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Companies propose deep-water wind farms off Hawaii shores

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Mark Glick, of the Hawaii State Energy Office, speaks during a meeting today with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the agency that would decide whether to approve ocean leases for the offshore wind projects.

  • This Oct. 2011 photo provided by Principle Power shows a WindFloat Prototype (WF1) handoff to ocean going tug vessel, Sado River Estuary near Setubal, Portugal. (Joshua Weinstein/Principle Power via AP)

  • This Nov. 2013 photo provided by Principle Power shows a WindFloat Prototype (WF1) operating at rated power (2MW), 3.1 miles offshore of Aguadoura, Portugal. (Joshua Weinstein/Principle Power via AP)

Massive wind turbines could end up floating in deep ocean waters off Hawaii’s shores under proposals to bring more renewable energy to the islands.

Two companies have proposed offshore wind turbine projects for federal waters off Oahu as Hawaii pushes to meet its aggressive renewable energy goals.

Their plans would use technology that floats the tall turbines in deep waters miles offshore. The proposals are in the early stages and would face years of environmental reviews and community meetings before possible approval.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the agency that would decide whether to approve ocean leases for the projects, held a meeting about the proposals today.

A.W. Hawaii Wind, a Texas company that’s a subsidiary of Denmark-based Alpha Wind Energy, is proposing two offshore floating wind farms, each generating about 400 megawatts of energy with 50 turbines. One is proposed for the northwest side of Oahu 12 miles off the coast of Kaena Point, in waters about a half-mile deep. The company also is proposing a wind farm in waters 17 miles south of Diamond Head.

A second company, Progression Hawaii Offshore Wind, is proposing a $1.8 billion, 400 megawatt wind farm using 40 to 50 floating turbines off Oahu’s South Shore, in waters that are also about a half-mile deep.

A 400 megawatt wind farm could provide roughly a quarter of Oahu’s power, said Chris Swartley, partner with Progression Energy, based in Portland, Ore.

Both companies are proposing to use a technology called WindFloat, where a turbine that stands about 600 feet is attached to a triangular platform that floats near the surface of the ocean. The floats would be anchored to the ocean floor, and undersea cables would transfer the energy to power plants on land. Offshore wind farms are not new, but most use turbines fixed to the ocean floor, and floating turbines are rare.

There are many challenges to taking on a project of this scope in Hawaii, including cultural and environmental issues, deep water, a relatively small electric grid, and unexploded ordnance in the ocean waters surrounding the island, said Jens Borsting Petersen, owner of A.W. Hawaii Wind.

“This is by far the most difficult thing in wind that’s ever been attempted on this globe,” said Petersen. “When you talk about wind energy, trying to do something on Hawaii offshore is exceptionally complicated.”

Progression Energy has held more than 140 meetings with environmental, tourism, Native Hawaiian and other stakeholder groups, using their feedback to choose a site, Swartley said. Looking out from the beach, most of the turbines would be over the horizon, he said.

“You’ll be able to see them if you really look for them, but it will be really tough,” Swartley said.

Among concerns raised so far is the potential danger that whales or submarines could bump into the cords anchoring the turbines to the ocean floor, said Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land, a Hawaii nonprofit organization.

“Do you want to really turn the ocean into the next industrial site?” Curtis asked.

Some fishermen are concerned about the possible impact on birds flying over the sea.

“The best fish spotters we have are birds,” said Ron Tam, secretary of the Hawaii Fishermen’s Alliance for Conservation and Tradition. “And then, are we going to be able to fish in and about and through these floating machines? We don’t know … That has a definite economic impact.”

Hawaii has set a goal for its utilities to use 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2045. The state’s utilities are currently generating about 24 percent of their energy from renewable sources through wind, solar, geothermal and biomass energy, said Mark Glick, energy administrator for the Hawaii State Energy Office. Offshore wind farms could help the state meet the larger goal, Glick said.

“We have to figure this out together, because the low-hanging fruit has been collected, and essentially the tougher decisions are before us … the next steps are going to be crucial,” Glick said.

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  • Another pie in the sky idea which will never happen and is not practical. Why wind turbines when you can harness the power of waves and tides
    which run constantly and not dependent on whether the wind is blowing or not.

    • waves and tides are not constant and vary a lot in different ways. there also is no cost effective device to harvest the power of wave/tides

      • Not true. But with Ige mandating it in a few years, we need something to replace fossil fuels. I still don’t know why Ige opposes natural gas or most other alternatives. Personally, I think nuclear energy is the best solution for Hawaii, just to build it in areas vulnerable to tsunami. But I’m sure Ige opposes that too. We need to dig caves to live in.

        • Natural gas is not renewable; we will run out one day, and maybe before the end of the century. We need to think about our children’s future, not just ours.

          Nuclear? No thanks! The waste is radioactive for thousands of years and there is no place to store it. How are you going to get the waste to the mainland if there ever is a place to store it.

