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Saturday, June 6, 2015

IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR WIND ENERGY IN HAWAII?

Last month I posted on:


Bewilderingly, our local community has killed the Superferry, diminished geothermal development, suffocated the Thirty Meter Telescope and scared off wind farm developers.  To quote myself:

All in all, though, while I still maintain a sense that I'm lucky to have been born here and can live out my life in this "Paradise," I worry that we have become a community attempting a return to the past rather than advancing into the future.  

I went on further to say:

According to this source, Hawaii can produce all our electricity just with wind power.  There is no mention that major wind farms were announced for Molokai and Lanai, but local residents successfully scared away investors.

Hawaii is gaining a reputation of a State that only says NO!

So here we are today, and the wind energy industry is perplexed.  Earlier this week, an 816 MW offshore wind power project was announced.  When operating at full capacity, this combined facility would be producing at least half the electricity used on Oahu.  The response was mostly discouraging.  Life of the Land and at least one researcher at the Univerity of Hawaii expressed concern.  The next day, the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Aviation Administration, Hawaii's Fishermen's Alliance for Conservation and Tradition, environmental groups, Native Hawaiian organizations and community representatives unloaded on the project.  Mind you, some of the concerns were information-seeking, rather than hostile.

On the plus side:

June 3, 2015

What’s your reaction to a 102-turbine energy project, 

proposed on two sites 12-17 miles offshore Oahu?

  • A. Intriguing; want details (66%, 955 Votes)
  • B. Bad idea for Hawaii (34%, 488 Votes)
Total Votes: 1,443
Hooray, two thirds of the local community actually expressed a positive note.  If I sound too much a cheerleader for wind energy, yes, I should disclose that 40 years ago I was chairman of the Wind Energy Division of the American Solar Energy Society, a third of a century ago helped pass in the U.S. Congress the first wind power bill, and, as director of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, hosted a variety of workshops and conferences on the subject.  

Here, the State of Hawaii imports 93% of the energy we use, all fossil fuels, which have been identified as the cause of global warming.  Plus, money used to purchase imported energy leaves the State.  If we can keep those funds in the State, the value at least doubles as the money recirculates in our economy.  All common sense argues for the replacement of imported oil, gas and coal with locally produced energy.  

So why is a significant cross-section of our society against something like wind energy?  There is the Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) syndrome.  Then you add aesthetics, noise, religious feelings, threat to economy (hotels in the region of announced wind farms are afraid that the impression of high winds dissuades potential customers), bird kills (the Audubon Society is very active in fighting anything to do with wind power).  I was personally involved 40 years ago when all these forces came against us at hearings.  We then prevailed and were able to continue R&D and for early wind farms to be installed, but there is now an enough is enough attitude and people just don't want too much of what should be a good thing.

Yesterday, the Kahuku Community Association filed an official protest against 10 wind turbines to be operated by Na Pua Makani Power Partners.  The reason:  noise and danger, for homes would only be 2000 feet away.  Okay, I can almost appreciate that concern.

But the groundswell of opposition to the 816 MW offshore facilities is distressing.  Hawaii's best  wind regimes are between our islands because tall mountains channel the winds to these sites.  The ideal location of wind farms is at sea.  From Hawaiian Electric Company:


Here are some facts:
  • Anything green (14 MPH and higher mean speed) is fine for wind farms.
  • As Hawaii's average cost of electricity is around 30 cents/kWh, while that of the nation is closer to 12 cents/kWh, any colored location is more than adequate for commercialization.
  • Orange, Red and Maroon are absolutely fabulous in the top map.
  • Purple, Orange and Blue are fantastic.  This power map accentuates the attractiveness, for power increases with the CUBE of wind speed.
  • The two Oahu offshore sites will be located in those orange regimes for speed and blue for power. 
  • While there are numerous spots on Oahu excellent for wind farms, the ocean is where flow is laminar (smooth...whereas mountains cause turbulence, affecting gears and materials).
  • So why don't we put all wind turbines in the ocean?  Simple, they cost a lot more, for here are the total systems levelized cost (don't worry about what these numbers stand for...it's the relativity that counts):
    • wind on land           80
    • wind offshore        204
    • solar PV                  130
    • biomass                  103
    • geothermal               48
    • advanced nuclear     96
    • natural gas               66
    • coal                          96
    • cleaner coal            147
  • Based on the above, why don't we switch to geothermal in Hawaii?  Well, NIMBY, noise, smell, Hawaiian culture, opposition by marijuana growers, etc.
All these individuals and organizations opposing wind farms, geothermal facilities, biomass power plants and ocean energy (sure to come...both the technology and protests):  Really, do you want Hawaii to continue to import fossil fuels, rather than convert to FREE and clean natural energy resources?  Why not an attitude of IMBY?  In My Back Yard, please.  I'm not sure whether I'm more mystified or angry about where we are headed as a community.

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At 120 MPH, but weakening, Hurricane Blanca is heading for Baja, with landfall to occur on Monday:


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3 comments:

Trying the grandchildren by ordeal! said...

OTEC could be in no one's backyard. One of its many benefits.

PLANET EARTH AND HUMANITY said...

My sense is that organizations involved with whales, local cultural organizations feeling that the ocean is sacred, Greenpeace and a range of similar organizations could provide opposition. All the more reason for a responsible and open discussion early in the development of the Blue Revolution.

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