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What the hell is one of the sunniest places on earth doing getting its power from coal?

Hawaii is a dream. The warm air, the flowers, the hot sun on the ocean. My memories of it are so positive that I am suspicious of them.

Kauai was the birthplace of "The Death of Environmentalism," which we released at the Environmental Grantmakers meeting in 2004 at the decadentlyluxurious Hyatt in Kauai. It is hands down the most spectacular hotel I've ever been experienced. It's a toss up whether the best part about it is the fact that it is literally perched at the end of the beach, or the fact that it is surrounded by interconnected swimming pools.

Turns out the Hyatt is diesel-powered. I say this not to shame anyone for going there. I for one feel not one whit of shame over swimming in its salt water lagoon and sipping its pina coladas. (Anyone who says they feel shameful for such behaviors are either lying or pitiable.)  I'm not even accusing environmental funders of hypocrisy (at least not for going to the Hyatt). I point it out simply to ask a rhetorical question: what the hell is one of the sunniest places on earth doing getting its power from coal?

We need to start looking at sunny places powered by coal as an absurdity (Tucson, anyone?). I'll be the first to acknowledge that solar is more expensive than coal. But I'd bet that the Hyatt and most of the rest of Hawaii's affluent tourists can afford it.

How would it get done? The tourist industry could lobby the utilities and legislature to require increasing levels of solar. The state could subsidize solar directly. Or, given budget constraints, Hawaii could set up a self-financing solar revolving fund bond -- and a Homeowners Power Act allowing businesses and home owners to sell their solar power back on to the grid at full peak day-time prices.

Christine Thomas, Hawaii's Literary Lotus, did a Q&A with me in the Honolulu Weekly, where I suggested something similar:

Hawai'i's culture is rooted in love and respect of the land, yet paradoxically we depend on coal for energy, have limited mass transit, strong opposition to growth and change and have few environmental measures in place--not even curbside recycling. Are we thus in a great position to start creating a new politics in the "right" way, or do we have just as much work to do to eliminate the old paradigm?

It's crazy that such an incredibly sunny place like Hawai'i relies so heavily on coal. Going solar would allow Hawai'i to reduce its dependence on coal and would create thousands of new jobs for local electricians and builders installing solar panels. Solar is cost-competitive when the electricity costs are spread out over a 10 to 20 year period. One tool might be a "revolving fund" that lent money to homeowners and business owners seeking to finance their solar system. A small group of Hawaiians could probably convince the state Legislature to set something up like this -- the best argument is probably that it's good for the local economy and will clean up the air.

Christine asks about the reaction to Break Through.

Because of this, many environmentalists have labeled you and Nordhaus bad-boy naysayers--part of the problem, not part of the solution. Is this just defensive hyperbole in response to a call to change?

The negative reaction is coming from different camps. Some of it comes from people who believe that there just isn't enough planet Earth for everyone to live like we live--it's a mentality of limits, not possibility. Some of the negative reaction comes from the environmental establishment, which believes that new pollution regulations will solve global warming--a strategy that has already failed with Kyoto and in Europe. Still others are upset that we describe the ways in which environmentalism is too much like a religion and not enough like a church. Nature and science aren't "telling us what to do"--we have to decide for ourselves. And achieving that means creating new kinds of community that can create a new politics.

In the book we point out that there's nothing more "natural" about making solar panels from sand than burning coal. The decision to go solar isn't about getting right by nature, it's about getting right by a vision of the future that protects extraordinary gems like Hawaii, and all of its inhabitants, human and nonhuman. Doing so requires a politics focused more on a positive vision of ecological development than on nature protection.

Originally posted to Michael Shellenberger on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:15 PM PST.


Should we heavily subsidize solar to compete with coal?

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| 91 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Land is really expensive on an island (12+ / 0-)

    They could easily use tidal power though.  In fact they are foolish not to use it.

    •  Hawaii also has geothermal and wind power (11+ / 0-)

      available. With some vision and planning, Hawaii is rich in low-impact energy sources.

      "If the people were to ever find out what we have done, we would be chased down the streets and lynched." George H.W. Bush to Sarah McClendon, 1992

      by 4Freedom on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:23:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wind too (7+ / 0-)

      It might be possible that between geothermal, wind and tidal that each of the more populous islands would be energy independent.

      It's not often you find a politician talented enough to smear the opponent as a drug dealer, terrorist AND uppity black boy

      by Nulwee on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:23:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Dead wind turbines on the Big Island (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        peace voter, betson08, Nab

        I can't find my pictures at the moment, but the southern tip of the big island is a "cemetery of future technology": acres and acres of rusted out wind turbines.

        Don't know why. It just is.

        qui pro domina reductio ad absurdum

        by opendna on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:35:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well (5+ / 0-)

          back when this technology was more experimental, green energy sources were often put in inappropriate locations.

