIS. ...The potential for off-island wind is mentioned, but there is no further discussion about the impacts, benefits or drawbacks to wind development in areas offshore O‘ahu, nor whether off-shore wind development could be a viable alternative or supplemental source to the selected locations on Lana‘i and Moloka‘i."


Life of the Land (December 11, 2000): "The inter-island cable will be the longest transmission line in the state, and the installation of 400 MW of wind will be Hawaii’s largest single energy project ever brought on-line at one time. The proposal is the second multi-island energy project to be extensively studied, and if built will be the first of its kind in existence in Hawai`i. If successful it will transform Hawai`i. It will merge separate island grids into a unified multi-island grid. At the same time, as a result of its cost and the size of the renewable systems being planned, it will displace other alternatives that might achieve the same thing, with different technologies, different costs, and with different winners and losers. This is known as opportunity cost (the cost of passing up the next best choice when making a decision). ...Rather than the required “hard look” at alternatives, the EISPN does not even engage in a soft look."

Rep. Cynthia Thielen: "There's just been a mad dash to build this wind farm on Lanai and the undersea cable"



PROPONENTS

Castle & Cooke Hawai`i (February 28, 2011): "We concur with the many public comments expressed that the Programmatic EIS should include a thorough analysis of other commercially available renewable energy alternatives and their associated impacts."



First Wind (March 1, 2011): "While First Wind obviously has a vested interest in the Big Wind concept, we strongly believe the HIREP Wind PEIS should equally address scenarios that consider all wind energy deriving from a single island in Maui County (i.e., Lāna‘i, Moloka‘i or Maui), as well as scenarios of all wind energy deriving from a combination of generation on multiple islands, along with associated programmatic approaches to cable corridors and routes and landing site locations."
 
Pattern Renewables Development Company LLC and Bio-Logical Capital, LLC (March 1, 2011): "A cost-benefit analysis of wind energy development in Hawai’i should be performed. This effort will require a regional analysis of the comparative economic and environmental costs of wind energy development compared with other forms of electricity generation and conservation measures. Such an analysis will also require data on the impact of wind development on fossil fuel consumption, land and water resources, emissions from conventional power plants, and the impact on greenhouse gases."
 
Robbie Alm, HECO (January 22, 2011): "I like to suggest we all watch out for two things. One is NIMBYism. Everybody love renewable energy until it comes to them next door, and at that point it’s like oh I love renewable energy, but not that one. You know if we’re going to allow that to stop us were we won’t make it. We just won’t. If every, if every community does not see itself as being a part of this we really are going to get stuck where we are today. And so I think we should all congratulate the Kahuku-Laie community for accepting that wind farm out there. Good for them. ...and we need other communities to do that."

Hawaiian Electric (HECO) (April 5, 2011): "We believe that SB 367, SD 3, HD 1 provides a strong public policy foundation and regulatory structure to protect the public interest with the ultimate goal of interconnecting the separate island grids."

The Division of Consumer Advocacy (“Consumer Advocate”) (April 5, 2011): "The proposed 400 MW wind farms will be instrumental in keeping electricity prices in Hawaii at affordable and level rates. This legislation that sets the regulatory structure for the undersea cable that will connect the wind farms to Cahu is key to obtaining the necessary financing for the undersea cable."

Representative Mina Morita (January 22, 2011): "The recent announcements of the community benefit agreements by Castle & Cooke and Hawaiian Electric Company for the Lana`i wind project can open up real substantive discussions for both the Lana`i and Molokai communities, and so I think an important discussion to have in the Legislature is the State’s role in enforcing the terms and conditions of these agreements, especially when these agreements are contingent on the State’s permitting and approval process."

# # #

Henry Curtis
ililani.media@gmail.com


Comments:

Many thanks, Henry, for your diligence and reporting. I feel ill everytime I read of someone trying to harm the aina for a profit.
 


"destruction of their `aina" seems a little like hyperbole. is `aina really being destroyed? i thought that was the prerogative of ocean, wind and rain.
 


"HECO feared that as the price of oil rose they would have to raise the cost of electricity, which would encourage more people to leave the grid,"

Henry, I'm not following this statement. How will a substantial amount of people leave the grid. Currenty even if you install solar cells on your roof you are still on the grid.
 

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