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.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Native Hawaiian Perspectives on Renewable Energy To Be Discussed Tonight in Lecture Series Panel

The Sakamaki Extraordinary Lecture Series tonight shifts to one of the key issues that must be considered in developing Hawaii’s renewable energy resources.

As we noted here several months ago, Native Hawaiian concerns about the potentially insensitive exploitation of the Big Island’s geothermal resource contributed to capping the existing geothermal plant’s output at 30 MW. It seems likely that those concerns about the tropical rain forest and the culture surrounding Madame Pele (above) still exist and therefore must be accommodated.

Anyone who aspires to tap into Hawaii’s renewable resources might well be in attendance this evening. We’ll be there and will post a summary – hopefully NLT tomorrow.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cross-Referencing the Social Media; We Post our First Audio File To Promote New Energy Program

It’s Father’s Day, so this will be short – and also self-promotional, since it’s Father’s Day. We just stumbled across an application called CellSpin that gives us yet another way to promote the new energy-focused program on Hawaii Public Radio.

CellSpin allows users to post text, photos, video and audio to the social media sites, so we’ve posted audio in keeping with the medium that will carry Energy Futures beginning on July 6.

Our first CellSpin post simply promotes the new radio program without mentioning the first show’s guests. We’ll do that in future CellSpin posts, but for the record, the inaugural show will feature Ted Peck, State Energy Administrator, and Robert Harris, executive director of the Sierra Club’s Hawaii chapter.

Energy Futures will be broadcast “live” 5-6 p.m. HST on Mondays on KIPO, 89.3 FM, and streamed on the ‘net at HawaiiPublicRadio.org. Other shows this summer will examine Hawaiian Electric Company’s possible energy futures, greenhouse gas implications for Hawaii’s economy, the anticipated new solar energy law here and Native Hawaiian perspectives on renewable energy.

That’s the current thinking. We invite you to be a regular listener to see how it all plays out, and be a caller, too; the program will reserve a big chunk of the hour for listeners’ calls.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Every 3 Weeks, the Ocean Absorbs the Equal of the Planet’s Entire Energy Supply Since Forever: Krock

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re familiar with our enthusiasm for the elusive Holy Grail of renewable energy – ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), the reason we started the blog in the first place.

Dr. Hans Krock, an emeritus professor at the University of Hawaii and indefatigable OTEC proponent and would-be developer, made the case for OTEC in his UH lecture last night. (The Sakamaki Extraordinary Lectures 2009 series has an impressive lineup of speakers and subjects this summer. A panel on “Native Hawaiian Perspectives on Renewable Energy Development" moderated by UH’s Ramsay Taum will be featured on June 24, and UH's Dr. Denise Konan will discuss “Energy and Greenhouse Gas Solutions for Hawaii’s Economy” on July 22.)

Krock made several major points, the first being that OTEC has been proven feasible numerous times since it was first theorized in the 19th Century. OTEC predates the era of the automobile and the internal combustion engine.

The eye-popping fact of the night was Krock’s assertion that the solar energy absorbed by the ocean every three weeks is equivalent to all the Earth’s energy sources (still intact or already used up) since the planet’s creation – all the fossil fuels, all the radioactive energy, everything.

Plugging In

The trick, of course, is to tap this inexhaustible supply of ocean energy. Hawaii has an impressive OTEC history and was center stage in the 1970s for small but successful OTEC projects. One on the Big Island had an energy flow to the electric grid so steady and unvarying that a “brake” had to be installed on the generator to match the utility’s power fluctuations.

But virtually all major OTEC work was halted by the Reagan Administration. There’s been no shortage of OTEC proposals in the decades since (Krock’s included), and there are frequent reports about the Navy’s interest in OTEC for Guam, Hawaii and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Lockheed Martin and the Taiwanese were reported to be working on a pilot plant near Oahu, but the announcement was made during a trade mission by Hawaii’s Governor and has been followed by near total silence from the two parties involved.

Krock and other OTEC enthusiasts are not going away; that most certainly includes the US Navy, which as well as any organization knows the global warming, sea-level rise and national security consequences of continued fossil fuel usage.

What the planet needs today are visionaries the equal of OTEC’s 19th-Century theorists – visionaries with cash. Maybe the recent sharp increase in the price of oil, along with the daily drumbeat of new global warming findings, will this time shake loose the funds necessary to build a working OTEC plant in the Pacific and usher in the Hydrogen Age.

The future widespread use of hydrogen for the planet's energy was another of Dr. Krock’s major themes that we’ll explore with him in the coming months on Hawaii Public Radio’s “Energy Futures” program. The series will be launched on July 6th -- “live” at 5 pm on Mondays on KIPO-FM (89.3) and streamed at HPR’s website.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Back in the Mid-Pacific Groove, OTEC’s on Deck

European wind farms are a dime a dozen, solar arrays less so.
It’s time to refocus on Hawaii energy issues – not that we lost any intensity while vacationing in France. The above photo is submitted as proof of our vigilance – a massive photovoltaic array tucked away on the back lot of a nuclear power facility northeast of Pertuis.

Back here at home, ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) will attract some well-deserved attention tomorrow night when Dr. Hans Krock participates in the Sakamaki Extraordinary Lecture series at the University of Hawaii.

Showing a flash of show-biz marketing savvy, the long-time OTEC proponent has titled his lecture “The Poseidon Adventure: A Down-Side-Up Story of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion.”

More information is available by calling (808) 956-8246.