Sunday, December 27, 2009

Editorial Supports Cable Link to Create Multi-Island Grid; the President, too?

The President’s in town, so what better time for the Honolulu Advertiser to write a supportive editorial on the inter-island electric cable? Barack Obama’s reading file just might include his hometown paper when he’s vacationing here.

We subscribe to the theory that the more the President knows about his home state’s imperative to get off oil, the more successful that effort will be. That’s why we’ve sent two requests for him to participate in our Energy Futures program tomorrow at Hawaii Public Radio. It’s a “live” call-in show, so we’re still holding out hope he’ll join in – slim though that hope may be.

Today’s editorial in the Advertiser makes the case for building the electric link among the islands – and while they’re at it, to be sure all the appropriate environmental impacts are studied. As one of our guests in tomorrow’s Energy Futures show pointed out in an Advertiser commentary a few days ago, the assessment should cover the costs to upgrade transmission lines on the affected islands. Failing to do so understates the costs that will have to be recovered from ratepayers and taxpayers.

Of course, we support spreading the cost among all of the nation’s taxpayers, not just those in Hawaii. Hawaii’s is more dependent on oil for its energy needs than any other state, and we therefore are a legitimate target for federal funds to transform out of our oil dependency to a totally green-energy state.

So Mr. President, here’s an open invitation for you to ring us up on the 5-6 pm HST show tomorrow (941-3689) and also to send significant federal funds to Hawaii to hasten that much-needed transition.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Inter-Island Planning Begins To Link Four Hawaii Islands in Grid

The Advertiser's graphic with today's cable story.
Planning for an inter-island electrical cable network is advancing, according to a page one story in the Honolulu Advertiser today. The network would be both a hedge against future oil prices and a way to significantly reduce the use of oil in Hawaii’s energy mix.

The multi-billion dollar project as envisioned would enable the development of up to 400 megawatts of wind power on the islands of Molokai and Lanai for transmissions to Oahu, the state’s population center. The article breaks down spending on the project to date.

The development costs eventually would be shouldered by electric customers and taxpayers. The price of oil presumably will continue to rise in the decade ahead (it more than doubled in 2009), so a pricing formula for cable-delivered wind power could cost less than continuing the state’s reliance of oil for the generation of nearly 80 percent of its electricity.

The other consideration in favor of building the cable is that the neighbor island wind farms could significantly cut the state’s carbon footprint. The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative calls for 40 percent of the state’s energy requirement to be supplied by renewable projects by 2030, with another 30 percent shaved off the peak by conservation.

And two decades beyond that is an unofficial goal that Hawaii will use no carbon-based fuel by 2050 – something we’ve been advocating for some time now. Our grandkids will still be youngsters in their 40s by then, and it’s their generation most of us are planning for.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Burying OTEC in Bureaucracy Would Be Calamitous Mistake

Two days ago we passed on the essence of a “let’s have coffee” conversation with someone who seemed earnest, sincere and well informed about the potential for ocean thermal energy conversion to drown in NOAA’s bureaucracy.

If not an OTEC “insider,” our coffee partner appeared to be close enough to the action to know what’s going on. His assessment that OTEC’s rollout could be needlessly delayed is alarming in light of the urgent need to develop non-polluting base-load generation sources. (Our thanks go out to OTEC News for picking up our November 13 post and generating an email to its far-flung list.)

Throw the Copenhagen climate conference into the discussion and NOAA’s presumed intention to over-regulate OTEC becomes even more egregious.

We don’t editorialize much here at Hawaii Energy Options except in generalized support for renewable energy development, with special attention given to OTEC from our very first post. But in this instance, we now urge anyone and everyone with influence and interest in OTEC to do everything you can to break the potential for an NOAA logjam before it’s firmly in place.

OTEC’s presumed ability to supply people around the planet with clean energy and clean water must not be needlessly delayed by red tape. Let’s be sure no additional roadblocks are in place just when this promising technology seems ready to fulfill its promise.

January 6 Update: Dr. Luis Vega comments on this post.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Will NOAA’s Bureaucracy Delay OTEC a Decade or More?

Our most recent post said we pass on rumors – even rumors of rumors – here at Hawaii Energy Options. There’s no city, news or managing editor looking over our shoulder, so it’s all fair game, far as we can tell, as long as we adhere to some objectivity standards.

That said, here’s what we’ve heard within the past 48 hours:

NOAA is so gummed up with bureaucratic inertia due to the “shell shock” it feels over the enormity of ocean thermal energy conversion that it will demand five years of operating data from even a pilot plant before giving OTEC its regulatory blessing.

Five years to build a plant, then five years of data gathering could effectively scare off investors unwilling to sit in a waiting game before OTEC could be meaningfully rolled out in Hawaii or anywhere else to counter our oil dependence.

“OTEC is on a scale so much larger than anything we’ve dealt with before,” a visiting NOAA official said last month. That seems like a tell-tale insight into the problem – if there indeed is a problem as was related to us.

When the NOAA slow-down was mentioned to an in-the-know official, he responded: “I have heard a bit about NOAA being potentially a barrier, but nothing substantial.“

Whether substantial or not, the issue of NOAA’s potentially go-slow stance has been suggegsted, so we raise it here. The issue is potentially too serious to let lie, so the question needs asking:

Is NOAA going to be an impediment to OTEC development due to an overly conservative regulatory environment? And if that’s the case, what can be done about it?

January 6 Update: Dr. Luis Vega comments on this post.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

“Something Must Be Happening with OTEC These Days….”

We’re not above passing on rumors here at Hawaii Energy Options, and I hope Pat Takahashi doesn’t mind me quoting his email from yesterday as he commented on the comings and goings of various ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) personalities.

We won’t dip to the level of the celebrity blogs by naming names. Let’s just say Pat may get an OTEC earful over dinner tonight.

We will call your attention to our November 19th post about a visiting NOAA delegation sent to Hawaii to study up on OTEC. And while we’re at it, check out our September 2nd post that reports on a prediction that the first OTEC plant could be up and running in Hawaii by 2013.

We’ll wrap up today with a link to a YouTube video (thanks to Pat's email) on a car of the future powered by the fuel of the future – hydrogen, which can be mined from seawater using……you guessed it……OTEC, of course.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

“The Most Important Conversation in History” is the Subject of HPR Program

Here’s another “expediency post” to this blog. We’re simply pointing you to our sister Energy Futures on HPR blog where we promote Monday’s hour-long conversation about the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference from a Pacific research perspective.

You’re invited to join us either over the air or on-line via streaming. Details are over at Energy Futures.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks Be to All the Committed Renewable Energy Advocates

One year ago, we ticked off a few reasons to be thankful about Hawaii’s energy options, and there’s no reason to be less thankful this year, despite the clouds that hang over Copenhagen.

The President will be going there; that’s good. A key Chinese negotiator says China won’t set targets; that’s bad. But on balance, the fact that 192 nations are getting together to hash out issues critically important to the future of the planet is encouraging.

We’re thankful ocean thermal energy conversion continues to gain credibility and funding, and we’re optimistic that by Thanksgiving Day 2010, firm plans to build a pilot OTEC plant will have been announced.

