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Neighbor isle wind plan would boost state economy

A new UHERO study assesses the impact of proposed projects on Lanai and Molokai

By Alan Yonan Jr.

LAST UPDATED: 08:21 a.m. HST, Nov 01, 2012

Meeting part of Hawaiian Electric Co.'s renewable energy target with large-scale wind projects on the neighbor islands would have a net positive effect on the state's economy, according to preliminary findings of a study being done by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization.

The study was undertaken in an effort to assess the impact of the proposed wind projects beyond just the cost to the electricity sector, according to UHERO.

"We looked at various scenarios and found that the economic impact was positive," said Makena Coffman, a UHERO research fellow who is doing the study with Paul Bernstein, a UHERO consultant.

Coffman delivered an early look at some of the study's findings during a presentation at the UHERO Forum held this week at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Coffman and Bernstein are nearing completion of the study, which will be published in an economic journal.

The study assumes that developers will be successful in building proposed wind energy projects on Lanai and Molokai with a combined generating capacity of 400 megawatts. Electricity from the projects would be transmitted to Oahu via an undersea cable. Although Coffman did not give the assumed cost of the wind projects and cable, several estimates put the cost at more than $1 billion.

Utility-scale wind projects are a significant piece of HECO's renewable portfolio standard, a legal mandate requiring that 40 percent of the electricity sold by the utility come from renewable sources by 2030.

Adding 400 megawatts of wind generation to HECO's renewable portfolio standard would, among other things, serve as a hedge against "potentially rising and volatile fuel prices, including biofuel," Coffman said. The wind projects also would have a ripple effect throughout the economy, creating jobs, generating spending, reducing oil imports and cutting emissions, she said.

The state and U.S. Department of Energy have begun an environmental review process that will look at all forms of renewable energy throughout the state and a cable to interconnect the islands.

Coffman acknowledged that there is community opposition to the proposed wind projects on Lanai and Molokai by opponents who cite the damage that would be done to the islands' natural beauty and cultural sites.

"There has been a long conversation, and a necessary conversation," Coffman said. "This (study) can help inform that conversation," she added.

