BY HENRY CURTIS – One of the hallmarks of energy policy in Hawaii is that there is only one path forward.
The mantra goes that in order to enable renewable energy we must have balance, inter-island cables, and Big Wind. We must do it all.
Last year Life of the Land published a report on how Hawaii could be energy self-sufficient using Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC).
We have just released a new report providing island-specific solutions utilizing only commercially proven and available renewable energy resources.
Life of the Land’s Wayfinding: Sowing the Seeds for Transforming Energy Futures
Videos (Vimeos) by Henry Curtis
Henry Curtis is the executive director of the Life of the Land
The basic premise of this report is that distributed generation is better than centralized power grid. This premise conveniently ignores two fundamental facts.
First, distributed generation costs more on an installed per kilowatt basis than central station power. At $7 per watt – a quote I got yesterday for a solar PV installation on my house — serving the 1200 megawatts of load on Oahu would cost $8.4 BILLION in capital cost for generation that works at most 5 hours per day. Yes, you can add storage and make it work all the time, but the capital cost is even more. A billion dollars for a cable doesn’t sound that all that bad. This capital has to come from somewhere and it has to be repaid with a return. There is no free lunch.
Second, not everybody wants to be in the power business. Not everybody can AFFORD to be in the power business. In LOL’s world, the rich would get their solar PV and the poor would be left to pay for the central station infrastructure. In other words, LOL is essentially advocating a massive shift of cost to the poor.
As for their other ideas, LOL promotes technology that is still in the experimental stages. Don’t believe me? Go to a bank and try to project finance a 100 MW OTEC or wave generating plant. It can’t be done at this stage because no lender will take the technology risk. This is a promising technology but it is many years away and in the meantime we just keep sucking on the oil.
The utility is not a saint, distributed generation has its place, and new technologies will develop over the next few DECADES, but the propostion in this report makes me want to – well – Laugh Out Loud (LOL).
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