Friday, January 30, 2009

No No No No No! And To Be Clear --- Fuggitaboutit!

We admit to a little neglect of this blog and the world strikes back! It's been about a week since the Legislature went into session, and already some of our public servants want to study the feasibility of nuclear power in Hawaii.

We warned you this could happen – way back on August 6th after picking up the signs in downtown Honolulu.

Let’s be clear about opposition to nuclear power in Hawaii and hope it somehow gets to the newspapers: You don’t have to be an “environmentalist” or “activist” to oppose nuke power in these islands. That’s how today’s Advertiser seems to lump opponents.

You can be a realist or a pragmatist or an idealist or someone who simply knows with certainty that Hawaii’s alternatives to burning fossil fuel to generate electricity can be found in the wind, sun and ocean.

What do you suppose would happen if you asked legislators who support nuclear power for an elevator talk on ocean thermal energy conversion? Would they even know where to begin?

The tropical ocean is the largest solar energy collector on the planet, and we’re swimming in it! Plans are underway to build Hawaii’s first operating OTEC plant; when proven and built out to 100-megawatt size on off-shore platforms or ships, OTEC will be a source of unlimited baseload power that takes advantage of nuclear energy supplied by the sun.

That’s a comeback used by Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation:

do have nuclear power in Hawaii; it’s called the sun and it’s safely located 93 million miles away.”

The sun’s energy is stored safely in the ocean that surrounds us, so let’s get on with ensuring a smooth and rapid transition to clean, renewable energy and stop this ridiculous talk about bringing nuclear power to Hawaii.  For more on renewable energy as "our only viable option," see Pat Takahashi's piece today at Huffington Post.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Admissions of Neglect: We’re Two-Timing This Blog

Anybody out there get nervous if you don’t post to your website for a few days? That’s what we’re feeling this week, but we can explain:

We’ve been spending time with another blog -- Yes2Rail. The Honolulu rapid transit fixed guideway project we’re affiliated with is steadily progressing and has registered some new developments; e.g., the Honolulu City Council voted yesterday to shift the route so it will pass U.S. Naval Station Pearl Harbor and Honolulu International Airport.

The route was a no-brainer from way back, but political considerations two years ago required a compromise that initially fixed the route through a predominantly residential district. The new route’s projected ridership shows higher usage, including among the thousands of workers at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and the airport.

What’s more, this will be an environmentally preferable way to commute compared to the over-reliance on the private automobile on Oahu.  The "airport route" is expected to reduce road congestion by 23 percent in the next two decades.

So there you have it; we’ve stepping out with another blog, but we promise to turn our attention back to Hawaii's renewable energy options soon enough.  (Please visit Yes2Rail; it relishes all the attention it can get.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Governor’s State-of-State Speech Says Oil ‘Sucks’

OK, that’s a bit abrupt. Here’s the full quote for proper context:

“Oil pollutes the environment, it sucks billions of dollars out of our economy and leaves us dependent on the goodwill of foreign countries and companies for our very survival.” (Tabloid treatment in the pursuit of energy independence is no vice.)

Governor Linda Lingle’s State of the State contained a strong commitment to reducing and eventually eliminating Hawaii’s dependence on imported oil and other energy resources. Renewable energy advocates will find much to like in her speech before the Legislature today, such as:

“As the world’s most isolated set of islands and our nation’s most oil-dependent state, a clean energy future is no longer simply a desire of environmentalists, it is an absolute necessity for our long-term economic survival.”

There’s plenty more about energy in the speech, which you can both read and watch at the Governor’s website.

•  Castle & Cooke's Harry Saunders writes in the Advertiser about the company's new solar farm on Lanai.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Electric Cars Hit Hawaii Roads in Reliability Tests

Cops chasing bad guys in electric cars? No more vroooom, just swiiiiiiiish?

That may happen now that the Honolulu Police Department is testing hybrid vehicles, according to the Honolulu Advertiser. (That's Officer Ioane Ke`ehu at right in an Advertiser photo.) Numerous companies and government agencies are putting electric cars and buses to the test.

The initiative that may have generated the greatest interest locally so far is Better Place’s intent to build a $1 billion electric car infrastructure in the state.

Bring it on – and while officials are at it, how ‘bout converting one of those behemoth cement trucks to electricity? Now, that would be a test – and a simultaneous reduction in air pollution.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

OTEC History, Challenges and Potential Highlighted In an ‘Invention and Technology’ Magazine Article

Much of what a reasonably curious person would want to know about ocean thermal energy conversion – including the frustrations of French inventor Georges Claude (at left) – can be found in a well-researched article by James R. Chiles in the Winter 2009 edition of Invention and Technology magazine. (Unfortunately, the link is no longer active.)

