Monday, January 25, 2010

HPR's Energy Futures Program To Highlight Electric Car Developments

A short post (out of guilt for letting two weeks go by since our last one) about today's Energy Futures program on Hawaii Public Radio. Better Place and Hawaii Electric Vehicles will be featured on the hour-long "live" call-in show, which airs 5-6 pm HST today on KIPO-FM (89.3 in Hawaii) and is streamed on the Internet.

The program is setting aside its third 20-minute segment again to take calls on solar energy options for homeowners. Mark Duda, president of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, will answer callers' questions as he did last week.

With the Hawaii State Legislature now in session, we'll be motivated to not let so much time slip by again, since there are bound to be plenty of energy options proposed before the end of April.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

“New Technology Called OTEC” Brings a Smile to Our Lips

My father used to say all publicity is good publicity as long as they spell your name right. And it certainly is good news that ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) is gaining a wider audience of appreciative “green” advocates.

Still, we had to smile when we came across this paragraph in a news story yesterday:

“But the (offshore) windmills also can be used to hold solar panels that would collect energy from the sun, underwater turbines that college energy from ocean currents and a new technology called ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) that uses the temperature difference between deep and shallow waters to run a heat engine.”

If 19th century technology is “new,” we’re all living in a post-new, post-modern futuristic age.

More power to North Carolina (pun intended), but we’re still holding out for the first pilot and commercial OTEC plants to be built here in Hawaiian waters. New, old – it doesn’t matter. Just build them.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Energy Policy Forum Briefing Is Blunt About It.....: Hawaii MUST Get Off Oil!

Energy Policy Forum's legislative briefing packed them in.
It was practically standing room only today in the State Capitol Auditorium during the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum’s annual legislative briefing. Members of the choir packed the place, with speakers and the audience all singing off the same page. Even the legislators were tapping their feet.

Such is the case when everyone lives, breathes and sleeps oil dependency depression and renewable energy enthusiasm. Moderator Jay Fidell started the session off by saying the program’s title should be “the State of Energy in the State of Energy.” It’s true; we all really are in a state about the imperative to develop Hawaii’s abundant renewable resources.

State Energy Administrator Ted Peck launched the presentations with the sobering thought that “Hawaii has an economic tsunami coming.” “In Hawaii, we feel the pain (of oil price increases) at the pump, pain at the plug and pain at the pallet,” he said as audience members nodded in agreement.

6:30 PM UPDATE: Matson Navigation Co. will raise its fuel surcharges for service to Hawaii, Guam and Micronesia on Feb. 7. The company said it was boosting the surcharge because of "rapidly rising fuel related costs."

Several panelists described their work to reduce the pain as quickly as possible. Joel Matsunaga, chief operating officer of Hawaii BioEnergy, covered his young company’s efforts to grow biofuel alternatives to jet fuel, the mother’s milk of the state’s tourism industry. (Hawaii Public Radio’s Energy Futures program will focus on the effort to develop alternatives to jet fuel on Monday, January 11 from 5-6 pm HST on KIPO-FM; the show also is streamed on the Internet.)

Matsunaga noted that one acre of palm trees yields 600 gallons of palm oil in one year, whereas one acre of micro-algae production can produce 10,000 gallons in that period due to algae's 12-day turnaround.

Ameresco senior project developer David Moakley described how his company partners with clients to reduce their energy consumption by making capital investments to upgrade their equipment and share in the energy savings. “We’ll cut you a check for the shortfall” if Ameresco doesn’t meet a client’s conservation goals, he said.

Numerous other speakers described their operations without straying far from the briefing’s theme, which was summarized by Senator Mike Gabbard, chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee.

“We all must become energy evangelists,” he said while urging members of the public to develop a community-wide will to “kick our fossil fuel addiction.” If the public demonstrates that will, Gabbard reasoned, politicians will be sure to notice and follow (or, we suspect, maybe even elbow their way to the front of the pack).
Ted Peck's "Bottom Lines" slide summarizes Hawaii's energy circumstances today.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dr. Luis Vega Weighs In on NOAA’S OTEC Role and Other Development Issues

Hawaii Energy Options had a couple posts late last year (December 13 and two days later on December 15) speculating that NOAA might pose a bureaucratic obstacle to the development of ocean thermal energy conversion. Our source had suggested NOAA’s requirements to accumulate test data might unnecessarily delay OTEC’s eventual roll-out.

Those posts attracted some attention, as did our November 19th item about a meeting organized by Dr. Luis Vega of the University of Hawaii around the visit by a NOAA delegation. Luis today emailed his reaction to our December posts, and he subsequently granted permission to publish it. With our thanks, here it is:

Aloha Doug,

In my opinion, you are being a bit harsh (in the blog posts) because, on paper, licensing and permitting requirements for OTEC are not more cumbersome that the process established for other technologies in our country. I reached the following conclusion while evaluating the situation between FERC and MMS as well the State of Hawaii regarding wave energy: I hope that we can evolve into a situation represented by a one-stop-shop where industry can process all documentation stipulated for licensing & permitting under federal, state, city and county regulations avoiding duplicity, contradictory requirements and interdepartmental jurisdictional disputes.

Moreover, I am the one that has been trying to make people understand that OTEC design and construction, including ordering long-lead items, will take 4 to 5 years after funding is secured. The licensing & permitting process is not the issue. The real issue is posed by the requirement to finance relatively high capital investments that must be balanced by the expected but yet to be demonstrated low operational costs. Perhaps a lesson can be learned from the successful commercialization of wind energy that was due to consistent government funding of pilot or pre-commercial projects that led to appropriate and realistic determination of technical requirements and operational costs in Germany, Denmark and Spain. In this context by commercialization we mean that equipment can be financed under terms that yield cost competitive electricity. This of course depends on specific conditions at each site. Presently, for example, in Hawaii cost competitiveness requires electricity produced at less than about 0.17 $/kWh, while in Oregon the value would have to be closer to about 0.06 $/kWh.

My best wishes for 2010,


I am well-advised to respect the views of Dr. Vega on these issues. His track record with OTEC is among the most extensive in the field, and he now directs the National Marine Renewable Energy Center at the University of Hawaii. (The photo above was taken when he was a guest in that capacity on Hawaii Public Radio's Energy Futures program last October 19.)

As long as we’ve started a dialogue here at Hawaii Energy Options about OTEC’s future, let’s keep it going. Readers are invited to leave a comment on Dr. Vega’s assessment and/or our original December posts by clicking on the Comments link below, or you can write me at with more extensive comments. I would like to print them, so if that is your intention, be sure to include a statement granting permission in your email.

Along with many others, we hope 2010 will start break-through progress in this decade to realize OTEC’s vast potential. As we said in the first post to this blog nearly two years ago, we think communications contributes toward that end.