Thursday, March 31, 2011

All 400 MW of ‘Big Wind’ Project Headed to Lanai?

That’s the prospect – some Lanai residents might call it a nightmare – that may be in store for the Big Wind energy project now that First Wind hasn’t secured the land it needed to build half the project on Molokai.  (See Update below.)

Pacific Business News today speculates/postulates that the only option to move Big Wind forward is to build all 400 megawatts of the project on Lanai.

Hawaiian Electric Co. officials have told PBN in the past that if Molokai's part of the project fell through then all 400 mw could be developed on Lanai, where Castle & Cooke is the developer for that proposed wind farm.”

It’s hard to imagine that happening no matter how generous the community benefit package that's offered to Lanai residents. If one-fifth of the island would be needed for a 200-MW wind farm, would 40 percent be reserved for a farm twice as big?

Castle and Cooke may own 98 percent of the island, but would residents accept that much of an impact?  Our guess is no.

So here we go – flying right into a headwind that’s buffeting the Big Wind project, which in many respects has been the Big Egg Basket for utility and state energy planners. Whether those eggs are headed for a scrambling remains – as they say in the editorials – to be seen.

APRIL FIRST UPDATE: The other half of Big Wind may be going to Maui -- and it's apparently no joke.

With Big Wind's location -- the most important detail of all -- still undecided, you have to hope energy managers are not locked in so tight on the project that they're giving no attention to ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) and geothermal technologies. 

The latter is proven in Hawaii and could be expanded to both increase its contribution to the Big Island's electricity grid and create alternative energy byproducts -- hydrogen and ammonia, which could be exported for use in transportation and agriculture.  

OTEC would tap into the world's largest solar storage "battery," the tropical ocean that surrounds Hawaii.  As the most promising long-term base load renewable energy resource for the islands, OTEC is ripe for implementation.  

It's time to move the technology beyond promising and start the doing. Locally and elsewhere, companies are working on it.

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