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Case for wind power grows


In agreement with other studies, the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization has determined that large-scale wind turbine projects on neighbor islands would have a positive economic effect. Obviously, though, that alone is not enough to satisfy concerns of Lanai and Molokai residents that the windmills could overwhelm their islands' charm. Proponents will need to evaluate and pledge worthwhile benefits to these communities.

Because of the state's dependence on oil and the highest electricity rates in the country, UHERO concluded that "renewable energy technologies like wind tend to be more cost-effective in Hawaii than anywhere in the U.S."

It assumes developers' success in building proposed wind energy projects on Lanai and Molokai generating a capacity of 400 megawatts, connected by undersea cable to an Oahu power plant.

The study is the latest of numerous optimistic assessments of the "Big Wind" plan. Most notably, the Oahu Wind and Integration Study completed two years ago by UH's Hawaii Natural Energy Institute found that it would account for 25 percent of renewable sources to produce 40 percent of the state's energy by 2030. The project, which would provide energy to Hawaiian Electric Co., has been estimated to cost more than $1 billion.

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

THE numbers that concern Friends of Lanai, a group opposing the project, are the planting of 80 to 200 towering windmills above 400 feet high — more than double the island's tallest and oldest trees — over 22,000 acres, or one-fourth of Lanai. And they envision HECO raising their electricity bills to pay for the undersea cable — although the electric company would be foolish not to provide significant cost reductions for Lanai and Molokai households.

Coffman said that use of wind-generated megawatts would serve as a hedge against "potentially rising and volatile fuel prices, including biofuel." Indeed, unstable world conditions and increasing oil demand from growing economies like China and India are huge incentives for Hawaii to move purposefully toward more self-sufficient energy production.

IN ADDITION, construction for "Big Wind" would create jobs, generating spending, reducing oil imports and cutting emissions, Coffman said. Such economic investment in the pursuit of cleaner, reliable alternatives is just what the nonpartisan, nonprofit Fuel Freedom Foundation is urging for the country, and it is the right move here in Hawaii, which enjoys optimal natural conditions for wind and solar energy exploration.

The U.S. Energy Department and the Hawaii State Energy Office conducted a series of public hearings in September for an unusual "programmatic environmental impact statement" about renewable-energy projects on different islands, including the proposed wind project proposals and undersea cable.

Clearly, though, controversy will continue as long as affected residents remain unconvinced the tradeoff is worthwhile. It will be incumbent upon advocates of these strategies to outline a strong array of givebacks that will truly benefit these communities.

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Kalaheo1 wrote:
"n agreement with other studies, the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization has determined that large-scale wind turbine projects on neighbor islands would have a positive economic effect."

What about large scale wind turbine projects on Oahu? Why spend billions of dollar running a extension cord to Molokai?

