By Steve Morgan
Why not use solar instead of wind power?
This seems like a reasonable question given the amount of sun that we possess. The simple answer is that solar is considerably more costly. In 2008 a study was done by the Department of Energy to evaluate all alternative energy sources including utility-scale solar farms and widespread use of individual rooftop solar systems.
In regard to both types of systems, the cost was roughly double that of wind. A report demonstrating a comparable renewable energy analysis is expected to be released by the DOA in March 2011. This information will also be included in the EIS.
Nevertheless, solar will play a part of Hawaii’s energy portfolio as tax incentives and net metering encourage the development of independent systems. Furthermore, in the event that an independent renewable energy grid is established for Molokai, solar would be a viable option as one of the components of this system.
Molokai is being asked to help supply Oahu’s growing energy demands. What measurable conservation efforts are being undertaken on Oahu?
Over the last five years, due to a combination of various factors including conservation efforts and a weakening economy, Oahu residential customers have cut their average electric usage by 7.2 percent. From 1996 through 2008 Oahu saw a reduction in oil consumption of 3.7 million barrels. Recent large-scale energy projects on Oahu include a 30-MW wind farm on Oahu’s North Shore and a 110-MW biofuel plant at Kalaeloa. Plans are also in place for a second wind farm on the North Shore (Kawailoa), which will create an additional 70MW of power.
Will Molokai be able to receive power from the proposed wind farm?
No, even a single windmill of this size would have too much output for Molokai’s electric grid. Assuming the offer to be the same as Lanai, as part of a benefits package, HECO would establish an independent agreement in seeing that our island’s electric utility would be 100 percent “green” by 2020. In the interim, what is being proposed by HECO would be to guarantee electric rates to Molokai at the same rate as Oahu customers. (Approximately a 50 percent price reduction.)
How long would it take to construct the wind farm on Molokai?
According to First Wind, actual construction would be accomplished within a 12-month period. Without complications, land rights, studies and permits would be accomplished by the end of 2012 and engineering completed by 2013. Actual construction would commence in 2014.
Does First Wind have land rights for the windmills on Molokai?
No, and the track record thus far has been a resistance from Molokai Ranch to sell land. The tipping point in all of this may be the State itself, which is taking a very proactive stance in fulfilling the requirements of HRS 269-92.
Peter Nicholas, CEO of Molokai Ranch, recently acknowledged that the pressure from the government is such that if Molokai Ranch refuses to sell, there is a possibility that the State would condemn the necessary Ranch lands through the process of eminent domain.
Editor’s Note: Wind farm meetings, set up by Molokai Ranch, are scheduled for March 2 at the Mitchell Pau’ole Center; March 3 at the Maunaloa Recreation Center; and March 4 at Kilohana School. All meetings will begin at 5:30 p.m.