We’re thankful oil prices have been lower this year than last, which means the pressure’s off on electric bills and gas prices – somewhat. The Hawaii public remembers those $140+ price levels, and that has led to quicker acceptance of the concept that Hawaii must get off oil as quickly as possible.

And we’re thankful Hawaii Public Radio gave us a shot to bring energy issues to the Hawaii airwaves each week (and worldwide thanks to on-line streaming). Staying relevant each week keeps us on our toes and involved, and for that we give thanks, too.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NOAA Officials’ Visit Hints at Stepped-Up Effort on OTEC Development

Dr. Vega briefs visiting NOAA delegation on OTEC advances in years past.
Hard on the heels of a conference devoted to the technical readiness of a commercial scale Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) system, a team of NOAA officials is in Honolulu for additional fact-finding.

Dr. Luis Vega, director of the National Marine Renewable Energy Center at the University of Hawaii and a long-time OTEC promoter, hosted today’s informal two-hour conversation among OTEC advocates. The visitors were Kerry Kehoe, Don MacDonald and Whitney Blanchard of NOAA’s Office of Coastal and Resource Management, which will be responsible for issuing licenses and permits for OTEC plants and operations.

Vega’s emailed invitation to UH researchers, state and federal agencies, energy industry consultants and engineers, OTEC promoters and others said the team is here to “gather information required to assess the technological readiness of OTEC for commercial deployment…. They also want to develop information that could be used for laying a foundation for an OTEC development roadmap that could provide guidance for federal, industry and academia investments.”

A certain amount of exasperation was present in the room, since many participants had thought two or three decades ago that they were following such a roadmap. Funds for a 40-megawatt OTEC plant had even been included in the federal budget in the early 1980s until President Reagan killed the program. Participants made it clear they believe financing, not technology, is still the impediment to commercialization and even the initial demonstration plant.

A Serious Effort

Kehoe said in opening remarks that NOAA believes the serious efforts underway by industry to bring OTEC to commercialization deserve a serious response by NOAA. Noting that the U.S. Navy is moving ahead aggressively with OTEC, he said “the last thing NOAA wants is to be behind everybody else.”

He said a regulatory gap exists for OTEC and that a “demonstration plant” isn’t even defined in existing regulations. NOAA would have a predicament if an OTEC demonstration plant applied for licensing. Kehoe said as many as 10 federal agencies have a role in authorizing the first OTEC demonstration plant.

“When people in these agencies hear about this technology, they tend to be shell-shocked,” Kehoe said, explaining that OTEC issues are arriving on desks that already are piled high with other work. “OTEC is on a scale so much larger than anything we’ve dealt with before,” he said. Others noted that a large OTEC plant will require the vertical movement of huge rivers of water – a realization that contributes to the shock.

A Coast Guard representative said public buy-in will be critical to achieving OTEC commercialization. He said “the public relations people have a job cut out for them” because of the anticipated high cost of OTEC commercialization and public perceptions of potential environmental impact. But others said they believe Hawaii residents have a good understanding about the need to reduce the state’s debilitating dependence on oil for 90 percent of its energy.

Some participants said so much data has been accumulated about potential OTEC plant sites in Hawaiian waters that writing an acceptable environmental Impact statement isn’t as daunting as it might appear. A pilot plant could be built using that wealth of information, they said, and future commercial plants would use lessons learned from that first small starter plant.

Expanding the Brain Power

Kehoe said the recent meeting at the University of New Hampshire (linked above) on the readiness of commercial scale development concluded that “no existing paradigm to fund OTEC will work.” He said the same amount of brainpower is required in the room to work on the financial side as exists on the technical side.

Kehoe also suggested that initial OTEC plants won’t be built with federal funding because of the high risk, but others noted that the federal government had funded the country’s first nuclear power plant, and the same may be needed to launch the OTEC technology. It wouldn’t be unreasonable, they said, for the federal government to fund the 10-MW demonstration plant.

The NOAA team’s meetings in Hawaii “have brought home how much our learning curve has to be based on what’s happening here in Hawaii,” Kehoe said, adding that he believes Hawaii will be the site for the first OTEC demonstration plant. That first plant therefore will be tailored to the issues that will emerge regarding OTEC here.

Kehoe concluded the session with an assessment that pleased the local audience: “If I were a Las Vegas odds maker, I’d say the odds are better than 50 percent that the first OTEC pilot plant will be built in Hawaii – and the first commercial plant, too.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Still Have Doubts about Global Warming? Schneider Interview Can Help

Call it expediency or cross-promotion, our post today is a time-saver. We’re concluding our travel this weekend and will resume diligent monitoring of Hawaii’s Energy Options in a few days.

Until then, you’re invited to listen to an hour-long interview Monday afternoon (5 pm HST, 10 EST) with Dr. Stephen Schneider (above), who will be in Copenhagen next month for the climate conference that is looking more and more problematic.

Schneider’s interview is described over at our sister blog -- Energy Futures on HPR. Hawaii Public Radio has more than enough capacity to handle requests for Internet streaming of our program. (Post-program note: The show has been archived on the Internet.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's the OTEC HOUR today on Hawaii Public Radio

Rather than repeat what we've already posted over at our sister blog, Energy Futures on HPR, we'll simply link to that site and invite you first to read about today's program on Hawaii Public Radio and then listen via online streaming for a full hour of conversation on ocean thermal energy conversion technology.

Happy Anniversary, Berlin!

Post-Show Update

You weren't in Hawaii to hear the program or didn't catch the live streaming? You can listen to the archived OTEC show on Energy Futures at HPR's website.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Catching Up with the News on Kahuku’s Future Wind Farms

It’s always nice to be several weeks ahead of the “mainstream media” on renewable energy developments in Hawaii, as we were regarding plans for wind farms at Kahuku, Oahu as described in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin today.

Hawaii Public Radio’s “Energy Futures” show interviewed Keith Avery of West Wind Works and Noelani Kalipi of First Wind as our guests on the September 21 show, which you can access via HPR’s archives.

You’ll hear more from the HPR site than you’ll read in today’s paper about their companies’ plans by clicking on this link to the archived show, but the Star-Bulletin does have the advantage of showing graphics of the wind farms’ locations and what the turbines might look like in the hills as seen from Kahuku.

That’s something we still trying to work out over on the radio side.

Friday, October 30, 2009

State Takes First Step in Power Connection Between the Counties

The Superferry concept that for a while created a new link between the islands didn’t pan out, but maybe an undersea power cable will.

The State has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to conduct an environmental impact statement on a cable whose principal purpose would be to transmit wind power generated in Maui County to the state’s largest population concentration on Oahu.

“Big Wind” the plan is called and would equally split 400 megawatts of new wind generation between Lanai and Molokai; most or all of the power would be fed to Oahu. This and other renewable projects are part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative – the cooperative effort among state and federal governments and private industry to slash Hawaii’s dependence on fossil fuels in the coming two decades.

Here’s another link to the latest development, including details on the RFP.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hawaiian Electric To Receive $5.3 Million in Grid Upgrade Funding

Here’s news that offers some hope that day-long power outages might be a thing of the past. How’s that for over-arching optimism?