          Tsunami? Don’t you remember Fukushima? How about Chernobyl. The whole island could be a radioactive wasteland.

    • The efficiency of wave power generators stinks and will require at least 4times the capital cost to have the same capacity. Don’t think many are willing to pay such an exorbitant price. However, you are right about this project being not practical. It’s nothing more than a scheme to make a ton of money from our tax dollars. It’s unfortunate most people don’t know enough about electrical power generation and transmission requirement to realize what 400 megawatts (much less two of them) will do to the system. On a comparative basis, the power grid for Oahu is small and that 400 megawatt almost equates to two largest generating units in use now. Just imagine the need to have constant backup for fluctuations of 400 megawatts of capacity times two.

  • #1
    So how much money will/would the US government get from the lease of the water/area? Could that conflict/bias their decision making? Where does that money go? Is this just an attempt to validate/justify the Department of the Interiors budget/structure?
    #2 Floating/moored Wind turbines are an unproven technology with poor results in other ocean based locations.
    #3 What would be the terms and conditions of the leased area be … meaning could they act as a fish aggregation buoys or will it be a kapu zone?
    #4 Clearly if it were to move forward it would need to be delivered/integrated into/onto the HECO power grid. This would probably also require some significant land based modifications.
    #5 What is the real/total carbon foot print? Are there fancy tax credits similar to the solar tax credits?
    #6 The financing for these very large projects can/does/may lead to bankruptcy. [ie First Wind And Sun Edison]
    #7 Hawaii is in the natural beauty business and imposing these into the view plan of our sunrises and sunsets is not something that anyone that I know would like to see. A green flash strobe! What are the alternatives … [Like smaller/lower units below the curve of the earth].
    #8 Hawaii is also in the Hawaiian culture business. When one is at the “souls leap” at Kaena Point to follow the path of the sun light into the flipping blades does not evoke a strong cultural experience any more than looking at/listening to the wind turbines above Waimea Valley.
    #9 When a full score care of pluses and minuses are assembled it will be interesting to see how it balances out and who makes the decision. I’ll bet what you I may think will not weigh too heavily on the decision.

    • Excellent comments.

      This lease thing bugs me. When did the Feds start owning the Ocean? DC is 4800 miles from the projected location of the farms and we will be within visual distance of them. Why isn’t the State making the money? This why I don’t understand why some people think giving more ocean to the monument owned by the feds is such a good idea.

    • Leino, excellent questions. Add to yours the practical questions to the some $2 Billion development costs. In Hawaii’s ocean, what is the life of the unit? What are the proposed operational costs and the end user charges? The companies must have successful operations in other parts of the World, where are they? We know a mini-nuclear power plant cost $275 million to produce 75 MW’s of electricity at $0.9 per Kwh to the end user using existing transmission lines and generating power for 40 years without refueling.

    • Good points, but further: 1)The countries that are most advanced and have actually tried/used these ocean platforms(Northern Europe, Denmark etc.) dropped the use. Why? each platform coast hundred million(with undersea cables). Maintenance was millions of dollars EACH/yr.Cost /per kilowatt was prohibitive(compared to many other generation tech.)
      2) This 100% solar /wind E is pure fantasy. I taught this subject and the numbers really haven’t changed since the late 60s. That is at max you’ll get 15 % E(based on a “book” of reasons” to long to detail here) for your community/city. (based on needs/wants). However, if Honolulu wishes to give up washers, driers, freezers. air con. etc. you’ll do better. Lets Vote(LOL).
      You will always need backup E system electric( Nat gas, oil, nuclear, waste to power hydroelectric Dams etc.!
      P.S. The Environmental crazies will make sure that the cleanest and most cost effective large E geneerator(Nuclear) will never happen. Not just in Hawaii but in the U.S. forever.

  • Glick is full of BS. The ‘low hanging fruit’ has NOT been picked until the majority of Oahum homes and businesses have full PV saturation instead of this ocean environment destroying offshore windmill farm. How many thousands of offshore birds will be killed by these windmills and potential affect it will have on ocean life like whales migrating and hanging out around the Hawaiian islands. Those in charge will not destroy Hawaii until they trying building a train to nowhere that has made traffic on Oahu worse, destruction of last major ag lands at Hoopili, overdevelopment of massive million dollar condo and skyscraper development in town, out of control homeless problem, the dark side of greed will have completed their goal of destroying Hawaii for the almight buck. This project, like the Oahu train is B shatz.

  • This is so ridiculous it’s laughable. Wind stations anchored in 600 ft of ocean is an ecological disaster waiting to happen. They basically seabird extinction devices as they stand waiting to bag as many seabirds 24/7 as possible. Really sad what the corrupt Democrat Party thinks is “environmentally friendly”. Where are the Sierra Club and the animal rights activists?

    • Curtis actually makes sense sometimes. A life long flake but even flakes are correct occasionally like a broken clock showing the right time twice a day.

