HONOLULU, HAWAII – The State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) Energy Office has filed state and federal notices of intent to prepare a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) for the Hawai‘i Interisland Renewable Energy Program (HIREP). The PEIS will examine the program-level impacts of the development of up to 400 megawatts (MW) of wind energy on Maui County, the transmission of the energy to Oahu via an undersea cable, and the integration of that energy into Oahu’s electrical grid.

The PEIS will incorporate a thorough analysis of overall impacts and benefits, but will not grant any development rights or privileges to a specific wind farm project. Instead, it will provide a framework, uniform policies, and a process for comprehensively deciding how project components should be integrated within the framework. A PEIS is often employed on the federal level. It will specify best management practices for the three major HIREP components:

  • Transmission of renewable energy via undersea cable to Oahu: The undersea interisland cable will allow the sharing of renewable energy generated in Maui County, particularly Lanai and Molokai where resources such as wind are substantial, with Oahu, where resources are limited and demand for energy is high.
  • Generation of up to 400 MW of wind power on Lanai and Molokai: This PEIS will focus on wind, but the HIREP program could be expanded in the future to include other types of renewable technologies.
  • Utility infrastructure upgrades on Oahu needed to integrate large amounts of wind energy into the electrical grids.

“We are examining large infrastructure investments with considerable impacts on our communities. The PEIS and the subsequent project-specific EIS will increase the opportunities for public input,” said Ted Peck, administrator of the State Energy Office. “We have to seriously study the best way we can use the renewable resources we have so that we can significantly reduce our use of imported oil.

“Our Neighbor Islands have the richest renewable energy resources. With an interisland cable, we can share these homegrown resources to reach the State’s goal of 70 percent clean energy by 2030.”

In 2008, the State Legislature passed a law to create the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) with the goal of 70 percent clean energy by 2030. This can be achieved with a 30 percent increase in energy efficiency and 40 percent new renewable energy development. Wind energy to be studied in this PEIS has the potential of contributing 14 percent to the HCEI goals.

The public has a three-month opportunity to provide input through the beginning of March. For more information on how to comment, log on to

The PEIS is funded by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and has a scheduled completion date of April 2012. It will be conducted by AECOM Technical Services, Inc. (AECOM). AECOM is a global provider of professional technical and management support services to a broad range of markets, including transportation, facilities, environmental, energy, water and government with approximately 52,000 employees around the world and approximately 200 professionals living and working in Hawai‘i.

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Q&A: The Hawai‘i Interisland Renewable Energy Program (HIREP)

What is the Hawai‘i Interisland Renewable Energy Program (HIREP)?

HIREP is a proposed renewable energy generation, transmission, and delivery program that works to realize the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative’s goal of achieving 70 percent clean energy by 2030 with 30 percent from efficiency measures and 40 percent coming from renewable energy sources. HIREP would produce renewable energy from sources such as wind turbine technology on one or more islands and share the electricity generated with other islands via undersea cable for subsequent transmission and distribution to consumers.

What are the components of HIREP Wind?

There are three primary components:

  • An undersea cable system including converter/inverter station infrastructure,
  • Wind farms on one or more islands in Maui County, and
  • Utility infrastructure upgrades on the island of O‘ahu to receive and integrate wind energy into the electric grid.

Why do we need an interisland cable?

An interisland cable will allow electricity generated in Maui County, where wind resources are abundant, to be transmitted to O‘ahu where the demand for energy is high, but viable renewable energy resources and land are limited. The cable is vitally important to achieve the goal of 70 percent clean energy for Hawai‘i by the year 2030. It will enable the production of at least 14 percent of the power we need to meet the 40 per cent renewable energy goal, significantly cutting Hawai‘i’s dependence on imported fuel.

Why wind?

Of the alternative renewable energy sources available – including wind, geothermal, solar, biomass, ocean thermal energy conversion, and wave – wind power has been identified as the most commercially available and economically viable option at the present time. The islands of Maui, Lāna‘i, and Moloka‘i have the most abundant and viable wind resources of the islands closest to O‘ahu. In the future, HIREP could be expanded to include other types of renewable technologies.

What’s the difference between a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?

The State of Hawai’i, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, has decided to prepare a programmatic EIS for the HIREP-Wind. Program-level EIS documents are relatively common on the federal level, but somewhat unique in Hawai‘i. The PEIS is designed to provide agencies and the public an overview of the potential impacts and benefits in the development of HIREP. This PEIS does not grant any development rights or privileges to a specific wind farm project; rather, this PEIS will set a framework, identify broad areas of concern (both location and environment), and specify best management practices for the three major HIREP components.  Project-specific EIS will conduct more focused environmental reviews using consistent guidelines specified by the PEIS.

Why not build the wind farms on O‘ahu?

There are concrete plans to build 100 megawatts (MW) of wind power on O‘ahu. The new 30-MW Kahuku wind farm on O‘ahu is being completed and its owner, First Wind, wants to build 70 MW more on O‘ahu.

However, O‘ahu does not have as favorable wind resources as do Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i. Studies have identified the channel between Lāna‘i and Moloka‘i to have some of the most favorable wind zones within the State of Hawai‘i.

Where will the undersea cable go?

Several options for routes between O‘ahu, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i and Maui are being explored.

The PEIS will examine different possible routes.

On Moloka‘i, preliminary landing sites that may be studied will be in the northeast and south-central portions of the island, near the possible wind farm sites. On Lāna‘i, the preliminary landing site that is expected to be studied will be in the northeast portion of the island. On O‘ahu, landing sites are being considered on the east side near the Mōkapu Peninsula and on the leeward side between Pearl Harbor and Honolulu Harbor. The PEIS will help determine the preferred landing sites.

How much will the interisland cable cost?

Costs will be based on the routes and technology chosen. Based on the cost of similar projects around the world, an early estimate is $800 million to $1 billion.

However, projected savings from not having to buy imported oil over a 20-year period is estimated to be approximately $5.7 billion.

How will the state pay for it?

The cable system will ultimately be financed by some combination of O‘ahu ratepayer charges, state tax revenues, and federal grants to pay for the cost of the cable. The state will be seeking additional federal funding and long-term loan guarantees to keep the total cost to Hawai‘i residents as low as possible.

Why are we spending money on such an expensive project?

Hawai‘i spends about 10 percent of its gross state product, three times more than the national average , to buy imported fuel. HIREP will enable much more of that money to remain in our local economy, covering the cost and more of the interisland cable.

How long will it take to build?

The first step is the completion of the Programmatic EIS (PEIS), which must be completed by April 30, 2012 due to the expiration of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus funding. Project-specific EIS for the wind farms and the O‘ahu grid upgrades will then be conducted.

Construction on the actual cable system could start after the project-specific EIS and permits are completed. Construction and the laying of the cables can be done in 24 months

Are there similar projects elsewhere?

There are already nine undersea communications cables connecting the Hawaiian Islands.

There are more than 20 undersea electrical transmission cables in operation around the world. There are several systems in Europe similar to the one proposed for Hawai‘i, as well as others in the Philippines, Japan, and the mainland U.S. The technology is well established, and several international companies are able to do the work.

Who will own the interisland cable?

The state is currently looking at numerous ownership possibilities or scenarios.

Who will operate and maintain it?

The state is examining various scenarios for operation and maintenance.

Submitted by DBEDT