Friday, April 3, 2009

Land-Poor Hawaii Must Build ‘Solar Farms’ at Sea

For the second time this week, National Public Radio provides the subject matter for a post here at Hawaii Energy Options. Morning Edition today carried a story on what will be one of the world’s largest solar thermal plants.

They’re planning 38,000 “sun catchers,” described as looking like “enormous satellite dishes with mirrors” that will be spread over 10 square miles of southeast California desert.

That’s what they do on the mainland – find open space not suitable for just about anything else and build on it. It sounds relatively simple compared to what we have to do out here in land-scarce Hawaii to capture the sun’s energy.

Hawaii’s “sun catchers” likely will take the form of ocean thermal energy plants once a 10-megawatt pilot plant proves the OTEC concept. The tropical ocean captures enough solar energy each day to easily meet the entire state’s current electrical energy demand and its future electric vehicle requirement, to boot.

The NPR story ends by noting the 25-percent unemployment rate in Imperial County where the energy projects are taking shape: “The challenge now is to train this potential work force for jobs in this industry and build the controversial transmission corridors it will take to carry this clean energy to the coastal cities that want it.”

Hawaii has its own unemployment issues as tourism continues its slide and faces an uncertain future when oil prices rise to last year’s levels, as most observes think they certainly will. A clean energy industry would shape our future positively and provide employment to the next generation of young people – a worthy goal if there ever was one.


Peter said...

What do you know about the attitude of Helco on the Big Island towards the Feed-In Tariff. I read about it on another site and wrote to someone in the state govt. He replied that he knew very little about it and that I should contact Helco directly to see what their posture towards it is. I find that extremely naive since Helco has a history of refusing to support alternative energy that is NOT generated by Helco.
Our homeowner assoc manager has told us that Helco's current response to alternative energy is that they will not support it since they have long term contracts to buy diesel for their power plants. Helco is the most profitable of all the electric utilities in Hawaii.


Doug Carlson said...

Peter, sorry for the delay in responding. I know nothing about Helco's attitude on the feed-in tarrif, but you may be a little too hard on the utility. Puna Geothermal Ventures is a separate entity, as are the several wind farms that have been built in recent years.

Suggest you seek answers from Helco's parent utility, Hawaiian Electric in Honolulu. The company has made a great deal about a new way of doing business, including supporting feed-in tariffs, so I'd be surprised if you hit a roadblock. Thanks for reading.