comscore Hawaii well-suited for Big Wind project | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Editorial | Island Voices

Hawaii well-suited for Big Wind project


Energy experts have shown, in numerous publicly available studies, that Big Wind can help Hawaii achieve 40 percent renewable energy by 2030, and can provide savings for ratepayers.

Mike Bond, a founder of the anti-wind group I Aloha Molokai, has raised questions about the promise and purpose of wind ("Big Wind project needs to be killed before it kills our pocketbooks," Star-Advertiser, Island Voices, July 3). His assertion that wind energy is not appropriate for Hawaii is based primarily on his estimate that capacity factors for Molokai and Lanai would be around 20 percent (capacity factor is the percentage of actual output compared to the theoretical amount if the wind farm operated at full capacity 24/7). Bond cited data from the mainland and the U.K. to support his assertions, and ignored publicly available local data.

This approach is inaccurate. Wind patterns many thousands of miles away are simply not relevant to Hawaii’s proven strong wind resource. But based on his inaccurate approach, Bond criticizes Big Wind developers, Hawaiian Electric, the Big Wind project (which he likens to "some bizarre weapon of the former Soviet Union"), the wind industry and the governor.

If Bond had reviewed local data and reports, he’d have noted that studies by government agencies, private companies and academics (HNEI, NREL, AWS Truepower, GE, Hawaiian Electric, Navigant), using Hawaii data, have found wind to be cost-competitive against other renewable resources. Big Wind has repeatedly been confirmed as an effective way to reduce Hawaii’s expensive oil dependence — Big Wind could meet 20 percent of Oahu’s energy use today — and lessen energy price volatility. In fact, Navigant’s "status and perspective" report found that Big Wind would mean savings (compared to the expected cost of oil) to all Hawaiian Electric customers over the project life.

So what is a reasonable estimate of capacity factor, utilizing local data? The Oahu Wind Integration Study — by HNEI and involving other experts including from NREL — together with Navigant’s report support a robust capacity factor of 42 percent for Big Wind, even after adjusting for curtailment and transmission cable losses. That’s much higher than Bond’s estimate of just over 11 percent, after his assumptions regarding curtailment and transmission cable losses. It also confirms what we all know: Hawaii’s weather patterns are fundamentally different from those of the U.K. and mainland.

The proposed Lanai and Molokai projects will provide meaningful benefits for their communities.

The projects will share millions of dollars each year with community-managed benefit programs. On Molokai, for example, the community would have the choice to help fund education, environmental and cultural activities, agriculture, job creation and economic development or other priorities, as the community determines.

During their life, the projects would also generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue for the county and state.

Molokai and Lanai, which have some of the highest electricity rates in Hawaii, would also receive benefits directly from Hawaiian Electric. Hawaiian Electric made significant commitments for Lanai and indicated that it would make similar commitments for Molokai in the name of fairness and recognition of these islands’ significant contribution to Hawaii’s clean energy future. It would seek electricity rates equal to those on Oahu, meaning approximately 35 percent savings for Molokai customers based on current rates, and would help Molokai and Lanai become 100 percent renewable.

Pattern and Bio-Logical Capital are involved in Big Wind because we believe, based on publicly available local data and our own analyses, that it will provide lasting benefits in an economically viable manner.

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