The article’s subhead draws in the reader:

“Eighty years ago, a brilliant French inventor staked – and lost – his considerable fortune on developing ocean thermal energy, but his dream of harnessing unlimited energy from the sea lives today.”

Claude tried again and again to make his OTEC dream work but was undone by bad technology, bad planning and bad weather forecasting. The piece devotes a major portion of its space to Claude’s ultimately fruitless efforts, but valuable lessons were learned about the difficulty of deploying OTEC technology, lessons that Chiles says are relevant in today’s quest to develop Hawaii's first pre-commercial OTEC plant.

Here are a couple quotes from the article:

“A natural source of power exists which is abundantly able to supply all power needed by future man.” The tropical ocean can supply “an indefinitely large storehouse of potential energy, inexhaustible” if tapped.

So wrote engineer Ben J. Campbell 96 years ago, and it’s still being said today (providing further support to the notion there's nothing new under the sun; see this blog’s first post on March 14, 2008).

Chiles’ piece is recommended reading, especially for its mention of Hawaii initiatives and personalities affiliated with OTEC, including entrepreneur Bill Spencer’s fish farming plans for Hawaii Oceanic Technologies that would use small OTEC systems to power fish pens in the open ocean.

(Mahalo to Robert Cohen, long-time OTEC enthusiast and backer, for sending us the article.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Will 2009 Be Hawaii’s Year of the Electric Car?

(Reminder to military personnel on Oahu: Visit our Yes2Rail blog for information on how to comment on the Honolulu rail transit project's Draft EIS.)

What’s the fastest way to make cuts into Hawaii’s dependence on oil? We’ll venture the opinion that converting to electric vehicles is that way.

It would seem to be the “easiest,” implemented by individuals and requiring no land use or shoreline management permits, environmental impact assessments, legislative initiatives, new Public Utility Commission rules or hundreds of millions of dollars in power plant investment.

To be sure, Hawaii will see its share of large wind farms, solar arrays and OTEC plants in the years ahead, but individuals and businesses are switching over to electric cars in the here and now. Today’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports on a company that’s introducing its beefed-up battery pack to Hawaii that doubles the Toyota Prius's fuel economy.

We’ll all be watching Better Place in ’09 to see how far the company moves its plan to build out a $1 billion battery-charging network of 100,000 charging stations throughout the state. Hawaii is just one of Better Place's venues, so it remains to be seen where the state ranks in the company's priorities.  Here's a link to a BBC report today on Better Place and "the electric car revolution."

We wait with anticipation for other initiatives in renewable energy this year involving OTEC, battery storage and other critical fields. Whatever those initiatives are, our journey to energy independence in Hawaii will be smoother if the vehicles we use are electrified.

Monday, January 19, 2009

As Obama Assumes Leadership of the Nation, Hawaii Is Poised to Be Green Energy Example

This is the quintessential photo from the 2008 campaign as far as Hawaii Energy Options is concerned – Obama on the stump in Bend, Oregon, talking about his $150 billion commitment to green energy development.

On the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration, we add our best wishes to Hawaii's favorite son and his Administration and link back to a couple posts from last year – our apocryphal “talk story” with the candidate and a suggestion for the Obama transition team.

Here’s another photo from last year, the memory of which we hope brings President Obama and his family back to the islands early and often:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Special Invitation for Military Personnel on Oahu

Our SiteMeter visitor tracker captures the “” and “” ISP designations fairly often here at Hawaii Energy Options. That being the case, we invite you military visitors and all service personnel stationed on Oahu to visit our Yes2Rail blog. Today’s post invites you to submit comments on the Draft EIS for the Honolulu rail transit system.

Among the many reasons rail transit makes sense for Honolulu (and just about everywhere else) is that it will be good for the environment. Moving commuters by train is remarkably more efficient and less energy hungry than by private automobile.

One of the compelling pro-rail arguments we especially like is that the trains one day will be powered exclusively by renewable energy. That’s the only logical conclusion if we think Hawaii can achieve its Clean Energy Initiative goals – or reach them earlier. As we wrote back in August at Yes2Rail, clean OTEC energy one day will help power the rail system.

