Thursday, July 3, 2008

We’re in an Energy Crisis, but Installing Hundreds of Megawatts of Intermittent Power Won’t Solve It; Murdock Calls It Emergency, Marshall Islands Act

Lanai owner David Murdock is in town and attracting page-one treatment in the Honolulu Advertiser by asking the Governor to declare an energy emergency in Hawaii. Others have been saying the same thing (including this blog), but when you’re one of the world’s richest men, you get more ink than the rest of us for some reason.

Murdock specifically wants to fast track his proposed 400-megawatt wind farm on Lanai and send most of its output to Oahu via undersea cable. Others are chiming in about whether suspending regulations is a smart thing to do.

Our point is that without a capability to store lots of energy, a wind farm won’t “solve” Hawaii’s dependence on fossil fuel. The wind won’t always blow, and the sun won't always shine (he also has a solar farm under development).

As we’ve pointed out on numerous occasions (first here, then here), Lanai is surrounded by the world’s largest energy collector – a tropical ocean. Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) could be put to excellent use on Murdock’s island paradise for eventual expansion around the state and the world.

Murdock obviously is passionate about Hawaii’s energy crisis; you can hear and see it in an online video post next to the Advertiser story. But if he is so attuned to the state’s energy problem, we have to wonder why he rejects OTEC out of hand.

That’s what we hear – that if he can’t own it, he’s not interested in it, and he apparently isn’t interested in owning an off-shore OTEC project. That’s a shame because OTEC is increasingly seen as a long term, big picture “solution” to energy, global warming and hunger issues because of its ability to manufacture electricity, hydrogen and pure water using the inexhaustible supply of solar energy stored in the ocean.

If anyone out there has influence with David Murdock, please talk to him about OTEC. We’ve tried going through his subordinates without success.

About those Future Bills

Finally, it would be good to know just how much energy cost relief Murdock has in mind for Lanai and Oahu. A kilowatthour costs 44 cents on Lanai, among the highest rates in the country, and about 25 cents with a bullet on Oahu. If exemption from existing rules and regulations to speed his energy projects is being requested, we at least should know what kind of a break we’re supposed to get thanks to Murdock Power.

Wind farms and undersea cables don’t come on the cheap, and we have to believe Murdock’s not willing to lose money on the venture. So as just about everybody says these days:

“What’s in it for me?”

The Honolulu Advertiser asked a different question of the Governor and State Legislature in today's editorial: "What is your plan?" Here's yet another: Why not hold an energy summit with the US Department of Energy, the State, private sources like Murdock and sustainability advocates like the Sierra Club and the Blue Planet Foundation? Get everybody in the same room and hammer out an updated plan that takes $145/barrel oil into account.

Remember late January? That's when the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative was launched -- back when oil cost less than $100/barrel. Murdock, the Advertiser, Maurice Kaya and the rest of us are right: This is a train-wreck crisis that requires even bolder action than anything we've yet seen. What indeed is the plan?

And Deeper into the Pacific...

The Marshall Islands has declared a state of economic emergency due to the rising cost of energy. Now, that's taking action!

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