By the way, what's going on with with that blackened pile of toxic chemicals that was supposed to be the Kahuku wind farm?
on November 2,2012 | 01:55AM
palani wrote:
If privately funded enterprises choose to pursue this technology without taxpayer subsidies, then fine, go for it. However, there is no need for a $1 billion underwater cable. Use the relatively "inexpensive" wind (or geothermal) generated electricity to convert coal to usable liguid fuels via gasification.
on November 2,2012 | 06:42AM
wiliki wrote:
Nope... coal is a fossil fuel. These power sources should be used locally if there is no cable. Cheap power will help their economies.
on November 2,2012 | 07:05AM
postmanx wrote:
Large scale wind turbine's destroyed most of the view planes on the North Shore, including Waimea Valley. The developer's grossly misrepresented to the community the visual impact. It would have been better to spend the $250 million dollars spent to build 30 turbines on solar energy. Molokai and Lani do not let the beauty of your islands destroyed in the name of tax credits.
on November 2,2012 | 06:56AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Studies from the journal Science Meets Fiction have shown that if we put enough windmills on one of our islands we can achieve lift off for one second per windmill. We already have a bunch of them on Oahu's North Shore and last night I actually fell out of my bed but never hit the floor. The floor came up to meet me. I am convinced that by 2020, by putting more windmills on Oahu, we should all be able to fly to Las Vegas without a plane.
on November 2,2012 | 04:15AM
loquaciousone wrote:
On a lighter note, it is our duty to explore the use of renewable energy for our future growth. Fossil fuel is a finite commodity and this thirst for oil is what got us involved in the middle east conflicts that have resulted in tens of thousand of our soldiers getting killed and even more maimed for life. In Hawaii we are blessed with extraordinarily great weather and have several sources we can and should tap in lieu of oil burning. We have our reliable tradewinds, sunshine, ocean and even volcanoes to tap for energy. For those that claim the windmills above Pupukea are ugly, where were you when an elevated heavy rail was proposed to blot out the sun from Kapolei to Ala Moana? The windmills are positioned above the town and they are fast becoming a tourist attraction -- just like Holland
on November 2,2012 | 04:30AM
wiliki wrote:
Obviously, you're in the minority and no way can a 400 ft towering windmill have the same effect as elevated rail. Rail is elevated but with a smaller visual impact.
on November 2,2012 | 07:07AM
loquaciousone wrote:
I'm sure if we spin the elevated rail fast enough it might someday become a tourist attraction just like Stone Henge. Nat Geo can someday explore the possibilities that a lower form of life tried to construct an out-dated passe steel on steel elevated rail but finally got shot down buy more reasonable heads.
on November 2,2012 | 07:13AM
rkaye wrote:
It's important to get some facts straight: 1) HECO may say they'd like to lower electric rates on Lana'i, but ELECTRIC RATES IN HAWAII ARE NOT SET BY THE UTILITY!! They are set by the PUC (Public Utilities Commission.) 2) The recently-passed undersea cable financing bill places ALL the costs of the cable on RATEPAYERS with "cable surcharges, and rate adjustments"; so electric rates WILL GO UP. 3) HECO has long said that Big Wind on Lana'i is NOT an employment generator for Lana'i. Jobs would be short-term construction, with mostly highly-specialized workers imported from elsewhere. 4) For Friends of Lana'i, there are NO benefits that justify this irreparably destructive project. Hundreds of historical sites would be destroyed, endangered birds (U'au) chopped up into feed by those huge blades, and the #1 tourist destination on the island obliterated. 5) The estimated cost of $1 billion was just for cable. But the additional costs for 400 mw of industrial wind power plants on Lana'i and Moloka'i was estimated to be ANOTHER $2 billion -- 65% of which comes from tax grants, tax credits and tax-based loans. Surely, our state can do better than that in our quest to reduce our use of fossil fuel.
on November 2,2012 | 05:45AM
bender wrote:
Rates will certainly never go down no matter which renewable source we use. HECO will become a broker and will need to make a profit on each of their purchases of electricity. BTW, those blades move really slow, I just can't envision a bird not being able to avoid one of those blades. You paint a picture of blades spinning as fast as a blender.
on November 2,2012 | 07:04AM
bobbob wrote:
"renewables" are more expensive than fossil fuels period and does not provide a consistent source of power (solar provides less or no power during cloudy days and at night & wind doesn't provide anything when there is no wind). If renewables and ethanol were economically viable, there would be no need for HUGE federal and state subsidies. If you could easily get net positive energy (get more out of it than you put into it - in terms of material, energy, construction costs), then EVERYONE would be doing it and there would not be a need for mandates or bribes or anything else. Most renewables are a sham, with companies "farming" federal credits, then declaring bankrupcy once the spigot of taxpayer dollars are shut off. -------------------------------------------------------------- It wastes more energy converting corn to ethanol than you actually get out of it in your cars. Better off just using straight gasoline. The only reason it's in existence is to prop up the subsidies paid to farmers, whos lobby in washington got them their credtis. Lunacy. ----------------------------------------------------- For this reason, wind farms, solar, etc etc. will NEVER provide a net benefit to residents as a whole. Subsidizing solar installation may benefit a segment of the population, but it will cost the rest of the population more in terms of taxes and other costs to make up for it.
