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Sunday, September 15, 2013

DOES HAWAII NEED A STATE GRID?

I can remember back to 1981 when I met  (I was then working in the U.S. Senate) with Jim Dittmar and other lobbyists for the Pirelli Interisland Transmission Project in their first audience with U.S. Senator Dan Inouye.  I'm paraphrasing, but he essentially told them, "you .....  are doing it all wrong, here is the way to do it!"  A sum of $26 million was subsequently secured for the Hawaii Deep Water Cable Project study to link geothermal energy electricity from the Big Island to Oahu.  The effort fizzled because a broad range of opponents essentially prevented the development of 500 MW of geothermal power in Puna.  Only today is geothermal again preparing to make a comeback.

Today in the Star-Advertiser, another undersea electric cable initiative, a 200 MW line connecting Maui and Oahu, was announced at a projected cost of $700 million to result in a net savings to ratepayers of $425 million.  Take those numbers with a ton of salt, but it's a rational beginning discussion point.  Interesting that the Department of Planning, Economic Development and Tourism did not include Lanai and Molokai in the mix, but that might have something to do with minimizing local opposition, for the anti-Big Wind forces on both islands are fierce.


If you add those islands and tag on the Big Island, I would not be surprised for the cost to reach and exceed $1.5 billion.  I would, though, increase the power handling capacity of the cable to at least 350 MW, and 500 MW would make more sense, as the average power used in the state is around 1250 MW.

As we all now know too well, the electricity bill for Hawaii is already three times the national average.  In time it will be 4:1, until sustainable options kick-in, and a statewide electricity grid is essential to energy self-sufficiency.


The challenge would be depths approaching 7,000 feet.  Ratepayers almost surely will pay for this expense.  Kauai is never mentioned because you would need to traverse nearly 11,000 foot depths. In time, perhaps Tesla's tower of power (above) or the technology associated with solar power from space  (below) might be considered.


I'm certainly not advocating those fearsome (I show these graphics with purpose, as you will see) alternatives for Kauai, but I wondered if it would be sensible to provide a future link to accommodate OTEC floating platforms?  The OTEC prime sites (the redder, the better) are located south and west of the state (from Gerard Nihous):

The undersea cable pathway does not even get close to the optimal OTEC region, until you add Kauai to the grid.  Keep in mind that both geothermal from the Big Island and OTEC from the Kauai region are both firm power, to better stabilize the grid.

What are the relative economics?  As a 100 MW OTEC plantship could cost around $800 million, the order of investment is very similar to the proposed $700 million connection between Oahu and Maui.



However, I find it discouraging, and so will Governor Neil Abercrombie (here he is announcing this undersea cable project), that noisy elements of society, usually in sincere protest--we do, after all, believe in freedom--will do everything possible to stall progress.  More and more, though, we seem to mostly worship the NIMBY (not in my backyard) philosophy, so, the reality of monumental change in energy use today will almost certainly take a major cataclysm for naysayers to appreciate that economic depression, coal, nuclear and oil are not sensible alternatives to natural energy in Hawaii.  Unfortunately, when the crunch comes, it will be too late to do anything without protracted turmoil and anguish.  That is the whole point of this blog:  How can humanity be enlightened to make correct decisions in timely manner?

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Hurricane Ingrid in the Gulf of Mexico, at 75 MPH, is just about ready to crash into an area just north of Tampico, Mexico:


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