Citizens from New England to Hawaii are thinking and speaking along this same line: Just because a renewable energy project is technologically feasible doesn’t mean it’s worth doing.
Vermonters are rallying in Montpelier today against utility-scale wind developments, and their concerns sound almost exactly like what Molokai and Lanai residents have been saying about the proposed “Big Wind” project on their islands.
“We are tired of the State allowing developers to force their inappropriate renewable developments onto the back of our communities and ridgelines,” said Mike Nelson of Albany, VT.
Organizers say they want to draw attention to other alternatives that would advance the state’s energy portfolio without scaring the land. “This isn’t about saying ‘No, no, no!’” said Pat O’Neill of the Lowell Mountains Group. “It is about saying ‘let’s do something that is good for our communities and that we can all get behind.’ The cost of solar is dropping rapidly, and it doesn’t have the impacts on our natural resources that utility-scale wind does. We can do renewable energy here in Vermont without harming our most natural assets.”
Sounds like a commitment to protect exactly what neighbor islanders want to protect – the aina. And Vermonters’ support for solar energy is certainly paralleled by solar support in Hawaii, where the solar energy resource is available directly from the sun and from the biggest solar storage battery on the plant – our tropical ocean.
Solar PVs and ocean thermal energy conversion represent Hawaii's one-two punch to provide long-term renewable energy security for the state. Some want to bridge to OTEC using geothermal revenues. Maybe Ku`oko`a is right in holding that vision, but there’s a big puka in that concept – no geothermal resource on Oahu and Kauai.
Bringing geothermal-produced energy to these islands would require either undersea cables – hugely expensive – or fuel in another form extracted from the geothermal process (such as hydrogen), or both. All islands in the chain are surrounded by that great solar energy collector of an ocean; OTEC plants moored just a few miles offshore would feed their energy to the host island using relatively inexpensive cable technology.
Like Vermont, Hawaii is still early in the process of developing utility-sized wind projects such as Big Wind, and like Vermonters, Hawaii residents are speaking up and protesting the NIMBY label that some seem too eager to pin on them.
Vermont rally organizer Steve Write of Craftsbury said ralliers are not NIMBYs or anti-wind. “For us, this is about protecting our state’s highest quality waters and keeping our habitats connected,” he said. “Today we hope officials see us as a growing movement that wants to change Vermont’s energy future for the better.”
Check out this commentary by Vermonters for a Clean Environment, and stay tuned to what happens to wind energy development in the Green Mountain State. It could be instructive here at home.