Here’s an invitation to all energy-oriented visitors to this blog: Become wholehearted boosters of rail within your circles of influence. It’s the green way to ride.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Blue Planet Sets Preferred Course for Lawmakers With Recession-Busting, Job-Creating Tools; plus: Hawaii’s ‘Declaration of Energy Independence’

State legislators, their staffers and energy experts
met in the Capitol today on proposed renewable energy policies.

1/13 Update: Ted Liu says a "smart" electric grid will improve reliability and accommodate renewable energy advances.

Blue Planet Foundation’s “Clean Energy Policy Forum” in the State Capitol today was timed nicely for the beginning of the State Legislature’s 2009 session next week. Though few in number, legislators present included the chairs of the Senate and House energy committees – Senator Mike Gabbard and Representative Hermina Morita respectively.

Foundation head Henk Rogers, executive director Jeff Mikulina and several mainland experts presented components of a legislative package designed to achieve “more than energy security.” The package is intended to:
• bust the recession with tools to plug the $6 billion-plus annual payment for imported fossil fuel;
• create high-paying jobs in the renewable energy industry;
• protect the environment and decrease Hawaii’s annual contribution of 22 million tons of greenhouse gas;
• spur a high-tech economy by making the state a hub for clean energy research and development;
• create the Hawaii model in indigenous energy solutions for others around the globe to follow.

This is going to be a long post, but it’s worth devoting this much space to the Foundation’s policy recommendations; if implemented, they would move Hawaii along the path of becoming a world clean energy model.

Efficiency Policy Recommendations
1. Create the framework for dramatic increases in efficiency.
• Declare that energy efficiency shall be the first priority resource for new electric system resources in Hawaii.
• Establish an “energy efficiency resource standard” requiring annual energy efficiency program electricity savings equivalent to 3 percent of 2008 retail sales by the end of 2011, 10 percent by the end of 2015 and an additional 2 percent per year each year thereafter.
• Establish a system of incentives and penalties by a third party administrator and the utility for achievement of efficiency goals.
2. Provide real resources for efficiency investments.
• Establish a system benefit charge to provide a minimum energy efficiency program funding equivalent to 2 percent of total retail electricity sales revenues in 2009, 3 percent in 2010 and 4 percent in 2011 and each year thereafter.
• Establish a revolving fund from a fee on imported barrels of oil where customers could secure low-interest financing for energy efficiency improvements.
• To overcome an upfront cost barrier, allow customers to repay the cost of major energy efficiency measures through their bills.
3. Encourage design of smart, efficient buildings.
• Establish statewide energy efficiency building codes for residential and commercial new construction that are at least 30 percent more efficient than the current IECC codes. (Also, consider a state policy to keep Hawaii “best in nation.”)
• Create a “Time of Sale Efficiency Standard” requiring residential and commercial properties to be brought up to the energy efficiency standard upon transfer of ownership.

Clean Energy Policy Recommendations
1. Align Hawaii’s energy policy with a clean energy future: Allow no new fossil fuel generating plants.
• Exemptions could be created for emergency stand-by generators of less than 2 megawatts for hospitals, etc.
• This policy would be the nation’s first among the states.
• Hawaiian Electric Company supports this recommendation.
2. Create the path to clean energy.
• Clarify the current renewable portfolio standard’s (RPS) language to ensure that only clean, indigenous resources are counted.
• Set the RPS at 15 percent by 2015, 25 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2030.
• Establish clear penalties or “alternative compliance” mechanisms for a utility’s failure to achieve the standard.
3. Accelerate clean energy adoption.
• Remove the “avoided cost” barrier in HRS 269 that may prevent renewable energy adoption when oil prices are low. (Under current law, utilities’ payments to independent power producers is set at no less than the cost they avoid spending on imported fossil fuel. Low oil prices translate to low renewable energy payments.)
•Enable the counties to begin community-based “renewable energy zone” identification processes for permitting and transmission purposes.
• Ensure solar access – i.e., clarify that customers with solar devices have rights to the solar resource.

Mobility Policy Recommendations
1. Smarter: encourage efficient vehicles.
• Adopt California’s “Clean Car” standards to foster purchase of high miles-per-gallon cars in Hawaii (18 states already have adopted such standards).
• Establish a “Feebate”: incentivize high-efficiency vehicles and penalize the gas guzzlers for their negative impact on society.
• Mandate that all gas stations provide working, free air and tire gauges for filling tires to proper pressure and thereby provide up to 5 percent greater vehicle energy efficiency.
2. Better: increase indigenous fuel substitution.
• Establish biofuel support with market stimulation incentives for the development of biodiesel in the islands.
• Make state agricultural lands available for biodiesel fuel crops.
• Create a tax exemption for the development of indigenous biofuel sources within a reasonable time frame – such as 5 years.
3. Different: alternatives to internal combustion.
• Support electric vehicles and clean energy by directing the Public Utilities Commssion to create a preferential rate for electric vehicle charging from indigenous renewable energy resources.
• Direct the Department of Transportation to provide true bike lanes, and establish bike lane requirements when roads are being resurfaced and upgrade.