Hawaiian Electric Company will receive $5.3 million of the $3.4 billion the Obama Administration has set aside for Smart Grid Investment Grants to improve the stability of the nation’s power grids.

Each of Hawaii’s island utility companies operates as a – well, an island – unconnected with any other power sources or grids, so our utilities have even better reasons to operate at maximum efficiency and quality.

Oahu residents remember the December 26, 2008 power outage reportedly caused by lightning that lasted half a day or longer for many. We can’t imagine that $5.3 million will go far in toughening up local power grids, but anything that helps keep the lights on is long overdue.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Catching Up with the News: Volunteers Will Draw a Disturbing Blue Line

This site has taken a back seat while we traveled to a time zone 12 hours distant from home, but we’re catching up with a compilation of energy-related items. Thanks for visiting over the past week despite the sameness of our material here.

Blue Line Project

Hawaii hasn’t held any cabinet meetings 20 feet beneath the waves like they just did in the Maldives, but we have as much motivation as those islands to fight against global warming and sea level rise.

Every island does – especially those that have chosen (as Hawaii has) to build right up to the coastline. One meter of sea level rise in this century – the IPCC’s conservative estimate – will create big problems for our grandchildren. We do care about our grandchildren, don’t we?

Thousands of volunteers of all ages will “draw the line on climate change” Saturday, October 24 throughout Hawaii. The blue line they’ll chalk will mark the high-water incursion where the likely impacts will be for one meter of sea level rise. Sign-ups are still being taken at the project’s website.

HPR’s “Energy Futures” Show

The inspiration for the Blue Line Project might well be Professor Chip Fletcher of the University of Hawaii. Fletcher studies sea level rise at home and around the Pacific and has had an impact on public consciousness with his computer-generated graphic. Yes, the computer draws a blue line – at many places far from the beach – to show locations of the high-water impacts.

Before leaving for France, we recorded a Hawaii Public Radio Energy Futures program with Fletcher and Associate Professor of Law Maxine Burkett, who directs the Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy at UH’s William S. Richardson School of Law. The show will be broadcast at 5 pm HST October 26 on KIPO-FM (89.3) and streamed on the Internet at that hour on HPR’s website.

HECO Promotes Electric Cars

Lastly, word comes today from Detroit that Hawaiian Electric Company has joined with 18 other utilities in the nation to promote the development of electric vehicles.

HECO President and CEO Dick Rosenblum said Hawaii “is a natural laboratory for developing and testing plug-in electric vehicles.” With relatively short commuting distances and new sources of renewable energy that can be used for off-peak battery charging, “we can be the place people come to see and experience EVs in action,” he said.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hawaii Public Utilities Commission Chief Has His Say; Meanwhile, Searching for a Better Translation of 'Stromeinspeisungsgesetz.' Anybody?

A short post tonight just to send you elsewhere for a quickie report on Hawaii Public Utilities Commission Chairman Carlito Caliboso’s appearance on a public radio program today.

It’s not every day someone in his seat sits for an hour of “live” broadcasting with questions from callers, but Caliboso did, and that has to be good for the average consumer’s understanding of the complex energy issues facing our state.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hawaii Feed-In Tariff Mechanism Collecting Endorsements

We’re not much into predictions except at New Year’s, but we’ll make one now: The Feed-In Tariff decision and order by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission will generate more ink during the fourth quarter of ’09 than any other renewable energy topic in the 50th State.

Today’s Honolulu Advertiser headlines its editorial, “Isles take step toward green energy future” and leads off:

“The state has taken a critical first major step toward driving energy production with renewable sources by adopting rules that give companies an incentive to produce ’green’ electricity.”

We’ll probe just what the PUC’s action means when we host Chairman Carlito Caliboso on Hawaii Public Radio’s Energy Futures program next Monday.

Our hope (and expectation) is that renewable developers will use this rare opportunity to question Chairman Caliboso by calling the show. The numbers are 941-3689 on Oahu and toll-free from the neighbor islands and beyond, 1-877-941-3689.

Energy Futures is heard on KIPO-FM (89.3) each Monday 5-6 pm and also is streamed on the Internet.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hawaii PUC OK’s Long-Sought Feed-In Tariff Concept

With a new mechanism in place that encourages development of renewable energy, Hawaii advocates see the dawning of a new era that could propel the state as the leader in the get-off-oil movement.

No state needs it more. Oil fuels the generation of 78 percent of the state’s electricity; coal adds another 10 percent or so. But those figures should decrease dramatically in the years immediately ahead.

As the Public Utility Commission’s ruling states in its 128-page decision, feed-in tariffs will “reduce the state’s fossil fuel dependence and accelerate the acquisition of renewable energy."

At What Cost?

Predictably, the cost of renewable energy – at least in the early years – is likely to exceed the traditional way of generating power through combustion of coal and oil.

PUC Commissioner Les Kondo’s dissenting view cautions against putting too much a burden on ratepayers as green energy expands. Said Kondo: “In my opinion, the amount that ratepayers are asked to bear to support more renewable energy cannot be without limits and should be one of the most important considerations in designing a (feed-in tariff) program that is reasonable, prudent and in the public interest.”

Fair enough. There obviously must be limits. Renewable energy can’t be pursued without regard for the ratepayer. But as we’re prone to say lately, this generation can be on a par with “The Greatest Generation” – our World War II predecessors. Wouldn’t that description be deserving for the generation that relegated fossil fuel to the “back burner,” as it were?

We think so, and we now look forward to the ins and outs of the new feed-in tariff system that will be become the mechanism for overcoming the throat-gripping stranglehold fossil fuel has on the Aloha State.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

We’ll Step Aside and Let Others Lead the OTEC Cheering

Thomas Fuller, for example. He measures progress in fighting global warming by counting up the new patents that have been granted for innovative green-energy processes.

Fuller says 46 ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) patents have been filed in the past five years – 10 this year, which he says is disappointingly low. “I’m a big fan of OTEC…,” he says.

OTEC’s the reason we started this blog in the first place, so we’re obviously among the fans, too. So how about letting loose some big-time Department of Energy funds to kick start an OTEC plant right here in Hawaii?!

OTEC’s the long-tern answer to getting off oil. We know it, they know it – heck, Hawaii's Favorite Son Barack Obama knows it!

So let’s go with more of that OTEC funding. $100 million dropped on one of the major OTEC proponent companies could be enough to actually launch a plant here within just a few years. Lockheed Martin says a pilot plant could be operating by 2013.

There's no reason to wait.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ocean Energy Research Attracts DOE Funding

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced a number of "advanced water power projects,” including three related to ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC).

Here are the OTEC recipients; we’ll look into the specifics of these projects down the line:

Ocean Engineering and Energy Systems International, Inc (Honolulu, Hawaii) will conduct baseline biological sampling studies of a proposed Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion site in Port Allen, Kauai, Hawaii in order to create a conceptual design of a site-specific warm water intake pipe. DOE share: up to $600,000; Duration: up to one year;

Lockheed Martin Corporation (Manassas, Va.) will develop and describe designs, performance and life-cycle costs for both the nearshore and offshore Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) baseline cost figures. DOE share: up to $500,000; Duration: up to one year;

Lockheed Martin Corporation (Manassas, Va.) will develop a GIS-based dataset and software tool to assess the maximum practicably extractable energy from the global and domestic U.S. ocean thermal resource and identify regions viable for OTEC and Cold Seawater Based Air Conditioning. DOE share: up to $500,000; Duration: up to one year.

