Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How Lanai Residents’ Issues with Wind Are Addressed Will Be Prelude to Big Island’s Geothermal Concerns

Getting Off Oil is a goal most in Hawaii support in the abstract, but as with most issues, taking action at the neighborhood or island level might be another matter.

Lanai residents voiced their concerns about the proposed 200-MW wind farm on their island at a State Capitol hearing yesterday, and those concerns are likely to be shared by Big Island residents concerning geothermal energy.

Kuokoa, Inc. has proposed a private-investor buyout of Hawaiian Electric Industries and transitioning the company’s utilities on Oahu, Maui, Lanai, Molokai and the Big Island to 100-percent reliance on renewable energy within 10 years. Kuokoa officials have said geothermal energy will play a big role in achieving that ambitious target.

But that can’t happen with only one 30-MW geothermal plant – the one operated by Puna Geothermal Venture Hawaii. Major expansion would be required, and maybe it’ll happen through creative approaches with those who’ve been opposed to expansion plans.

Each Island an Island?

Consider this view expressed yesterday by a Friends of Lanai representative concerning Castle & Cooke’s proposed wind farm:

“Each island should be independent amongst themselves…. Not dependent on other islands and other people to feed their needs.”

Such extreme independence would of course make Lanai virtually uninhabitable, but comments like this undoubtedly reflect the views of many on the neighbor islands. Achieving fossil fuel-free energy independence throughout the state certainly will require exporting energy from those islands to Oahu in one form or another.

How Castle & Cooke, the State, First Wind, Kuokoa and other renewable energy developers address those concerns will determine whether they achieve their renewable energy goals in the decades ahead.

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