Integration Policy Recommendations
1. Make energy a priority.
• Create a State Energy Security Office as a stand-alone entity within the Governor’s office by moving the current DBEDT energy office.
• Coordinate system-wide planning through the office.
• Fund the office with a portion of the “barrel fee.”
• Consider establishing an energy commission to provide oversight.
• Direct the energy office to develop a state energy master plan covering backbone planning, transmission and distribution with long-term planning and commitment.
2. Encourage storage on the grid.
• Provide an incentive for energy storage or creating firm capacity that can be fed to the grid.
• Direct the PUC to implement a schedule of incentives dpending on technology type, location and availability (i.e., electric vehicles, capacitor banks, pumped hydro, batteries, etc.)
3. Recharge the Public Utilities Commission.
• Provide ample resources through the “barrel fee” for the PUC to research, deliberate and implement the critical list of energy issues they are charged with overseeing.
• Increase the transparency of PUC actions and initiation of PUC dockets; set public notice guidelines for increased public participation and awareness.

The ‘Zero Tolerance’ Quest

Rep. Pono Chong asked the 64-dollar question at the end of the presentation by suggesting that attaining “zero tolerance” as a public policy (with drugs, as an example) hasn't had much success. He asked how realistic it is to expect zero fossil fuel use in Hawaii’s future.

Denis Hayes, who was present for the Foundation’s Blue Planet Summit last April and participated in this weekend’s policy forum, responded that unleaded gasoline is an example of a “zero tolerance” policy that has in fact worked. Mikulina observed that getting to 100 percent renewable reliance requires first that we achieve 5 percent, then 10 percent and so on. Hawaii has to start with the achievable early goals and strive hard to reach full compliance as a consequence of early successes, he said.

Hayes also noted that finding substitutes for jet fuel is likely to be the last step in going completely fossil fuel free. Achieving that goal may require technological breakthroughs that can’t even be imagined today but which could make current concerns seem irrelevant in a few years. Also weighing in on the subject was Kyle Datta, founder and president of New Energy Partners, who said Hawaii is positioned well to achieve substitutes for jet fuel. He said the state is one of the few places in the world that knows how to grow algae at industrial levels thanks to years of research and development at the NELHA laboratory on the Big island.

Geothermal’s Potential

Chairman Gabbard asked about the potential for that island’s geothermal field to be expanded and thereby make greater contributions to the state’s renewable energy mix. (Geothermal has been capped at 30 megawatts since the 1990s; plans to grow the field to as much as 500 MW and ship the energy to Maui and Oahu via undersea cable were scrapped in the face of religious and environmental opposition.)

Jon Hurwitch, principal of Sentech, Inc., said every energy option has consequences, but continuing the status quo option of overwhelming reliance on imported oil and coal – resources over which the state has no control – is the worst option of all. He said just about all visiting energy experts see great potential in the Big Island’s geothermal field – up to several hundred megawatts, more energy than could be consumed on the island. Conversion to hydrogen for use in fuel cells is a possibility, as is transmission using an undersea cable. “Geothermal energy is critical to freeing yourself from oil,” Hurwitch said.

Henk Rogers said Blue Planet already has begun a dialogue with Hawaiian leaders and hopes to continue discussions with the community about whether Madame Pele’s bounty might be used for the benefit of the islands’ population.

A ‘Declaration of Energy Independence’

Rogers wrapped up the session by agreeing that 100 percent reliance on renewable energy is a huge goal, “but at some point we need to declare our energy independence.” He then proposed such a declaration, which is still in working draft form:

“We, the people of Hawaii, in order to end our state’s debilitating energy dependence, do hereby declare our intention to secure our energy future by replacing imported fossil fuel with renewable indigenous resources.”

Our apologies to Henk if we missed some of his intent and wording. Whatever its final form, here’s hoping the people of this state and their elected representatives endorse it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hawaii’s Largest Solar Farm Dedicated on Lanai

The island of Lanai has taken an important step toward its goal of eliminating fossil fuels from its energy mix with today’s dedication of the 1.2 megawatt La Ola Solar Farm.