Friday, September 11, 2009

OTEC – No Longer an Overlooked Energy Source

This blog was launched 18 months ago next Monday in a mixture of alarm (oil hit $111/barrel that day) and personal frustration that ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) was rarely and barely mentioned as an important potential renewable energy resource for Hawaii.

Our post two days later complained that a Honolulu newspaper’s editorial had left OTEC out of its list of “the Islands’ reservoir of power….”

That’s no longer the case. Oil prices that peaked at $147/barrel in July ’08 had the positive effect of accentuating the importance of developing a range of renewables in helping Hawaii get off oil.

Lockheed Martin says it can have a 10-MW OTEC plant operating off Oahu’s Kahe Point within four years, and Sea Solar Power has a representative in town now making a round of meetings about its intentions to build a plant 10 times larger.

So OTEC’s no longer the forgotten resource – still just a potential baseload power source but apparently closer to realizing that potential than ever before.

Here’s an excerpt from Governor Linda Lingle’s September 4th address to the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce on energy and other issues:

Now, they’re going to be issues with the undersea cable, no question about it. There are going to be environmental issues, there are going to be cultural issues, there are going to be financial issues; but we could say the same thing about the wind project that went up at Kaheawa. There were environmental issues, there were cultural issues, and there were financial issues. You could say the same thing about the wave energy project off the Haiku area. There are environmental issues, cultural issues, and financial issues. In fact, I can’t think of a renewable energy project that someone couldn’t raise an issue and then say, “That’s why I’m against it.”

Nothing as bad as burning oil

Think about it like this: is any one of those alternatives – wind, solar, wave, ocean thermal energy conversion, geothermal, hydropower – is any of them as bad as taking $5-7 billion a year out of the Hawaii economy and giving it to a foreign country or a foreign company to buy oil to ship it across the ocean to burn into the atmosphere?

I take the position that none of those are as bad as burning fossil fuel, sending pollution into the environment, sending our money outside of the state, creating no jobs for the people of Hawaii. Just taking those billions every year – the very thought of it should upset all of us. That depending on the price of oil, every year, we take our own money that we could be using to create jobs here at home for our people and we hand it off to a foreign country or a foreign company.

So when this issue comes up about the undersea cable, or issues about the solar farm, or an ocean energy project, maybe use this context. Instead of seeing that project in isolation, think about it in the bigger framework. Is it as bad as sending our money out of Hawaii to buy oil from foreign countries or foreign companies? And then burn it and send the pollution into the atmosphere? I take the strong position that there is nothing you can point to that is worse than what we are doing with our money, than what we are doing to our environment.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Belaboring Clean Energy on Labor’s Weekend

Writing not much and referring a lot – over to Hawaii Public Radio’s
Energy Futures show. Stop in.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

10 MW Pilot OTEC Plant in Hawaii Can Be Built by 2013, Scaled to 100 MW by 2015: Lockheed Martin

Dr. Ted Johnson of Lockheed Martin discusses Hawaii's future OTEC plant.
The Asia-Pacific Clean Energy Summit & Expo continues tomorrow, but we heard enough today to satisfy our curiosity about Lockheed Martin’s plans for an ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) plant in Hawaii.

Dr. Ted Johnson, Lockheed’s director of Alternative Energy Development, told a packed Ocean Energy breakout session that a pilot plant could be up and running within four years. It would be 10 megawatts and sit in at least 3,000 feet of water four miles off Kahe Point on Oahu’s western shore.

Kahe is the site of Hawaiian Electric’s largest generating station, so the plant’s intended location makes sense. When asked how long it would take to scale the plant up to 100MW, Johnson said it could be done in only two years if the pilot plant pans out. (The Honolulu Advertiser carried essentially the same information on 9/3.)

Two Big Questions

Johnson seems to suggest that the Department of Defense will be the funding source, although he offered nothing concrete. And if that source isn’t sufficient, Johnson said some kind of a “private-public partnership” could be pursued – again, no details.

The DOD’s huge reliance on fossil fuels might be what it takes for its purse to open with help from Hawaii’s Daniel K. Inouye, chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. Inouye's not shy about his ability to target federal funding, and it's not a stretch to imagine him making it happen.

Beyond funding, Johnson said the cold water pipe is the biggest technological hurdle remaining to be overcome, but he seemed confident that a plastic material perfected by Lockheed Martin’s space program will prove up to the challenge.

Path to Commercialization

When asked about costs to build Lockheed Martin’s plant, Johnson said he likes to put it in terms of cost per kilowatthour to generate OTEC power – in the low 20s of cents, he said. The average electricity rate for all sectors in Hawaii's economy in May 2009 was 18.92 cents/KWH, the highest in the nation.

Lockheed’s projection of having a pilot plant in place and providing valuable operational data within four years seems pretty aggressive. One can imagine a least a year devoted strictly to obtaining regulatory and environmental approvals.

Still, this proposed schedule is encouraging. We’d feel even better if we knew Ted Johnson and Senator Inouye have each other on speed dial.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Asia-Pacific Clean Energy Summit Opens Monday; Counting Down 100 Days to Copenhagen Summit

We never thought we’d do this – link to an item posted at “Hawaii Reporter.” The politics just isn't our style, and we do so only because it’s a convenient place to pick up a column by Ted Liu, director of the Hawaii Department of Economic Development and Tourism.

Liu writes about the Asia-Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo, which kicks off at the Sheraton Waikiki on Monday, August 31. Not coincidentally, the Summit is the focus of Monday’s Energy Futures show on Hawaii Public Radio.

We’ve put in our bid for two dynamic Summit participants on the program, plus (just maybe) a “surprise guest” by telephone to start the show. Now who do you suppose that could be?

Energy Futures: Monday, 5-6 pm, KIPO-FM, 89.3 in Hawaii and also streamed on the Internet.

The Last 100 Days

As the handy counter in the upper right of this page shows, we’re about 100 days away (depending on when you’ve clicked in) from the big Copenhagen Climate Conference. Let’s hope it’s the last 100 days of non-cooperation among the developed and developing nations on the global effort to reverse damage to the only climate we have – Planet Earth’s.

For one of the more intelligent assessments you'll hear about Copenhagen, global warming and climate change, listen to Hawaii Public Radio's interview with Dr. Stephen Schneider of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Vice President al Gore. Dr. Schneider was the guest on HPR's Energy Futures program on August 17.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Last-Minute Plug for Hawaii BizTax Summit

Better late than never…… Never up, never in…… A stitch in time saves nine....

We're familiar with clichés and do our best to keep the art form flowing like the Hudson River.

The BizTax Summit Hawaii 2009 is happening tomorrow and will offer “the newest tax saving opportunities,” according to its website. Here’s one gem:

“…more than 90% of a solar photovoltaic system can now be paid for with tax benefits, completely eliminating your tax liability.”

