Thursday, November 17, 2011

Buried Lead: Murdock Says Lanai Island Is for Sale; Big Wind Project Faces Climb up a Glass Mountain; Oil Costs Are Up Again, Drive Electricity Rates to All-Time High

The Star-Advertiser's graphic tells the rising-power cost story.
Once again we’re playing catch-up here at Energy Options due to the ongoing need to spend most of our time over at Yes2Rail. The anti-rail minority’s obfuscation and dumbed-down arguments need attending to each day.

We may be wrong, but we’ve found only one online mention of billionaire David Murdock’s recent declaration that he intends to sell the island of Lanai. Civil Beat mentions it almost parenthetically in the third part of its series on the Big Wind energy project and the opposition it faces on that island and by Molokai residents.

Part one deals with Molokai, which appears to be in near-total denial about the 200-MW wind farm proposed for the island; part two covers the divisions within Lanai’s community, and part three describes an uneasy future for the project.


Brushing past this series without spending more time on it is definitely uncomfortable, but there’s just no time to dwell on it today. Nor do we have time to recount the presentation made to Mr. Murdock’s representatives a few years ago on how ocean thermal energy conversion could allow Lanai to achieve total independence from fossil fuels and supply abundant fresh water to the island.

Maybe whoever purchases Lanai from Mr. Murdock will give the proposal more attention, now that OTEC is advancing in the Caribbean and even on the Big Island.

Word from the National Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) is that its board of directors has selected OTEC International to build a 1-MW OTEC demonstration project at NELHA’s Big Island facility.  As for OTEC elsewhere, the technology is making headlines, including one above a story that complains OTEC and other water-based renewable technologies haven’t received enough attention in California.

Out on Guam, Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation will be using a $50,000 grant to conduct a feasibility study for an OTEC plant on that island. And you’ll find other OTEC stories if you use to find them.

Attention corporations and individual billionaires eager to own your own tropical paradise: It’s not too late to leave your mark on history by bringing a commercial-sized OTEC plant to the former Pineapple Isle. It would then be known forevermore as the OTEC Isle.

Electricity Rate Record

Never before have electricity costs been higher in Hawaii – and that means the highest in the country except for small outposts in Alaska and other remote locations. For the third consecutive month, Hawaiian Electric’s rates have climbed to new levels – 34.6 cents/kwh for residential customers this month. The Star-Advertiser has the story (subscription).

This is an unsustainable condition. Renewable energy’s development has never had more urgency. Let’s see something done with a technology that holds the most long-term promise – OTEC – and not a easier-to-build short-term solution – Big Wind – that has unacceptable environmental and economic costs.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Big Turbines Welcomed to Maui County, but Not the Whole County; Molokai Digs In Heels, Vows a Fight

Senator Mike Gabbard meets the people of Molokai on Big Wind.
It’s hard to imagine the Big Wind energy project being built as planned. Given an opportunity to speak out against the installation of dozens of 450-foot-plus tall wind turbines on the island, Molokai residents didn’t waste it.

The Molokai Dispatch reported on a tour of the proposed site by members of the State Senate’s Energy Committee, including Chair Mike Gabbard. A 52-minute video posted with the story was filled with residents in green T-shirts standing up and speaking out against the project.

The I Aloha Molokai group presented petitions urging self-sufficiency for Oahu rather than being dependent on Molokai for wind-generated energy. Kanoho Helm of I Aloha Molokai gave the visitors the results of a survey on the issue: 437 opposed to the wind farm-cable proposal, 19 supportive and 13 undecided.

A continuing theme was the importance of conservation – especially on Oahu. Reduced energy demand on that island will reduce pressure to develop off-island energy sources.

Yes on Maui

Back in Wailuku, the Maui Planning Commission has given its OK to Auwahi Wind Energy to install eight 428-foot-tall wind turbines on Ulupalakua Ranch in Upcountry Maui.

All of the electricity generated by the 21-MW wind farm will be used on the island and not exported, in contrast with the Big Wind project.

The good citizens of Maui apparently will be asked to accept and live with both the visual impact of the turbines themselves but also the overhead transmission lines that will convey the power from the wind farm down into the valley. The Commission voted to relieve Auwahi Wind Energy from a requirement to underground the lines at any point.

As an aside, we think most Oahu residents will readily accept the visual “impact” of Honolulu’s future overhead rail line. Call it the Price of Progress in an already developed environment. Molokai residents say they’re not prepared to pay that price for their aina – a view State government ultimately will have to accept.

Ocean thermal energy conversion, anyone?

Seriously -- OTEC Now?

OTEC is making headlines -- seemingly quite a few more in the past couple months since the Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation announced plans to build two plants in The Bahamas.  This blog began in 2008 to publicize the technology as an overlooked but critical piece of Hawaii's future energy mix.

With on-land impacts of other technologies apparently unacceptable to some of our citizens, it's time for the State of Hawaii to get serious about advancing OTEC with more than nice talk. Get Dan Inouye involved at some level in some way. If not now, when the good senator is still in power, when?