Castle & Cooke (and Lanai) owner David Murdock has even bigger plans, including two or three hundred wind turbines that would ship their output to Oahu via undersea cables.

"Castle & Cooke is committed to helping the state of Hawaii achieve energy independence,” said Murdock. “With the dedication of Hawaii's largest solar farm, we are delivering on our commitment by bringing clean solar energy to the people of Lanai. This state-of-the-art solar farm helps pave the way for Hawaii to become a leader in the production of renewable energy. La Ola is just the first step of Castle & Cooke's plans for renewable, sustainable energy."

We have to hand it to Mr. Murdock and his team for their progress so far. We still hope he gets the ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) bug somewhere along the way, as we first suggested nearly a year ago.

Someone on the inside once told us the boss doesn’t take easily to projects that aren’t grounded – literally. An OTEC plant serving Lanai presumably would be anchored offshore a few miles, so the insider’s assessment was that OTEC didn’t stand a chance.

And now that solar and wind projects either have left the station or are lining up on a siding, maybe OTEC and Lanai will never get hitched. Which leads us back to Oahu, the population center of the state and the island with the greatest need to get off oil.

Anticipating OTEC

We’re still waiting for follow-on news regarding the announcement from two months ago concerning an OTEC plant to be built on or near Oahu. The two parties allegedly behind the project have published nothing about it since Governor Lingle created the initial buzz on a trip to Taiwan.

It’s a New Year, and Hawaii is eager for more oil-crushing news on the green side. Let’s go, Lockheed Martin: The suspense is killing us!

And speaking of "killing us," how about the 37-percent increase in the price of oil in the past 10 days? (See chart at right.) Have we seen the bottom? (1/9 UPDATE: There's been a 25-percent drop in oil's price in the past three days, so all bets are off -- as usual -- on where price is going.)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year Brings Renewed Commitment to OTEC

We began this blog last March 14th when the price of oil hit $111 per barrel. Our stated purpose was to generate more buzz about Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) than had been seen in recent years.

OTEC received considerable media attention in 2008, and the buzz is carrying over into the New Year, as seen in a piece published today in the San Jose Mercury News.

Yet we’ve also heard (if not read) comments to the effect that big industrial processes like OTEC are the “enemy” of distributed generation on a more human scale.

We don’t see any enemies among those who advocate freedom from our oil dependence, especially in places like Hawaii that have an inexhaustible supply of ocean-based energy available for exploitation.

If there must be enemies, let them be Eagles, Vikings, Patriots, Chargers or Titans. In the move to Get Off Oil, we’re all on the same team.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Hawaii Poised for Revolution in Energy Policy, plus: Will Sea Level Change Be Faster than Predicted?

The island-wide blackout one week ago today is still a warm (if not hot) conversation topic and won’t soon be forgotten by residents – even temporary ones like the President-Elect – who went without power for 12 hours or longer. It was the second such outage in just over two years.

On the plus side, the blackout hit less than a month before the opening of the 2009 legislative session and is sure to be a fresh memory in the State Capitol. Jeff Mikulina, executive director of Henk Rogers’ Blue Planet Foundation, lays out “five steps to a greener tomorrow” in an editorial page piece in today’s Advertiser, timed for our legislators’ benefit.

Mikulina notes that today’s relatively low energy costs provide “some breathing room for us to take actions to prepare for the inevitable: skyrocketing prices.

“Let's not squander this opportunity. Replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, putting in a solar water heater, swapping out an old, inefficient fridge, driving less — all go a long way to keeping oil in the ground and money in your pocket. And although the cost of oil is down, its cost to the environment hasn't changed one bit. Each of us doing our part really makes a world of difference.”

Mikulina’s five-point manifesto is must reading for legislators, utility commission members and everyone who is concerned about Hawaii’s unique oil dependency and hopeful for the state’s renewable energy potential.

"Abrupt Client Change" Report

Jan TenBruggencate of Kauai writes on his Raising Islands blog that a new federal government report predicting much faster sea level rise has received no media coverage in Hawaii since its release on December 15.  Among the report's unsettling conclusions:

"...inclusion of these ice-sheet and glacier processes into future modeling experiments will likely lead to sea-level rise projections for the end of the 21st century that substantially exceed those presented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fourth assessment report (IPCC AR4)."

Jan's blog has links to several documents that may disrupt your sleep cycle.