Saturday, October 10, 2015         

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Undersea cable can pad Oahu's electricity cache

Up to 400 megawatts of power could be transported from Lanai and Molokai wind farms

By Alan Yonan Jr.


Supporters of a proposal to build wind farms on Lanai and Molokai and transmit the power to Oahu via undersea cables say the proj­ect could help Oahu satisfy one-fourth of its electricity demand from the wind and sun by 2014.

The Oahu Wind Integration Study released yesterday concluded that the Hawaiian Electric Co. grid on Oahu could accommodate 600 megawatts of renewable power, including 400 megawatts of wind power transmitted by undersea cable from Lanai and Molokai. The total also includes 100 megawatts of wind power and 100 megawatts of solar power produced on Oahu.

The renewable power, equal to 25 percent of Oahu's electricity needs, would eliminate the need to burn 2.8 million barrels of oil and 132,000 tons of coal each year, according to the report conducted by General Electric Co. and funded by the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and HECO.

The proposed wind farms on Lanai and Molokai, along with the undersea cable, have generated considerable community opposition.

Several community groups spoke against the plan at an informational briefing at the state Capitol in January, saying the damage that wind farms could do to the islands' natural beauty and cultural sites outweighs the benefits they might have by helping the state reach energy self-sufficiency.

At a legislative hearing last month, 41 groups and individuals testified against a bill (SB 367) that would allow HECO to recover the cost of the undersea cable from ratepayers. The cost of the cable is estimated to be between $800 million and $1 billion.

The Oahu Wind Integration Study noted that extra steps will need to be taken to prepare the electrical grid on Oahu for such a large amount of power that is subject to fluctuations in wind speed and availability of sunlight.

The report included several recommendations, including having officials provide a wind power forecasting system; increasing the amount of power that can be called on from generators to manage the wind and solar variability; and evaluating other resources capable of bolstering power reserves, such as fast-starting diesel generators and load control programs.

"The findings of this study show it is feasible to integrate large-scale wind and solar proj­ects on Oahu but also have value beyond Hawaii," said Richard Roche­leau, HNEI director.

"Both large mainland utilities and relatively small and/or isolated grids that wish to integrate significant amounts of renewable energy while maintaining reliability for their customers can learn from this study," he said.

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