Thursday, March 15, 2012
I Aloha Molokai reports and celebrates death of tax credit for industrial wind farms
by Larry Geller
It’s been no secret, though the media have quickly lost interest, that many residents of Molokai and Lanai have strenuously objected to the domination of their islands by giant wind turbines pumping power off to distant Oahu. One of the organizations in the forefront of this issue has been I ALoha Moloka`i.
I’m only one little guy over here on Oahu and can’t track issues on the Neighbor Islands very well, so I learned from a press release distributed by the organization today that the US Senate killed a tax credit for giant wind farms.
Let me just jump to their press release. Here it is:
In a big victory for the people of Hawaii, our environment, and all American taxpayers, the U.S. Senate this week killed the Production Tax Credit for industrial wind factories. This corporate subsidy, a major contributor to America's enormous budget deficits and the cause of environmentally destructive wind projects in many states, was long overdue for defeat.
Also defeated was the notorious Section 1603, which gave industrial wind developers 30% of their total budget as an up-front cash grant. Called "pocket money" this shameful subsidy guaranteed Big Wind developers more than $1 billion before they even start work.
Here in Hawaii, HECO and Governor Abercrombie continue to push Big Wind against growing popular opposition. But the PTC defeat will make their sales pitch much harder. Without these subsidies, wind factories no longer look more attractive to investors than solar or geothermal, as even industry spokesmen will admit.
Without these subsidies, Hawaiian officials and communities should be able to consider alternative energy projects on their own merits. Everyone should now be able to see that covering Molokai and Lanai with giant wind turbines and blasting cables through fragile marine habitat is neither wise nor necessary.
We will continue our efforts until the threat of industrial wind factories covering Molokai and Lanai is removed, and we send out A BIG MAHALO to all those, here and on the mainland, who worked to defeat this legislation.
PRESIDENT - I ALOHA MOLOKAI
Let me say that I don’t understand completely what this implies. I suspect IAH does, and I wonder what the Governor’s plans are now, and if the project will go forward anyway. I recall that we ratepayers on Oahu are supposed to pay for this project through higher electric bills. Will they be asking us to pay even more in the absence of these tax credits?
Coincidence? On the exact same day when the US Senate killed the windfarm tax credit, President Obama was on the campaign trail declaring, "Lately we've heard a lot of professional politicians, a lot of the folks who were running for a certain office, who shall go unnamed, they've been talking down *NEW* sources of energy." n1
Clearly "NEW" does *not* mean wind or PV -- politically signaling a breakthrough in energy technology and a shift in his Administration’s current wind- & solar-centric energy policy. What we do know is that both Washington Post columnist & Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer n2 and Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich n3 *mocked* President Obama’s algae-based energy policy n4. Note that an input feedstock to grow algae is waste carbon dioxide smokestack emissions from say the burning of coal & natural gas (or its own algae-based biofuel).
For Hawaii, this portends that wind & solar energy will soon be technologically passé. For HECO, this breakthrough means that it will be able to meet its 2020 Renewable Portfolio Standard goal n5 by producing its own algae biofuels (e.g., Joule Unlimited n6 at Keahole, OPXBIO n7 at Kahe Point) -- and as a consequence *no* interisland cable is needed. Thus the interisland cable appears to be a sweetheart “gift” not to HECO but rather Kuokoa n8 for its hostile takeover bid of HEI n9 (and native Hawaiians & Hawaii County who get a cut of the royalties from geothermal n10 -- which in turn motivates the current attempt to short-circuit the Hawaii EIS process to speed up geothermal development n11). Of course a statewide interisland cable may all be an ultra-expensive boondoggle because of reliability issues that Henry Curtis raised in his SB2785 testimony. n12
n1 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032619/vp/46753326#46753326 [at 00:35]
n5 http://www.hawaiicleanenergyinitiative.org/storage/media/7.HCEI%20Plenary%20Update_5.02.11_HECO.pdf [see slide 2]
n8 http://www.bigislandvideonews.com/2011/02/09/video-kuokoa-details-bid-to-buy-hei-at-kona-town-meeting/ [jump 6:35 for 2000MW on the Big Island for state]
n12 http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2012/Testimony/SB2785_SD2_TESTIMONY_WLO-EEP_03-12-12_.PDF [see Acrobat pp. 35-37]
I recognize the death of the tax credits will help prevent the industrialization of Molokai and Lanai by windfarms, For that, I am happy. But I am not so quick to sign on to Kanoho Helm's general opposition to the tax credit. I suspect the main opposition in DC is coming from supporters of coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy options, determined to slow down the adoption of clean alternative energy. I would also venture to bet MOST of those who voted to kill these credits deny our current reliance upon fossil fuels contribute to global climate change.
I can oppose the Big Wind projects on Molokai and Lanai and still believe "industrial" windfarms can be be an important part of a comprehensive approach to getting off oil and coal WITHOUT resorting to nukes. Solar water heating, photovoltaics, wave energy, geothermal, OTEC and wind can ALL play a complementary role in meeting the challenge. Along with conservation, of course. But the projects have to be well-designed, get a buy-in from the community and have some rational economic basis. I also prefer modes which distribute the ownership and control to a large group of people rather than reinforce monopolistic practices.
Kolea, your views could be characterized as what White House Spokesperson Jay Carney calls a “flat earther” n1 who definitely was *NOT* talking “solar water heating, photovoltaics, wave energy, geothermal, OTEC and wind” nor “conservation, of course” which will soon all be so ancient, backward, and technologically yesteryear passé. As Bob Dylan sings: “The Times They Are A-Changin:” Stay tuned!
I believe Texas is generating enough electricity through wind farms to replace 4 or 5 nuclear power plants.
Old Diver, re Texas wind farms could you please comment on Friends of Lanai video [http://vimeo.com/21933576]: Friends of Lanai (friendsoflanai.org) commissioned this video to help explain how a proposed 400 megawatt industrial wind power plant will impact the people and environment of the small Hawaiian island of Lanai. The project could consume up to 1/4th of the island and all the power would be sent to the island of Oahu by an undersea cable that would run through the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
I was not commenting about a wind farm on Lanai. I was talking about wind farms in general vs nuclear power. My main concern before we even begin the conversation about wind farms on other islands is the financing of the underwater cable.