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bender wrote:
I wonder if they considered the negative impact on the economy when all the money for an undersea cable is taken out of circulation. Wouldn't it be better to build those wind farms on Oahu and not have the cost of the undersea cable. Murdoch owns thousands of acres on Oahu that could just as easily support a windfarm as his property on Lanai. I think the people of Molokai have made their feelings about a wind farm pretty clear.
on November 1,2012 | 05:49AM
innocentBystander wrote:
Murdoch dont own Lanai anymore...
on November 1,2012 | 07:14AM
EducatedLocalBoy wrote:
Bender, you are 1005 correct that building the wind farms on Oahu would be preferable from many stand points, primarily technological as well as economic, but what I call the "not in my backyard" folks oppose it too vocally to make it a reality. These folks have nothing better to do with their time than go to public hearings and engage in verbose testimony. It is my feeling that these protesters are an eclectic combination of two basic types: (1) retirees who bought their version of the tourist industry propaganda of what "paradise" is and don't want any change to what they see from their picture windows; and (2) Former hippies who are dopers and are growing marijuana in the otherwise fallow agricultural lands near to their north shore houses. These dopers fear that if the power company puts up the wind turbines in these ag lands their marijuana patches will be discovered. It's too crazy, politics makes strange bedfellows. But in any event, that's why I believe that the power company has to go to the neighbor islands to have energy farms.
on November 1,2012 | 10:08AM
loquaciousone wrote:
No place better to put wind farms than on the WINDward side like Kailua. Copper thieves can steal copper from busy highways with thousands of people around. Imagine what they would do to undersea cables where no one is watching.
on November 1,2012 | 10:30AM
tiwtsfm wrote:
You just don't get it. 1. An island wide grid is ridiculous - it will just allow the whole state to go dark at the same time, instead of only in affected areas. 2. The cost of windfarms and an undersea cable is prohibitive, and will in the end be paid by the ratepayers. It will not lower the cost of electricity 3. Lanai and Molokai do not want wind farms and undersea cables destroying their environment and life style so that Oahu can continue their wasteful ways. Better instead to look at 1. Solar power. At leaset a solar plant does not make noise and stick up as an unsightly eyesore destroying our beautiful views -which the tourists now spend big money to enjoy. 2. Keep each Island grid serparate and let the local people decide how they want to deal with their energy. 3. But first and foremost everyone, but especially Oahu, must conserve energy. Oahu is the biggest user of electricity, and should lead the way in conservation and alternative forms of energy instead of expecting that Lanai and Molokai should bail them out. Too much time and money has already been spent on this wind farm- underseea cable shibai. Time to move on.
on November 1,2012 | 05:55AM
hilocal wrote:
tiwtsfm, great points. HECO should also be looking into wave motion power. Rep. Cynthia Thielen has talked about it, and there's a small-scale experiment going on off O'ahu. In 10 or 15 years, if money is invested in it, it may be where solar power is today.
on November 1,2012 | 07:44AM
EducatedLocalBoy wrote:
Hilocal, Cindy Theilen is unintelligent in general, but especially when it comes to the hard sciences such as math (as opposed to arithmetic, although even at arithmetic she is pretty bad) and physics. Solar power and ocean movement simply cannot create the amount of energy that a wind turbine can generate. That's why a combination of all of these alternate energy sources, including wind turbines is necessary.
on November 1,2012 | 10:20AM
Bdpapa wrote:
You are correct about a combination of alternate energy sources. I don't want to get into intelligence, I may get confused! :)
on November 1,2012 | 11:01AM
kailuabred wrote:
So you're saying you have significantly more expertise in this area than the people who put this together?
on November 1,2012 | 09:19AM
inverse wrote:
What I am saying is UHERO has a BIAS to endorse wind power on Molokai and Lanai. A similar bias in which HART hired an alleged "independent" panel to determine that HEAVY, STEEL on STEEL rail technology is what is best for Oahu's rail project.
on November 1,2012 | 03:20PM
Makua wrote:
tiwtsfm, I differ in your thinking. A state wide grid would be sourced by each independent island. If an individual island were to lose some or all of its own ability to produce electricity the grid would be the constant source. Each island would serve itself first and the extra wattage would go to the grid for $ revenue. That extra $ revenue would be used to reduce that islands KW rate. If Molokai were to add windmills (daytime generation) or liguid solar (day and night generation) they could become the island with the cheapest KW rate. Kauai would have welcomed the grid when it got that haircut in our last hurricane. Events like "Sandy" seem to be more prevelent these days. We need to be ready for these more frequent natural events. We also need to use smart meters at every service entrance to define our consumption patterns and time frames to where we can alter those heavy time periods to a more even moderate use. The undersea cables defining the grid would have to be two minimum between the islands for standby, repair or complete cable failure.
on November 1,2012 | 01:42PM
ColinKona wrote:
Giant wind turbines is a terrible way to urbanize Hawaii! It is no more necessary that the 200,000 gas-guzzlers that plug our roads and hog our fuel resources ("Oh, because I NEED this huge thing!" Right.) Solar PV is much more practical for Hawaii, and fully scaleable from house to neighborhood to grid-wide support. Even PV suffers from intermittency, but not as much as wind. Those who want giant wind turbines placed in beautiful places either are getting a piece of (our) action, or they hate living here and wish it was more like the mainland. It is so, so unnecessary. BS about job growth. Hawaii is not a whorehouse.
on November 1,2012 | 06:22AM
Lanikaula wrote:
ALL about the Bottom LIne: $$$$
on November 1,2012 | 06:40AM
rockymould wrote:
Sure, of course the project would have a positive impact on the economy if short term GDP growth is your only goal. All else equal, infrastructure spending (any investment really) is stimulative. However, an intellectually supportable (non-political) appraisal would 1) look at impacts beyond GDP growth such as the environmental and community costs; and 2) rank the project versus all the other alternatives, taking into account all of those impacts (costs/benefits). Capital budgeting is about looking at all the costs and benefits and all the alternatives, and picking projects with the highest all-in return. Without seeing those alternatives, it is impossible to make an informed decision.
