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BusinessTech View

Projects to generate clean energy power up

It’s Energy Awareness Month in October, but some say Gov. Linda Lingle’s clean energy is moving too slowly, not only to meet her goal of having 70 percent of Hawaii’s power generated from clean energy by 2030, but to stay ahead of peak oil. Recent events, however, give us some points of light.

Not only is First Wind building a 30-megawatt facility in Kahuku, it’s installing a battery storage system there to smooth out the stability of the electrical load. Hawaiian Electric Co. will require storage with all future wind projects.

Kahuku goes online in the first quarter of 2011. First Wind just submitted an environmental impact statement for its second project on Oahu, a 70-megawatt facility at Kawailoa on the North Shore. That goes online in 2012. Those two sites would generate 8 percent of the energy Oahu uses, but it would be 100 megawatts more clean energy than what Oahu has now.

A 110-megawatt peaking plant at Campbell Industrial Park came online this summer using imported biofuel from Iowa. HECO sought proposals for local biofuel last spring and received 10 responses. Soon enough, the Campbell plant may be running on local biofuel. That’ll take the sting out of importing it.

Algae is the brass ring for local biofuel, and we’re getting closer to facilities that can provide algae to do the job. Phycal, for one, is moving ahead with an algae farm in Poamoho and has federal money to go into commercial production.

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism has announced it will give HECO $2 million to test battery systems for the Big Island and Maui. HECO is seeking more proposals for clean energy projects on the 400 acres open for development in Kahe Valley near its plant.

Ocean energy isn’t far behind. Lockheed Martin is working on a 10-megawatt ocean thermal energy conversion project off Kahe Point with an easy connection to the grid. It has a way to go before it can make that connection, but with its resources and project management experience, you can be sure we’ll be hearing more.

OPT, a small ocean power technology company out of New Jersey funded by the Office of Naval Research, is developing wave energy "Powerbuoys" at Kaneohe Marine Corps Base. They are now hooked up and providing power to the base. It’s good news, and the visionary base commander, Col. Robert Rice, should be proud.

Add to that the expansion of HPOWER, the increased momentum on energy efficiency and conservation with the Hawaii Energy program and the success of the recent Asia-Pacific Clean Energy Summit, and it may just be that the pace of clean energy in Hawaii is not slowing down, but actually picking up.

Slow or not, Linda Lingle’s clean energy initiative could be her most notable legacy. Both gubernatorial candidates have committed to do more, but we’ll see how that plays out, especially considering the hot reception James "Duke" Aiona got on Energy Day last June when he tried to distance himself from her veto of the barrel tax a few weeks earlier.

We’ll have to see whether the $1 billion undersea cable will stand up under the weight of the huge obligations the new administration will inherit, and concerns on the neighbor islands about the inequities of a statewide grid.

Whatever happens on any particular technology, we need a lot more discussion on clean energy in general so that we, as a state, can fully understand the risks of going too slowly. As each island goes, so go us all. Now in this year of the great Hawaii transformation, it’s time for us to think as a single island state.

Jay Fidell, a longtime business lawyer, founded ThinkTech Hawaii, a digital media company that reports on Hawaii’s tech and energy sectors of the economy. He can be reached at fidell@lava.net.


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