Where’s the line to sign up?

Speakers include Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, KGMB’s Howard Dicus and Mark Duda of Distributed Energy Partners. Duda’s also the President of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association.

We know. The train’s nearly left the station and we’re practically closing the barn door after the horse has bolted, but under the circumstances, it’s the best we can do. You snooze, you lose.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lockheed Awarded Navy Contract for OTEC Work

OTEC will tap solar energy stored in the tropical ocean.
Money to fund more development work on ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) isn’t gushing, but at least there’s a steady flow to encourage believers in this promising but still-distant technology.

The Defence Professionals website included the Navy’s $8.1 million contract with Lockheed Martin in a long list awards by the Department of Defense. At least one of them – to Boeing Co. – had 10 figures.

We can only hope that an 8- or 9-figure award is in somebody’s future to launch a full-fledged OTEC plant somewhere, such as Hawaii. Estimates to build even a 10-MW pilot plant are in the $200 million range, so if this technology is every to get a foothold, it’ll probably take a big fat DoD contract to make it happen.

Lockheed is putting a fair amount of its formidable PR muscle into OTEC, such as an attractive video featuring Dr. Ted Johnson, the company’s director of Alternative Energy Development.

Johnson will be in Hawaii for the 2009 Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo the first week of September. He’ll participate in an Ocean Energy breakout session Wednesday afternoon, September 2 with a presentation titled “OTEC Pilot Plant Project in Hawaii.” (We're looking forward to the session, as little has been said publicly about the project since Governor Lingle made an announcement nine months ago.)

DefPro’s OTEC Announcement

Lockheed Martin Corp., Manassas, Va., is being awarded an $8,119,625 firm-fixed-priced contract to advance the development of ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) technology system components and subsystems for Navy applications.

The work will support the Naval Facilities Engineering Services Center (NAVFAC ESC) Ocean Facilities Department in the execution of ocean energy systems development to advance OTEC as a renewable ocean energy technology for future applications at Department of Navy facilities.

The primary work to be performed includes identifying and supporting the most efficient and direct path to OTEC commercialization, and OTEC component and subsystem design, fabrication and validation tests. Work will be performed in Hawaii, California, Texas, and Virginia, and is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2010.

Funds are provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with four proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Specialty Center Acquisitions, NAVFAC, Port Hueneme, Calif., is the contracting activity (N62583-09-C-0083).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Plugging a Nobel Winner’s Hour on Public Radio

Dr. Stephen Schneider during his visit to HPR's studios.
We’re still traveling and pretty much distant from energy issues in Hawaii, but thanks to Hawaii Public Radio’s capabilities, our interview with Dr. Stephen Schneider was captured and played back yesterday on “Energy Futures.”

Schneider of Stanford University was in Honolulu recently to attend the Hawaii Conservation Conference. He and his colleagues on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President All Gore.

It was pretty much a stream-of-consciousness performance by the climate scientist and is highly recommended as background for your future global warming and climate change conversations. Here’s a taste:

Schneider said we routinely avoid activities that have a 3-percent risk of a bad – perhaps even fatal – outcome, yet many still require convincing that a massive effort is required to confront climate-change consequences with a 33-percent chance of happening.

Our interview with him was archived and is accessible at this link. Dr. Schneider died on July 19, 2010.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

And Now for Some Weather of a Different Kind

In keeping with the weather them we’ve been stuck on for several posts, here’s the current Iowa-Illinois weather scene – thunderstorms approaching the Quad Cities from the southwest.

We’ll be back in the renewable energy groove in a few days after we take this brief interlude for a trip back to our roots. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Amazing, Disappearing, Depressed Felicia

The "swoosh" east of the state is all that's left of Felicia.
Well, she’s gone….never really arrived here actually. Felicia, a category 4 hurricane just days ago, went 3, 2, 1, tropical storm, depression and remnant before it got within a couple hundred miles of Oahu.

There’s some rain, and we’re on a flash flood watch. But that’s about it. The hurricane center doesn’t even have links to the former storm on its primary satellite website.

So long, Felicia. We hardly knew ye.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Watching Felicia but Moving On for OTEC, Part 3

8:30 PM Update: Felicia is hard to see Monday evening, so we've dropped in a graphic over the center of circulation. Yes....we're happy she's been downgraded to a tropical storm:

The breeze is barely moving the leaves, but that’s expected to change significantly within 24 hours or so as Felicia blows through the islands. “We could use the rain,” as they say, but we hope the sustained winds will be below the current 45 mph. A flash flood watch is in effect for most of the state. Here’s a recent look at Felicia:

But back to ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) and the final part in the series at Renewable Energy World dot com. This final article is full of quotes from Hawaii people, and their enthusiasm for the technology is catching.

This is the most comprehensive and energizing online focus we’ve seen about OTEC in a long time – maybe the best ever; here’s a tip of the hat to freelance science journalist Mason Inman, who’s based in Pakistan.

Recommended reading before taking on a long Part 3 are Part 1 and Part 2.

Today on ‘Energy Futures’

Just about when Felicia’s clouds move in we’ll be talking solar energy this afternoon at 5 on KIPO-FM (89.3 in Hawaii and streamed on the Internet). Guests will be Mark Duda, president of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, and Riley Saito, senior projects manager for SunPower Corporation, which built Hawai`i’s largest solar farm on Lanai.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Felicia To Blow Through Hawaii as Tropical Storm

Felicia at 12:30 pm HST today -- blown apart by upper-level winds.
It’s already windy today ahead of Felicia, now downgraded to a tropical storm. The latest storm track (above) cuts right through the middle of the state. Here’s today’s assessment from The Weather Channel:

It is likely that Felicia will be either a weak tropical storm or a tropical depression as it moves through or near Hawaii on Monday. At this time, it appears impacts to Aloha State will not be major.

Gusty winds can be expected in the higher elevations, along the coast and in the channels between islands. Rainfall could be locally heavy resulting in localized flooding issues. Waves will rise on the east coast later today and peak in the 10 to 15 foot range on Monday.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Felicia Is an Energy Option We Can Do Without

It's been many years since a hurricane blew straight through Hawaii from the east,
as Felicia is expected to do early next week.
The latest on Hurricane Felicia has her taking dead aim on the Big Island of Hawaii. That sentence requires no additional qualifiers or adjectives; any storm this size and this close to the islands deserves respect.

Yes, the fact that Felicia has “weakened” may be somewhat comforting, but it’s still a Category 2 storm right now, with winds of 100 miles per hour. Hurricane Iwa in 1982 struck Oahu as a Category 1 storm.

Iwa knocked out 8 of Hawaiian Electric Company’s 14 138-KV transmission lines and blacked out 95 percent of HECO’s customers, some for two weeks or more. So we’re cautioned to stay aware of this approaching storm. It could cause treacherous flooding on all islands and bring winds strong enough to….well, we really don’t know, do we?

Back in January, the threat of strong winds was enough for schools and government offices to close all over the state. “Overblown” was the reaction of many to the near panic that preceded the non-storm's arrival. (That was pretty much the take at our sister blog, Citizens Helping Officials Respond to Emergencies.)