on November 2,2012 | 07:18AM
rkaye wrote:
While the blades may appear to be moving slowly, the tips often approach a rotation of 200 MPH -- truly a blender for birds.
on November 2,2012 | 11:44AM
harley1 wrote:
Any regulated utility - HECO/Gasco/KIUC/YB, etc., proposes the rates that they would need to cover expenses, and it is up to the PUC to vet the rates and approve or disapprove them or reset them to a lower level. The PUC does not 'set' the rates.
on November 2,2012 | 08:08PM
tiwtsfm wrote:
Put the wind farms in the areas that want more power, and if the residents of that area want the windmills there. Leave the rest of thte State alone. Joining the islands with an undersea cable is ridiculious for both financial and environmental reasons. Different areas of the state have different resources for producing power and we should make use of the all. let's move forward with something that is simpler and makes sense.
on November 2,2012 | 06:03AM
allie wrote:
we need to get off oil and fast!
on November 2,2012 | 06:25AM
palani wrote:
on November 2,2012 | 06:34AM
allie wrote:
we are running out of it
on November 2,2012 | 12:54PM
bobbob wrote:
you don't know what youre talking about. If you really feel that's the case, disconnect your home from electricity, and sell your car. Congratulations, you're "off oil and fast!".
on November 2,2012 | 07:19AM
bender wrote:
I wonder if UHERO even considered wind farms on Oahu. Wouldn't it be as much of an economic boost for Oahu as for Lanai or Molokai, and without the added cost of an undersea cable. UHERO receives much of it's funding through sponsorship from the private sector. As such, wouldn't UHERO be prone to providing results those donors are interested in, you know, quid pro quo. I wonder which private sector entitiy might have helped fund the large scale wind farm study, Big Wind perhaps.
on November 2,2012 | 07:00AM
kekolohe wrote:
I keep wondering when someone will come up with a way to get power from ocean currents rather than wind farms. No problems with view planes, birds, or bones. Hawaii could lead the world if a billion dollars were spent on how to get energy to Oahu from a couple of miles off Portlock rather than from Lanai or Molokai.
on November 2,2012 | 10:34AM
hilocal wrote:
kekolohe, I read the Navy is experimenting with it off O'ahu. Rep. Cynthia Thielen would know about it. It seems to be in its early development stage, but imagine the limitless renewable power it could provide in 10-20 years for islands and coastal lands with little environmental damage.
on November 3,2012 | 07:55AM
skydog1 wrote:
Robyn Kay needs to get HIS facts straight. First, the PUC does not set rates - it approves rates. It is incumbent upon the utility to determine what its rates should be, consistent with regulations and laws. It then files a rate case with the PUC who can approve, deny or approve/deny in part. The problem in Hawaii is that NOBODY other than the Consumer Advocate (underfunded, understaffed) EVER intervenes in these cases. If you don't like the rates you are paying, then let's have less complaining and more action via real public participating in the PUC ratemaking process. The PUC can only make a decision based on the information that is presented to them and if all they have is the utility's rate filing, they are left with no other decision. Mr. Kaye will argue that he has tried to get into the RFP docket and hasn't so far been let in, but there are rules and processes that must be respected. His group did not respect those rules and the unfortunate fact for him is that his group has no standing in that case. Second, while it is true that the cable legislation allows a cable transmission company to recover its cost from ratepayers, it cannot do this unless and until the project is vetted and approved by the PUC, and approximately 50-60 other agencies and government approvals. This is a legal, engineering and scientific process that Mr. Kaye and his buddies want to simply shut down, denying the citizens of this state the due process that a civilized democracy uses to properly vet the facts. There has been no determination as to what the impact on electric bills will actually be - in part because Mr. Kaye and his buddies don't want you to know. Until an RFP is done where you get real bidders quoting real prices nobody can tell you the impact one way or another. What if rates went down with Big Wind or perhaps in the future, with geothermal via cable? I think that is a possibility, but we never seem to get to find that out. By the way, the draft RFP requires cable developers to be able to show that they have the ability to put up to $25 million at risk - without a guarantee that there will ever be a cable. This is a substantial amount of money for anybody to put totally at risk (especially in Hawaii), so the argument that the evil greedy developers take no risk simply isn't true. Finally, don't believe the scare tactics that Kaye, Bond, et al are using in the press. Most of what they say is wrong. They are either misinformed or disingenuous (I suspect the latter). And if they are not wrong, then they should have no fear in allowing due process to run its course because if they are right, then a project would never make it through and the evil greedy developers will lose a lot of money. This whole debate is really about whether this state is going to move forward and address our serious energy situation or move backward. Right now, Mr. Kaye and his buddies look like the best friends the oil companies have ever had. Hmmmm.