  • I say go for it. After the unqualified successes of the Hawaii Health Connector and the steel-wheel rail there is no reason to believe offshore wind won’t succeed also. What’s that you say? The former failed miserably and the latter is about to fail spectacularly. I was not aware, guess I should pay more attention. As usual the pushers of these hare-brained schemes rely on the ignorance of the typical reality show watching democrat voter who is incapable of critical thinking. The child-like utopian dreams of the 100% green energy crowd will never come to fruition. But in the mean time politicians and Sierra Club types will waste billions. The only beneficiaries are the green energy firms who will pocket buckets of taxpayer cash before their plans crash and burn. Anyone ever heard of Solyndra? A more sane plan would be to invest in inexpensive, reliable and abundant clean coal.

    • There’s no such thing as “clean coal”, only varying degrees of dirtiness with basically no economic way with reducing the high CO2 emissions.

  • The best solution is solar panels on every home and building in the sun. These power companies want large projects to they can keep or make their profit. Home solar scares them to death. That is why HECO fights it so much!

    Wind is good; but, at what cost to birds?

  • Everything being proposed is experimental, really? Do they also realize the complexities of doing business in Hawaii, HART didn’t and look where we stand with them. A shortening of the proposed rote, how will we get the shoppers to Ala Moana? Let someone else be their guinea pig. We are not a testing ground for the world to use and abuse, sound familiar GMO?

  • Is this wind energy going to be cheaper than solar energy? Ask these companies and if the answer is no, forget it. Putting these giant floating windmills will negatively affect all ocean life, ships, and maybe even planes.

  • I simply love the fact that all of the negative comments below on renewable energy…. not a single person gives a solution/alternative to this idea. It is easy to knock an idea or say that it will never work, but the fact remains that these types of people tend to whither away and into oblivion. The naysayers and do nothings who have nothing else better to do than complain will be forgotten because science and the pursuit of a greater society will prevail. Like all great ideas, we won’t know until we try it. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain when it comes to finding what works for Hawaii and beyond. To the people who wrote above, continue to yell at the sky.

      • I’ve read some of your previous comments from other articles kekelaward…as much as it costs to go to space, as much as it costs to advance medical science, as much as it costs to make our lives better/safer/more efficient, everything on this planet costs something and has an unknown amount of risk. I’d like to know how old you are because you have the same mentality of my grandparents who are afraid of going to Ala Moana because of “ISIS”. Your point is ridiculous because everything costs money, every idea starts with one individual. Continue to live in your Honolulu cave wherever that may be because I’ll one day hop in my google self driving car and verbally command the car to honk in front of your house late at night. To remind you what innovation looks and sounds like. I’ll then go home and plug it in from the electricity generated by these windmills and know that ridiculous people like yourself will never understand the concept of human innovation.

        • Age does matter. How old are you.I’m old enough to have been told/lived through…”the world is ending due glaciation>Hmmmm we’re still here. …the world, especially USA and Canada will be no more due to acid rain.”Hmmmm didn’t happen(most important it didn’t happen because technology solved the problem without stopping all Industry!) Coal can be burned safely if you do the technology and its the cheapest E available.Next Nat Gas can used safely, its the next cheapest E. Why does cost matter? Most poverty and starvation of man in world is due to absence of E for the poor or absence of “cheap” E for the poor. They will, not for 100s of years be able to afford wind and solar and batteries! So all they can do is burn wood(cut forests) and dung for needs. How good is that for the Environment?

    • Did you not read my post? I specifically stated that Oahu is not even close to full saturation of photo voltaic panels on every private home and business with the power company building storage capability such as lithium Powerwall type of battery storage or a multi banks of the latest flywheel energy storage capability for maximum electricity generated during the day and the stored electricity used at night. Still need fossil fuel generators, but they will run at reduced loads throughout the day and night However HECO is completely avoiding this solution because since they do not CONTROL PV generation of private homes they cannot generate maximum profits, that is why they stifle any more home PV generation and try to build large PV farms that they control or welcome some environment destroying offshore wind farm that they can control. Other have proposed a pebble-bed nuclear electrical generator that is compact and very safe because it has passive safety measures that in an earthquake or some other problem, it automatically goes into safe mode and cannot have an out of control chain reaction of nuclear fission. Nuclear is in the future but for NOW encourage more PV home installation and demand HECO build storage capability and a smart grid that is NOT overpriced to Oahu electrical consumers.

  • A bird accidentally flew into the glass window of my house. It happens. Do I have to tear down my house because I put up a structure that ultimately killed a bird? I sure hope not. What is the alternative to wind energy? I agree that we have a lot more PV potential, but a lot of battery systems will need to be added to the grid to store and supply power required at night. Wind energy has some unfortunate consequences (unintended death of birds or bats for a terrestrial wind farm), but the pros sure outweigh the cons.

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