We’ll just have to wait and see how Felicia blows through....and stock up on supplies, just in case.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Is Your Island Remote and Overwhelmingly Reliant On Imported Fuel? OTEC Could Be Your Answer

But first, a word about Hurricane Felicia:
Here's The Weather Channel's take on Felicia:
“TWC's hurricane expert, Dr. Steve Lyons is watching the forecast models and feels that Hurricane Felicia will weaken dramatically as it moves near Hawaii in the next 5 days, but urges all to continue to monitor the latest updates and forecasts through the weekend.”

Renewable Energy World dot com published part 2 of its three-part series on ocean thermal energy conversion today, and it comes like a breath of fresh air after what seems like a long quiet period about the technology. It’s written by freelance science journalist Mason Inman, who somewhat curiously is based in Karachi, Pakistan.

The pro-ocean power arguments flow one after the other, with an emphasis today on the applicability of OTEC for isolated islands with few if any energy resources.

Ron Baird, chief executive officer of the National Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA), says OTEC is ideal for remote locations like Hawaii. The Authority has issued a request for proposals to build a 1-megawatt “OTEC scale-up" plant. Says Baird:

“Hawaii’s electricity price is 44 cents per kilowatthour — the highest in the U.S., and probably one of the highest electricity costs in the world."

A 1-MW OTEC plant could cut that cost in half, Baird says.

The last part of the series will describe other OTEC benefits, according to the website. Stay tuned – and if you’re an OTEC advocate, pass it on.

Monday, August 3, 2009

‘Orphan’ OTEC Touted Anew as Biggest Source of Energy – Enough Juice To Power the Entire Planet

Where do you start with the online article from Renewable Energy World dot com? How about this:

Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) “could sustainably produce more electricity than the whole world consumes today.”

We won’t even quibble with the lack of a time reference in Part 1 of a three-part series about OTEC. Are they talking annually, monthly, weekly, daily? Who cares? The assertion stands by itself as an attention-getter with global implications.

Oh, sure….there are the usual qualifiers. OTEC still has to prove itself, blah blah blah. Tell us something new, why don’t they? (See our very first post here for some enthusiastic OTEC boosting.)

As Gérard Nihous of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute says in this article, “The principle is elementary, but the practical application is a headache.” Yes, the old practical application angle must be honored.

A Matter of National Security

Nihous and OTEC promoter Hans Krock will be guests on a future Energy Futures program on Hawaii Public Radio – date to be determined – and will detail all of these issues in our hour-long discussion. Check in with our sister blog about the program for updates on future shows, as well as what we’re discussing here and now.

For now, we’re energized by this three-part series on OTEC, which moves on to a review of pilot OTEC installations in Part 2– maybe Tuesday. Whenever, bring it on. We’re true believers out here in oil-dependent Hawaii, future OTEC capital of the Northern Hemisphere.

C’mon Department of Defense: Turn loose your purse strings and fund the first OTEC pilot plant here in the name of national security!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Future of Geothermal Energy in Hawaii’s Mix

Our Energy Futures program on Hawaii Public Radio on Monday will continue the discussion geothermal energy that began on the most recent show.

As we heard on July 27, some Native Hawaiians strongly object to using the volcano’s underground heat to generate electricity because, in their view, it degrades the power of their deity – the volcano goddess Pele.

The guests on Monday’s show will be State Senator Kalani English, vice chair of the Energy and Environment Committee, and Puna Geothermal Energy plant manager Michael Kaleikini (left and right in graphic). Both have Hawaiian heritage and will share their perspectives on the quiet debate on geothermal energy’s future.

The issue was far from quiet in the 1990s, when the proposed geothermal development in the Wao Kele O Puna rainforest on the Big Island was met with determined opposition that eventually ended that possibility.

The Puna Geothermal Venture plant has been providing about 30 megawatts of power to the island’s grid for nearly 16 years. Will that contribution increase or has geothermal energy reached an early peak that will never been exceeded?

That’s one of the issues we’ll explore with English and Kaleikini on Energy Futures, Monday at 5 pm HST (11 pm EDT) on KIPO-FM – 89.3 in Hawaii and streamed on the Internet.

Monday, July 27, 2009

‘Energy Futures’ Show Highlights Hawaiian Views; Tuesday, a Nobel Prize Winner Takes the Spotlight

This can be short; we’ll simply refer readers to our sister "publication" over at Energy Futures on HPR for a condensed version of our “live” show on Native Hawaiian Perspectives on Renewable Energy today on Hawaii Public Radio (archived here).

This is Conservation Week in Hawaii and it’s only right that the Hawaii Conservation Conference is being held this week, too. The Tuesday highlight is a morning presentation by Dr. Stephen Schneider (below), the distinguished climate change scientist and winner (along with four generations of fellow authors on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. (Co-winner former Vice President Al Gore got most of the publicity.)

We were delighted to have him as our guest Tuesday evening for a recorded session of the Energy Futures show on Hawaii Public Radio. The interview will be broadcast on August 17 on KIPO-FM (89.3 in Hawaii) and streamed on the Internet.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Examining Some Native Hawaiians’ Energy Views

With the weekend at hand, it’s time to look ahead to one of the more intriguing energy-related issues Hawaii will face in the years ahead: To what extent are representatives of the host Native Hawaiian culture supportive or opposed to renewable energy development?

The seriousness of this issue dare not be overlooked. Perhaps more than ever since the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893, Native Hawaiians are demanding and receiving respect for their views and aspirations.

A self-determination movement is gaining strength, and spokespersons from within the Native Hawaiian community are asserting positions on land management issues that the rest of the population is well advised to note.

The Next Energy Futures Show

Dr. Davianna McGregor, professor and founder member of the University of Hawaii Ethnic Studies Department, will be a guest on Hawaii Public Radio’s Energy Futures program on Monday. As recorded in an earlier post here at Energy Options, Dr. McGregor and some of her associates who observe Native Hawaiian religion and cultural practices are not enthusiastic about the renewable energy potential of the islands.

Joining her with be Ramsay Taum, director of External Relations and Community Partnerships within UH’s School of Travel Industry Management. We’ll examine their presumably disparate views on Hawaii’s energy issues and options and invite you to listen no matter where you reside. The show is streamed on the Internet at 5 pm HST (11 pm EDT) and heard locally on KIPO-FM (89.3).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Veto and No Override, a Molokai Puzzler, and an Energy Festival..…Playing Catch-Up with the News

We’re scrambling to mention, if briefly, the major events of the past week that seemed to pile up while we focused on other issues, including tomorrow’s Energy Futures show on Hawaii Public Radio.

The Governor’s veto of a $1/barrel tax increase on imported oil to fund renewable energy and food security initiatives and the Legislature’s failure to override will have repercussions. Supporters of the measure already are blasting both decisions and presumably are more determined than ever to see a tax succeed next year, election year be damned.

