Opinion pieces, analyses and letters are intended to provide a diverse range of views from our community. They are not intended to represent the views of Big Island Now.

OPINION: Undersea Cables and Power Plays

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Geologist in mask overlooking Halemaumau_property of Ben Gaddis
A geologist overlooks Halemaumau. Photo by Ben Gaddis, USGS.

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  • http://twitter.com/Urbane_Gorilla Urbane_Gorilla

    Here’s another opinion: Go all electric. Build car recharging stations and phase out oil and gasoline engines altogether. Enough pollution from Pele as it is.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Byron-Matthews/735919198 Byron Matthews

      last I checked you can’t get a 747 into the air with electric

  • Henry Curtis

    “In theory, this will lower overall energy prices for most of the state’s population.”

    The cost issue is often raised. However, there are no cost analyses for the cable.

    Imagine walking in to a car dealership and saying to a salesman, show me what you have and I assume I will get a cheap car. Pay for it with a credit card without looking at the price tag, the return policy, maintenance warranty, or the insurance policy. Do you really think the car salesman, out of the goodness of his heart, will give you a good deal?

    There were no geothermal plants or undersea transmission lines anywhere in the world during any part of the 19th century, nor any media coverage of any such proposals. Yet King Kalakaua is often linked with Edison on discussing such a concept. There obviously are no citations for any such discussion.

    I wonder what tourists sunning themselves on O`ahu beaches would think about the statement: “starving Oahu of renewables.” According to Booz Allen Hamilton, O`ahu roofs have more megawatts (MW) of potential renewable energy resources that the Big island has in geothermal energy resources.

  • Taxedtodeath

    Some one is going to get rich just doing the cable cost analysis. The last time they did it in the early 1990’s it cost tax payers 26 million just come up with the estimate that government said would cost 1 billion. Who got that 26 million for those studies? Does anyone believe they came up with a real number for that 26 million? Look at rail, or anything else they give us numbers for. Why would we believe them on the cable?

    Northwest Economic Associates also did an economic analysis for the cable in 1990. Their estimate at that time was 4 billion dollars. You can bet the cost will be more than that now. That is just the cable, we believe PGV has at least 200 million in their 30 megawatt plant.

    For the kind of money we are talking about tax payers and ratepayers are going to be shocked at what this power will cost us. For that kind of money we can build just about anything we want and it doesn’t have to be located in a lava zone one area were people can not even get homeowners insurance because the threat is so great.

    What Henry Curtis says about the potential for solar is correct. Hawaii has great solar potential that dwarfs geothermal easily. This is about making money? Geothermal is a boondoggle, solar power dropped 80% over the last three years and is estimated to drop as much as 50% more this year.

    Geothermal is for the east rift zone, that is the only confirmed resource in the state. That is also lava zone one. Even if you could build a cable for less than 10 billion dollars one big earthquake like we had in 1975 and your likely to lose your power plants. Then what, or you could lose your cable. This is a scam like so many others before it. There are safer, more reliable, and cost effective alternatives available right now.

    The state says over 39% of the residential electricity used today is to heat water. Does anyone believe it is easier or cheaper to permit, drill wells and build geothermal power plants than to put a real solar water heater program in place?

    If you displaced even half the electricity used to heat that water you could turn off power plants right now. That is just the tip of the iceberg of the options we have.

    These things are not being looked at because this is about making a very few people as rich as possible not about what is best for Hawaii. Support it if you want but at least understand what you are supporting.

    We will be at Uncle Robert’s in Kalapana this Tuesday from 6:00-8:00pm giving a geothermal power point presentation. We will also be going to Kona, Maui, and Oahu to give our geothermal power point.

    Everyone is invited and questions are welcome. Part of the presentation will be about other options that we have right now that we believe are better for everyone in Hawaii except HEI and the geothermal developers.

    The state, county, and OHA, see dollar signs in the royalties they can not get from the alternatives. Royalties are just a tax that rate payers pay. Where do they think the money comes from? What makes people the most money should not be the driving force behind our energy policy. Unfortunately that is exactly what this is about. It’s time we do what is best not what makes the right people rich.

  • Anonymous

    It is interesting to note that USGS has not been asked to weigh in on geothermal.

  • Kristine Kubat

    Geothermal does have the potential to displace petroleum-based fuels. I am the CEO of a local company, Moku Power, LLC, that holds the rights to an advanced geothermal technology which uses the heat of the Earth (not geothermal fluids) to generate electricity. We have formed a partnership with a company that can produce a liquid fuel from hydrogen; in this process the hydrogen is generated using geothermal power. The fuel is a straight-up substitute for gasoline and can even be formulated to replace jet fuel. The cost is highly competitive with today’s gasoline prices given that Moku Power can generate electricity as low as $.06/kWh.

    Moku Power is not in favor of the cable project. We are not in favor easing environmental restrictions on geothermal development. Hawaii Island does not have to become the Pittsburgh of the Pacific; the people who live there should not sacrifice their quality of life to power overdevelopment throughout the state. We have a technology with a ten-meter-square footprint that can generate power in 1, 5 and 10MW increments. It is quiet, does not bring steam to the surface and does not inject water into the ground. It is easy to deploy and easy to decommission, if and when other advancements make geothermal obsolete. These power plants can be financed with money from local banks and owned by community based co-ops. The community does not have to go begging to any one to manage the resource.

    • James Weatherford

      This is how much oil is used just in our transportation system, representing 57% of petroleum use in Hawaii: 25,064 thousand barrels of oil, or, 138,468 billion btu.
      How many of Moku Power’s geothermal units would it take to replace that?
      Where can those units be placed in Hawaii? Does it have to be in a ‘hot spot’?

      • James Weatherford

        …my point is this: micro-geothermal may well fill a niche in Hawaii.
        However, “displace petroleum based fuels” to any substantial degree? …

        Moku Power, LLC needs to find that niche and do well there.

        Diversification is what is needed — heat water with the sun, use solar PV, biofuels, wind, ocean thermal, geothermal. There is no singular silver bullet and that is the most obvious flaw in what is being pushed by Governor Abercrombie, the geothermal working group, and ilk.

        Most importantly and most urgently: get more efficient in the use of all energy sources. One of many ways to get more efficient is to use electricity as close as possible to where it is generated, rather than sending it over long distances. Another is building our local economies so that everything we do, use, and eat does not require so much transportation — this is what a future that is prosperous and healthy will have to look like.

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