Monday, April 18, 2011

Feedback – plus Wind Study as Recommended Reading

We did the unusual over the weekend and sent a link to Friday’s post on Big Wind to a few dozen energy-focused people in industry, academia and government. We asked for feedback if our conclusions in that post were off the mark.

And we got feedback. Dr. Luis Vega’s opinion counts for a lot, and he recommended reading the “Oahu Wind Integration Study” by Jay Griffin et al:

Simply by reading the Executive Summary you will be positively surprised at the technical viability of incorporating additional wind and PV into the Oahu grid with “state-of-the-art” modifications ( e.g., up-gradable controls to modify ramp-up speed of existing fossil fueled generators and the latest controls available for WTGs). This report forced me to “upgrade” my technical analysis (cost, political viability etc. is a different discussion) and open my mind to additional wind as well as nascent wave energy and other intermittent resources. I hope that reading the Griffin report will open up your mind to wonderful possibilities. It opened mine.

So we've started to read the report and, like Dr. Vega, recommend it to all Hawaii-based visitors to this post. From this lay person's perspective, it covers generation issues remarkably well. So far the reading suggests the Study evaluates the feasibility of adding 400 megawatts of wind power from neighbor island farms.

We'll continue reading the study to its end, but we’d make the point that feasibility isn’t what is driving our present concerns about Big Wind.  Impacts and costs are top of mind here at Hawaii Energy Options. So, too, is a “favorite” renewable energy option of ours – ocean thermal energy conversion.

OTEC is mentioned numerous times in the Study because it assumes the addition of a 25 MW OTEC plant by 2014. Here are two such entries:

“A small amount of baseload energy is provided by HPower (waste to energy), Honua (gasification) and OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion).” And… “One of the significant changes from the present operating year to 2014 is the additional capacity of HPower and contributions from OTEC and Honua.”

As an OTEC advocate, we’d like to believe this ocean technology could conceivably be providing much more than 25 MW to Oahu’s grid by 2030, which is the target year for attaining the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative’s goals.

Does the Study assess how much OTEC generation would be feasible if $3 billion were spent to develop 400 MW of Big Wind power and the undersea cable to transit that electricity to Oahu? Don’t know yet, because we haven’t finished reading it, but early indications are that Big OTEC isn’t analyzed.

But we are reminded of those Nature programs on public television. Some animal species will sacrifice a new hatchling or cub to ensure the viability of others. Could OTEC’s promise of abundant baseload energy be fully realized (once it’s proven in this decade) if Big Wind already is in the nest? How much money can these islands afford to feed its renewable energy projects? Would Big OTEC even be attempted if so much is spent on Big Wind/Cable?

We don’t know the answers and would hope someone as capable as Dr. Vega – who heads up the Nawaii National Marine Renewable Energy Center – and/or the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute would look into it.

Now….to finish reading the study. We encourage your feedback by adding a comment, below.

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