on November 1,2012 | 06:48AM
allie wrote:
Molokai should be bypassed as they prefer sitting around the camp fire for their energy
on November 1,2012 | 08:17AM
AmbienDaze wrote:
I'm sure you know that because your folks back home do it.
on November 1,2012 | 09:54AM
Usagi336 wrote:
Yeah. And I'll think about you when the lobster and kala is on the fire hon.
on November 1,2012 | 10:58AM
soundofreason wrote:
Who's footing the bill for all this again?
on November 1,2012 | 07:12AM
pridon wrote:
The rate payers. 50 cents per KWH is just around the corner. You electric plus water/sewer bill will exceed your house payment within 10 years. iCal it.
on November 1,2012 | 07:04PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
The story is lacking all the data needed to know if this study makes sense or is full of hot air. A non-story at this point.
on November 1,2012 | 07:24AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Why build wind farms on neighboring islands when we can build them here on Oahu? The most logical place to start building wind farms is on -- The WINDward side of the island like Kailua. What's the sense of running hundred of miles of cable through Hermit the Crab's home to funnel energy to Oahu? Besides the copper thieves would have a field day stealing the undersea cables.
on November 1,2012 | 07:53AM
traveld wrote:
What a pathetic waste of time, money and energy to satisfy some self-righteous ignorant group of want a be environmentalist who’s arrogance is only out weighted by their blindly following a misguided overpriced energy plan that is flawed from the start, grossly overpriced and ineffective to meet the needs of the population.
on November 1,2012 | 08:09AM
kailuabred wrote:
Please give us the source of your expertise. Web sites? Job function? I tend not to believe statements w/o facts behind them.
on November 1,2012 | 09:21AM
MightyMakiki wrote:
Yeah. Sounds like a pig n' a poke to me
on November 1,2012 | 11:10AM
soundofreason wrote:
We're not talking about rail?............Right?
on November 1,2012 | 07:16PM
allie wrote:
We need to get off oil ASAP. We should have moved to wind, solar and thermal way back in the 1970's
on November 1,2012 | 08:16AM
Anonymous wrote:
Wind is ugly!!!! loud & battery storage is sketchy,, why do you think kahuku is still offline? hhmmmm... HECO is a publicly traded company so they on;y care about $$$$$$$$$,,, not us!!! solar is cleanest energy by far...
on November 1,2012 | 08:22AM
AndrewWalden wrote:
"Adding 400 megawatts of wind generation to HECO's renewable portfolio standard would serve as a hedge against 'potentially rising and volatile fuel prices...'" But locking in high electric prices for wind energy will be a burden on the state if oil and natural gas prices decline. Given the sharp drop in natural gas prices over the last decade, and the relative stability of oil prices over the last 5 years($75-100/barrel) it is reasonable to question the assumption that higher oil and gas prices are inevitable. Another question: Why pay for high cost low reliability wind electricity when ultra-cheap geothermal is available. Another question: Did UHERO amortize the wind farms over 10-20 years? Is 10-20 years of erratic electricity worth $1B for a cable? Method: limit the parameters of the study to exculde real-world alternatives and arrive at pre-conceived conclusion.
on November 1,2012 | 08:36AM
localguy wrote:
How much could the Nei cut power needs by taking a few simple steps. Replace all energy guzzling street lights with LED models, require stores and businesses to switch to LEDs, set standards for all appliances sold in the Nei - only the highest energy star rated models and require low water using washing machines. But noooo, our bureaucrats and HECO haven't got a clue, rather spend taxpayer's money for big star projects to cost us even more. This is what we do in the Nei, FAIL.
on November 1,2012 | 10:04AM
EducatedLocalBoy wrote:
Bender you are 100% correct. In addition technologically is is much better to put the wind farms on Oahu. But politics: with the vocal minority opposing such projects because it will spoil their view, the "not in my back yard syndrome," and the potential land development value of the otherwise fallow agricultural lands make it difficult to do what is the logical, technologically correct and cost effective thing. Too bad.
on November 1,2012 | 10:13AM
shanik wrote:
wind and solar are good options but they are intermittent energy sources. What will we use for baseload? There are only a handful of options, continue with oil, coal, geothermal from the Big Island or LNG.
on November 1,2012 | 10:50AM
MightyMakiki wrote:
All those panels on schools, and all the windmills will break, then what's up. Gonna be costly in the end, Wait and see.
on November 1,2012 | 11:08AM
Kaleo744 wrote:
people the HECO's renewal energy portfolio will look great for them, but who do you think when all is said and done will pay for this? With expected rising health care cost and insurance premiums going astronomically up and if this rail fiasco goes through will certainly seeing more and more people and business's go bankrupt, anyone can see what the road ahead is gonna be like...doesnt look like Im retiring any sooner....
on November 1,2012 | 11:25AM
egghead wrote:
all this alternative energy sounds good but are we all really willing to pay the price??? people are complaining about electricity costs now, but burning oil is still many times cheaper than any of these alternative technologies. HECO is signing purchase agreements for alternative power at higher costs over the next 20yrs. as taxpayers we are already footing the bill for everyone (else's) photovoltaic thru tax credits.
on November 1,2012 | 11:31AM
Mythman wrote:
When the quota for alternatives was established, wasn't Hydrogen going to be the alternative, not wind or solar? Hydrogen molecules are so small containing them is not easy and this has slowed things down. Wasn't there a Matsunaga Hydrogen joint state initiative and what happened to it with respect to the HECO quota, which now has an alleged undersea cable involved, which is madness.
on November 1,2012 | 12:52PM
inverse wrote:
As others mentioned, just last week a high pressure zone was stuck over the State of Hawaii, resulting in stifling Kona weather (ie Vog) for quite a few days and normal trade winds was zero to non-existent over most of the State of Hawaii. During that time the windfarms would not have been effective in generating any appreciable amounts of electricity.
on November 1,2012 | 03:25PM
LanaUlulani wrote:

What a horrible idea using tax-payer money to subsidize this con.

Take a look at the Columbia Basin too. Turbines there are total eyesores! Be careful what you wish for!!!

on November 1,2012 | 07:08PM
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