It wasn’t until this morning’s report on Hawaii Public Radio by a Dispatch reporter that we heard one of the most important utterances to date about Big Wind, which would install 200 megawatts of wind generating capacity on Molokai and another 200 on Lanai. Their output would be transmitted to Oahu via undersea cables.
A June 26th story at the Dispatch’s website quoted Christian Hackett, senior developer for Pattern Energy, which wants to build the Molokai project:
Mr. Hackett undoubtedly is an optimist out of necessity and still has hopes of attracting the community support he needs. According to the Dispatch, however, public opinion surveys have found opposition to Big Wind above 90 percent on Molokai.
We don’t know the surveys’ questions, protocols and margins of error, so we have no way of evaluating their quality, but it wouldn’t be surprising if scientific surveys using accepted best practices in opinion polling found similar results. No survey suggesting anything but overwhelming opposition to Big Wind has been publicized to our knowledge.
Count us among the skeptics that Big Wind will ever be built – not with the widespread opposition as described in the surveys and newspaper stories.
“We Can’t Do That”
The bigger reason to question the project, though, is the intermittent nature of the energy source. As a long-time believer in ocean thermal energy conversion and its eventual role in supplying base-load abundant power to the islands, we can’t join the enthusiasm for Big Wind as expressed by some of Hawaii’s major energy players.
That includes Hawaiian Electric Company, which apparently is positioned to endorse major energy projects like Big Wind regardless of public opinion. HECO’s Robbie Alm told the Dispatch last week: “…if they’re asking Hawaiian Electric (not to) say yes to anything because some people don’t like it, we can’t do that.”
“Some people” in this case would seem to be virtually the entire population of Molokai. That’s a questionable position for any company to take – especially a public utility.