The lobbying effort that swayed legislators to vote against the veto override was led by the local airline industry, according to media reports. We failed to find any coverage of what the impact on the airlines might have been under the tax, so we asked Jeff Mikulina of the Blue Planet Foundation:

“About 25 cents per ticket. The airlines claim this will add $2,752,000 to their fuel costs inter-island (total of $2.9 million with existing 5-cent tax). Based on 2007 numbers, where 9,188,139 passengers flew inter-island, this would be $0.2995 per person. But some of the inter-island fuel cost goes to cargo, so I figure the impact on passengers would be slightly less, say 25 cents…. I still can't believe we lost this.”

Harmful to Poor?

The Governor’s veto message said the tax would hurt Hawaii’s poor by raising gasoline prices 2 or 3 cents a gallon. Mikulina commented on that reasoning yesterday at the Hawaii Clean Energy Festival, noting that residents are hurt much more by rising oil prices.

That much is irrefutable. The price of oil reached $147/barrel a year ago this month, and every Hawaii resident paid dearly -- at the pump, at the grocery store, in their electric bills, everywhere. The proposed tax increase would have slapped a big fat target where it belongs – imported oil. Yes, we’re still dependent on it, but that has to change, and two bits per passenger per flight hardly seems like reason enough to lead the effort to kill this measure.

The Molokai Puzzler

We’ll give passing mention to the alleged intention of a New Mexico company to build a hydrogen-powered generation plant on the Friendly Isle. Nearly everything about the company’s announcement was puzzling, including the media’s lack of curiosity about it.

The company said it can’t disclose the location of its planned hydrogen production plant because negotiations for the site are still under way, according to a company official. He also said Jetstream Wind Inc. hopes to break ground in 30 to 60 days. You have to wonder where in that time frame they plan to fit in an environmental impact statement and review process.

Continuing, the Honolulu Advertiser story (reprinted by The Maui News) reported that the plant would generate electricity to power 6,000 homes and businesses. Molokai’s population is somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000, so on the face of it, the company proposes to service all homes and businesses on the island and presumably replace Maui Electric as the island's power provider.

But according to the Advertiser story, Maui Electric’s parent company, Hawaiian Electric, has not been contacted by the company. That’s the most glaring point of all.

This whole endeavor reminds us of the proposal floated earlier this year to build a wind farm in the middle of the humpback whale sanctuary in the Penguin Bank region of open ocean southwest of Molokai. That company also had not yet contacted Hawaiian Electric about its plan, an obvious red flag that prompted us to ask at the time whether every proposed renewable energy project deserves community support.

Putting press releases ahead of due diligence is a sure way to not gain support for projects in the islands. You’d think mainland developers would have learned that by now.

Monday, July 13, 2009

New UC Study Endorses Battery-Switch E-Cars

“It took over sixty years and six generations of gasoline engines for the Chevy Corvette to accelerate from zero to sixty miles per hour in under four seconds. The first version of the Tesla Roadster, which is the world’s first Lithium-ion battery powered car, achieved that feat immediately.”

Those are the first sentences in the Introduction to a new study just released by the University of California at Berkeley”s Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology: Electric Vehicles in the United States, a New Model with Forecasts to 2030.
July 14th Update: Want to know what's on their minds at Hawaiian Electric Company, which supplies electricity to 95 percent of the state's population? The "Energy Futures" website has a link to Hawaii Public Radio's audio archive of Monday's discussion with guest Robbie Alm, HECO executive vice president.
Among its predictions, the study anticipates massive penetration of the light-vehicle market by electric cars in the next two decades with a big if – IF the cars use switchable batteries and charging networks financed by pay-per-mile contracts. It says removing the cost of the batteries from the sale price of electric vehicles will eliminate a major price component, resulting in impressive market penetration. E.G.:

“In the baseline forecast electric cars account for 64% of U.S. light-vehicle sales by 2030 and comprise 24% of the U.S. light-vehicle fleet. The rates of adoption are driven by the low purchase price and operating costs of electric cars with switchable batteries. The estimates include the cost of installing charging and battery switching infrastructure to extend the range of electric vehicles.”

The study definitely is worth a read – especially in Hawaii, arguably the best test market for the new electric vehicle networks, such as proposed by Better Place. Plug me in!

‘Energy Futures’ Show

Read what dominated today’s program on Hawaii Public Radio here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Getting Picky about Energy in Hurricane Season

Hurricanes are marvelous energy machines -- nature’s way of expelling excess amounts of it from the tropics. According to some calculations, an average hurricane produces the “equivalent to 200 times the worldwide electrical generating capacity….” We're all for renewable energy, but that’s bull-in-a-china-shop energy, not what we need.

The Eastern Pacific is now officially experiencing increased ocean temperatures – what they call an El Niño, which historically means we can expect more tropical storms in the Central Pacific. Our friend Jan TenBruggencate reminds us in his Raising Islands blog today that a hurricane could arrive in the islands within a week or 10 days.

So we’re chiming in, too, with this cautionary note for island residents to start taking precautions. Hawaii has been remarkably free of tropical storms in recent years, unlike the Gulf and Atlantic states, but our two most recent hurricane strikes – Iwa in 1982 and Iniki in 1992 – both were during El Niño conditions. We are forewarned.

Monday Update

Carlos has weakened and is expected to remain a tropical storm for the remainder of its life. We'll have a lively discussion on KIPO this afternoon (5 pm HST, 11 pm EDT) about Hawaiian Electric Company's evolving role in delivering cleaner energy to its customers.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Linking Cap-and-Trade to Proper Grammar – an Innovative Approach to Revolutioninzing Society

We love online news stories that give us an excuse to do multiple referrals to our other blogs. Here’s one on CNBC today that discusses strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Hawaii.

The first referral goes to our new blog Energy Futures on HPR for the weekly “live” program on Hawaii Public Radio that focuses on energy issues here. The CNBC article mentions cap-and-trade proposals, a topic that surely will be mentioned in next Monday’s show with guest Robbie Alm, executive vice president of Hawaiian Electric Company.

The article also gives us excellent cause to link to our Killing English blog, which addresses the increasingly widespread use of poor grammar in American life. If you’re so inclined, read the article and see if you can find the one big egregious grammar mistake, and then click on our link to Killing English.

Mixing energy and grammar – going all out to promote best practices in both fields.

Afternoon Update

Dr. Ted Johnson, Lockheed Martin’s principal advocate for ocean thermal energy conversion, has received the Ocean Energy Pioneer Award from the Ocean Energy Council. The award apparently was presented at Ocean Energy 2009 a few weeks ago in Rockport, Maine. We learned of it only today in a story printed in Johnson’s community newspaper.

Congratulations, Ted! (The photo was lifted from LM's new OTEC video.)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lockheed’s New OTEC Video Merits a Long Look; Energy Futures Program Debuts on Public Radio

A screen grab from Lockheed Martin's OTEC video shows
Makai Ocean Engineering's graphic of a plant off Oahu's Waianae Coast.

It figures; while we were recording an Energy Futures program on ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) for future broadcast on Hawaii Public Radio, an email arrived with a link to Lockheed Martin’s apparently new video touting OTEC’s potential to change the energy game.

The Energy Futures OTEC show hasn’t been scheduled for broadcast, but if OTEC developments pick up, it will air sooner than later. Guests Hans Krock and Gerard Nihous, long-time OTEC proponents with decades of experience between them, gave a good description of OTEC’s technology and its promise, as does the Lockheed video.

