Monday, November 22, 2010

Rooftops to OTEC, Hawaii Energy Is Moving

Lockheed Martin's rendition of an OTEC plant.
A friend was talking about the apparent tendency for everything to be going by faster and faster these days – a condition one author once called “The Quickening.” From where we sit, nothing seems to be happening faster than renewable energy developments in Hawaii.

It’s happening from small rooftop solar projects to the islands’ first ocean thermal energy conversion plant. Well, the latter is still in the far-off-but-getting-closer stage, but today’s news from Lockheed Martin is encouraging all the same.

The company announced that the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command has awarded Lockheed Martin $4.4 million more to advance the design for an OTEC plant off Oahu’s Kahe Point. That amount has been added to the $8.1 million contract issued last year.

Just a few days ago Hawaiian Electric Company announced that it is taking applications under its feed-in tariff program – a way for independent power producers to sell HECO energy using pre-established rates and standardized contract terms.

Conservation, Too

Thanksgiving Week is not too soon to start reminding power consumers to do their part in conserving electricity during the holiday season. Hawaii Energy, which administers the state’s Conservation and Efficiency Program, put up a couple press releases today. “Look for the ENERGY STAR label” is a message you’ll be hearing a lot in the weeks to come.

All of which goes to show that if you take a few days off to attend to matters other than energy, you’ll be playing catch-up soon enough.

Monday, November 15, 2010

OTEC and Rail – Oahu’s Future Winning Pair

This will be the shortest post ever at this blog. Please read the most recent post at sister blog Yes2Rail for a glimpse of how ocean power will be energizing transportation on Oahu within decades.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

EU Moves Aggressively To Develop Green Tech

Carbon capture projects will also be funded.
“Old Europe” or not, the European Union has come up with a fresh approach to developing technologies that could produce commercial-scale renewable energy projects, including ocean thermal energy conversion.

The EU setting aside billions of euros to fund 50 percent of the construction and operation costs of dozens of projects, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry’s publication.

We’ve always thought it would take that kind of governmental subsidy to get OTEC up and running, and now European nations are moving to make it happen. According to an industry insider who helps keep this blog informed, “…the program also would fund OTEC in the territories of the UK, France, or the Netherlands. This would apply to Diego Garcia, Reunion, French Polynesia, the Cayman Islands, Curacao, etc.”

Hello? Are you paying attention, America?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hillary Clinton Does the Unexpected: Endorses OTEC

Now, that’s my kind of Secretary of State – one who actually speaks the words “ocean thermal energy conversion” as she discusses renewable energy opportunities in the Pacific.

Secretary Clinton stopped off in American Samoa today and pledged Obama Administration support for the islands, but she might as well have been talking about Hawaii as she described the territory’s near-total dependence on oil.

“This is a particular opportunity for investment in clean and renewable energy sources including wind, solar, wave and ocean thermal energy conversion power,” she said. “I know that the islands currently import 100 percent of your energy requirements mainly petroleum. These high energy costs born by a small population make renewable energy a very attractive option.”

America’s top diplomat talking up OTEC – it’s almost beyond imagination, especially since this blog was started to help end the silence on OTEC and elbow it into the public’s consciousness.

As we noted in one of our first posts, editorial writers were forever ticking off renewable technologies but not including OTEC in the mix. This one in the Honolulu Advertiser on March 16, 2008 was typical.

And now the United States Secretary of State proclaims OTEC’s value along with wind, solar and wave energy. My word……

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Geothermal Energy Gains the Spotlight Amid New Assessments on the Views of Key Communities

Power from Mother Earth has been quietly contributing to the island of Hawaii’s energy requirements for decades, and now geothermal energy is producing eye-catching headlines that seem to presage either new developments in the industry or new public attitudes about its acceptance, or both.

Pacific Business News’ contribution in its October 11th issue was headlined “Geothermal energy holds vast potential to power Big Island.” Hawaii Business magazine’s piece in the November issue, “Geothermal’s Second Chance,” focuses a great deal on the concerns expressed by the Native Hawaiian community and others over the years.

A quick read of the magazine’s piece leaves us wondering whether attitudes truly have changed about geothermal’s impact on the community or whether there’s a new “what’s in it for me?” vein running through all of this.

It's understandable that various communities would have something to gain by allowing geothermal to expand. The state as a community has much to gain by reducing our collective dependence on fossil fuels, and geothermal power potentially could make a huge contribution.

It’s just that there may be reason for a go-slow acceptance of this implied new well-spring of support for geothermal among key constituencies, such as the Native Hawaiian community.

A Little Perspective

We wish we had been akamai enough to know how to preserve the weekly Energy Futures programs on Hawaii Public Radio that we produced and hosted from July 2009 to this February. (The show's no longer on the air.) We got smart enough to save just one – with a Nobel Laureate at that, the late Dr. Stephen Schneider. The program originally aired in August 2009 and was rebroadcast in November.

Had we known how to preserve those programs we'd invite you to listen to the July 27, 2009 edition of Energy Futures that was devoted to Native Hawaiian perspectives on renewable energy. Our guests that day were Dr. Daviana McGregor (at right) and Ramsay Taum of the University of Hawaii.

That said, we have the next best thing to offer – a transcription of Dr. McGregor’s comments a few weeks earlier at a similar discussion sponsored by the Sakamaki Extraordinary Lecture series at UH.

We recommend spending some time with Dr. McGregor’s views before assuming, based on the recent journalism, that the coast is clear to expand geothermal energy’s contributions to the state’s energy grid. We doubt that it's as clear-cut as some would have you believe.

We bring this up only because it’s critical to have a clear-eyed assessment of the challenges and opportunities before Hawaii as we do everything we can, including expanding geothermal energy, to Get Off Oil!