on November 2,2012 | 12:33PM
allie wrote:
well said
on November 2,2012 | 12:55PM
harley1 wrote:
110% agree!
on November 2,2012 | 08:11PM
hilocal wrote:
skydog1, $25 million is a pittance compared to the $1-3 billion cost of the undersea cable that would be paid for by ratepayers, us the public. And the rules/regulations/laws the PUC must follow are cost-plus instead of cost-effective to ratepayers. Until they are changed, we ratepayers will pay eventually.
on November 3,2012 | 08:05AM
Anonymous wrote:
While many will see wind power as a viable alternative, it will also be called a blight on the land, as it ruin's the aesthetic beauty of the landscape! There are other less obvious and less intrusive alternatives to 'Big Wind Farms' dotting the neighbor island landscape that would be a better fit that should be taken into consideration!
on November 2,2012 | 12:39PM
Bothrops wrote:
Who is paying for the cable? Wind generated electricity on one island may be no bargain if we are paying off a billion dollar cable
on November 2,2012 | 01:17PM
harley1 wrote:
Shortsighted like most posters here. Think of it as an investment in the future of NOT sending billions on a one way trip out of state. Too bad all the misinformed, fear mongering and chronic whiners do not want to partake in a rational and factual debate. Kind of like the zillion posters on rail......
on November 2,2012 | 08:13PM
false wrote:
Imagine if NY and NJ were dependent on Wind and Solar Power for their electricity? Wonder how many months it would before they got their power turned back on.... and their electric cars charged?
on November 2,2012 | 05:41PM
Molokaireflections wrote:
The study assumes a large-scale approach to energy generation. This is an antiquated model. Big is no longer better and more efficient and cost effective. Utility consultants for the last ten years have advised that small scale localized energy is the solution. The last tsunami highlighted security of power and means every person needs to be their own utility with roof top solar, so if devastation hits and the HECO computers turn off the generators which happened in the last major earthquake in Hawaii citizens still have the basic necessities. Some islands had power and some did not in the earthquake. If all the homes and businesses had roof top solar, HECO could be off but business and home life would continue the next morning when the sun came out. New housing subdivision and by last count 11,000 new homes have been approved on Oahu, need to be self sufficient. Developers, if they want to do the project, need to incorporate energy generation into the development. It should be manadatory. According to the DEBT report security is an issue, so make everyone their own generating utility for localized secure sources of power. Small areas are affected as seen in the last five natural events in Hawaii, and roof top would keep the island economies going the next day for those not directly affected. It is wrong to perpetuate centralized utility and even suggest to build a sea cable that further threatens power security by connecting all the islands. Grow by neighborhoods, not by ungainly, inefficient large scale utilities. The losses on long distance power lines is huge. Short distance localized generation is the answer with major emphais on the resource is that is not changing - solar. The new wind study says that Oahu has 90 less trade winds days. The sun is out and working every day even on cloudy days. I have a solar water heater and it works every day and some days is hotter than others, but the sun is warming the water every day. The government trying to support and prop up the utility is a losing proposition and will turn into another fiasco such as the super ferry. Money is ill spent and lost and it is us the tax payer that pays the price. HECO needs to reinvent itself. Other utilities have done it around the world to embrace roof top solar and small generation. Wake up to the changing world. People from around the world laugh at HECO's and the PUC's 15% maximum for roof top solar. I laugh at the sick joke that engineers are still working for HECO when they made up the 15% number and based it on California which has a different peak time and other differences. Shame on you folks for not doing your job. So consumer, just like me I have to find a way to afford and finance roof top solar because it is the right action for the future and to become more energy secure for the future. Our government is taking us on a path of folly supporting centralized, large scale generation. Generation should be looked at from a community by community basis and what is appropriate and plentiful in each community. Thinking about small generation will actually make the whole of Hawaii more energy secure and Hawaii will be less dependent on fossil fuels and will reduce its fossil footprint versus the path government, HECO, and PUC is trying to sell us.
on November 4,2012 | 06:28AM
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