July 6th Update
Ted Peck and Robert Harris before today's Energy Futures broadcast.
Energy Futures was broadcast for the first time this afternoon, with guests Ted Peck, Hawaii state energy administrator, and Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club’s Hawaii Chapter. We invite the loyal readers of the Hawaii Energy Options blog to visit our new site for the radio show.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Renewable Project Backers Hear Significance of Native Hawaiian Religious and Cultural Practices

Daviana McGregor gives her views on renewable energy development.
Myron Thompson was among several other Native Hawaiian panelists.

Last night’s Sakamaki Extraordinary Lecture panel on Native Hawaiian Perspectives on Renewable Energy featured eight Native Hawaiian participants, some of whom appear to have views that are diametric opposites regarding renewable energy development in the islands.

Some hold key executive positions in renewable companies and therefore spoke on the importance of outreach to communities and neighbors. Others are legislators whose responsibilities include creating energy policy to reduce the islands’ dependence on foreign oil. The moderator and a pastor articulately framed the discussion in terms of Native Hawaiian cultural values.

From our perspective, the most penetrating remarks were by Davianna Pomaikai McGregor, a professor and founding member of Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawaii. Professor McGregor is a practitioner of Native Hawaiian religion and culture and described why she and other supporters of the Pele Defense Fund continue to discourage if not resist altogether renewable energy development.

Everyone on the panel agreed that respect for Native Hawaiian values and members of that and the broader community is mandatory for renewable projects. However, Professor McGregor’s comments reveal a gulf between renewable developers and those who observe Native Hawaiian cultural and religious practices that is wide and appears to require innovative approaches to bridge.

We recorded most of the panel discussion and are posting much of Professor McGregor’s presentation here to give her position a wider audience than she enjoyed last evening. A portion of moderator Ramsay Taum’s closing comments are at the end of today’s post.

Professor Daviana Pomaikai McGregor:

In the traditions of Pele, we know that every time someone assaults her, that she moves on to form another island or moves on to another place on an island. And the belief of the Pele Defense Fund practitioners is that it is not a renewable resource, that it is a source deeply depleted of Pele herself and saps her life force, and that if geothermal energy is expanded, that she will move, and she already is moving on to another island off shore. And that those of us who worship Pele will no longer be able to witness her manifestation as she dances on the ridge or in the steam that rises, or witness the manifestation of her brothers and sisters (unintelligible) in the realm of Pele. And the (unintelligible) or mandate from Pele in the chants that come down, the specific chant is, “You can join my dance if you want to dance, but all this hot belongs to me.” And that is the belief of the Pele practitioners.

So I first began to be involved through that and then with colleagues in the School of Social Work…. We did the cultural impact study for the geothermal project and interviewed people in the community on both Hawaii Island and Maui, because it was going to be transported by cable to (Maui), and we interviewed people on both sides of the channel and came up with the first cultural impact study that was ever done in Hawaii…..

Energy Forms as Deities

We’ve come to understand that Hawaiians really honored all of the energy forms and the natural primordial energy forms as deities. So Pele, if we look at geothermal, is a deity as Pele. If we look at hydroelectricity, the water is (undecipherable). If we look at solar …. And the winds were honored by Hawaiians, some as the (undecipherable), are believed to be a form of a deity… and the Hawaiians named the winds as they did the rains. So that all of these energy forms were honored, and we as humans are small in comparison, and the mana that we get from these natural elements, these are forms that we cannot create or destroy, and we honor them as deities. So when you look at renewable resources in Hawaii, we begin to understand that they have an impact on Native Hawaiians that they do not have on the rest of the community because of our belief system in natural energy forms as deities.

The other aspect that has a particular impact on Native Hawaiians is that a lot of these renewable resources are in remote areas or seek to be developed in remote areas. Puna is a remote area. Wind resources are sought in remote areas. And these areas are in my research are called cultural kipuka where the Hawaiians who lived outside the mainstream of economic development and off of the grid and off of the water systems, just in the elements, were able to perpetuate our Hawaiian cultural practices and language and belief systems, so now the development of these so-called renewable forces brings an industrial element into reserves and places that have been refuge for Native Hawaiian cultural practice and will impact upon very pristine resources and will also challenge whether or not Hawaiians can continue to access the natural resources that we have continued to rely upon generation to generation for their subsistence and their cultural practices.

Looking to the Long-Term Future

So this is the concern when we begin to look at branching out into renewable energy resources. Hydroelectricity will impact upon the free flow of the (undecipherable) and the pristine qualities of the streams…. Siting is another issue of concern. Will the sites impact upon cultural sites? Burial sites are of particular concern. Will it block access to subsistence resources? And the distribution, the infrastructure for the transmission is of concern. An underwater sea cable will have impact on the ocean and (unintelligible) of the resources. And the (locations) that are suggested invariably are sited on Hawaiian Home lands or ceded lands that are Hawaiian national lands and which we as Hawaiians looking to the future, at the sovereign future, the Akaka Bill perhaps or other forms, seek to have control over these national lands, and so we need to be part of the planning. Is this what we want for the long-term future of these national lands?

And there’s the additional impact that some of these remote places are also places where one goes to renew our connection to our deities. And how do these industrial structures impact upon visual impact and the experience in these remote isolated areas where we are best able to connect to these natural life forces? There have been other projects for ocean platforms to generate electricity, siting the Penguin Banks, which is a heavily fished aquatic fishing grounds for not only Native Hawaiians but (undecipherable) fishermen.

So these are all the kinds of concerns that have emerged when you look at it on the impacts on Native Hawaiians. In this study we looked at receptors, and we said we need to look at how would it impact on value systems, on community networks, on health and human wellbeing, on cultural and natural resources, on national lands and on Hawaiian rights, and those are some of the things to consider as we look at development. And the last thought is that we should probably begin to look at principles that would help to protect Native Hawaiian rights. The development of these resources should not deplete the life force of the deity. Islands should be self-sufficient and should not be expected to support Oahu for its development. Access to sites of natural cultural resources needs to continue to be open. I’ll leave you with these thoughts. Mahalo.

Taking the Next Step

Moderator Ramsay Taum, Director of External Affairs and Community Partnerships at the School of Travel Industry Management (TIM) at UH, ended the evening with his own Native Hawaiian perspective by recalling his conversation with a cherished elder near the end of her life:

…In her wisdom and her thought process, she said,

"Change the way you see the world and to not be afraid to take the next step, because all too often we of culture, any culture, find comfort in walking in the footsteps of our ancestors. The challenge, as we come to the end where they have left off, most of us turn around and start walking back again to find the comfort, but we know that when we continue to walk in the path of our ancestors, it becomes a rut."

Our challenge today is to take the next step, is to take what they taught and learn from it and begin to take those next courageous new steps and create a new path for the next generation. And hopefully it’s through events like this that we all will be able to take the next step in the journey that we’re all on together, especially here in the middle of the city. And with that, we’ll say Mahalo, Aloha and A hui hou.

Henry Curtis of Life of the Land videotaped the entire event and will present an edited version on ‘Olelo Community Television sometime in July.