          I wouldn't pretend that wind or any environmentally-dependent energy source is something that can go in any region, but there are some windy areas out there.  Even if it's just 5% of an energy portfolio.

          It's not often you find a politician talented enough to smear the opponent as a drug dealer, terrorist AND uppity black boy

          by Nulwee on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:40:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Wind is cranking in the big island saddle (7+ / 0-)

            generating lots of power.

            The diarist is wrong about Kauai. It has no coal power. Kauai has diesel and other distillate as it's main source plus hydropower. Cane bagasse is also used, but cane has been cut back because of economics.

            Oahu and Maui have coal power.

            "It's the planet, stupid."

            by FishOutofWater on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:49:58 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Ugh, even worse? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Glad to hear I'm wrong about Kauai -- though the fact that the Hyatt is powered by diesel is perhaps even worse (is it? You tell me). I'll stand by my advocacy of the solar solution, however.

            •  May be changing.. tho (6+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              badger, ybruti, empathy, Nab, offgrid, trivium

              Castle & Cooke, Inc. (June 5, 2007) announced that it has signed a contract through its subsidiary, Lana`i Sustainability Research, LLC, to build the largest solar photovoltaic farm in Hawai`i and the fourth largest in the United States.

              The 1.5-megawatt solar farm will be built on a 10-acre site in south Lana`i (Maui) by SunPower Corp. (Nasdaq:SPWR - News), a Silicon Valley-based manufacturer of high-efficiency, commercially available solar cells, solar panels and solar systems. It is expected to produce enough solar energy to supply up to 30 percent of the island's electric demand by using the most advanced technology.

              This state of the art solar farm helps pave the way for Hawai'i to become a leader in the production of renewable energy.

              From Hawaii's Energy Future

              ~A govt lobbied, campaigned and selected by corporation... is good for corporation. Bad for people.~ -8.88 -8.36

              by Orj ozeppi on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 09:09:23 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  no bagasse being burned for power any more (0+ / 0-)

              I don't think (at least not to the grid).  G&R may make a little power, but the last big cane burner shut down after Amfac folded (2000-2001??).  And even it was mostly burning fuel oil in truth.

              G&R use most of their bagasse to fire their sugar boiling operation, but if they installed an efficient boiler they could likely make power.  Their ancient junk is just a bagasse incinerator from what I hear.  Instead they focus on trying to get subsidies to build a garbage incinerator to fuel their operations and then build a new bagasse electricity generator.  That way they can guarantee we have to keep their money losing operation open.
               Sugar cane out here barely ekes a profit at the US Govt guaranteed 20 cts/lb with the world market more like half that.  I figure $10-15 million per year to keep 300 low skill/low pay jobs in place.  many just seasonal.  Good scam for the Robinson family who have great windfarm sites but won't play ball.

              Their latest plan is build an ethanol plant. And they did propose to bring in coal to "supplement" their operation.  That got shot down on econs I'd guess, but they've pretended it was to be a good neighbor.

        •  There are different sides to the islands (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rolfyboy6, betson08, Nab, Bronx59

          Some are windy, some are rainy, and some quite dry. Do you think that could be a problem?

          Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities-Voltaire

          by hairspray on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:43:57 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  South Point windfarm is back in biz (0+ / 0-)


          Note the dummies that run our power companies have gone the PPA route linking the price of the electricity to oil.  Outside investors reap the profits.  If the power companies would pull their heads out, they could do these projects themselves.

    •  I meant to say wave power not tidal power.nt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peace voter
  •  not that I disagree in general, but why Hawaii? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buckhorn okie, hairspray, betson08

    Hawaii isn't really among the sunniest parts of the U.S. Its tourist claim to fame is its beaches and tropical climate more than any lack of rainfall or cloud cover. Meanwhile it's sunny almost constantly in the Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and California deserts, which is why most of the solar power plants (and pilot projects for new ones) are there instead.

    "See a world of tanks, ruled by a world of banks." —Sol Invictus

    by Delirium on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:24:10 PM PST

  •  solar and wind aren't really viable (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buckhorn okie, Nab

    As you point out solar and wind don't really make economic sense at this point. They are subsidized.

  •  I live in Cabo San Lucas (15+ / 0-)

    It's sunny here 350 days a year. Every home here should have at the very least, solar hot water. Instead, water heaters are mostly propane heated, delivered to your home, by petrol eating trucks. It's stupid, wasteful and pisses me off.

  •  Kauai (11+ / 0-)

    Green energy advocates won a round on Kauai as Gay & Robinson announced today that coal will NOT power a proposed Kauai ethanol plant under development by Pacific West Energy (via Garden Island).

    Many of the homes adjacent to the Hyatt have solar panels, many people use them for water heating. It is up to the planners on Kauai to insist neww developments are green.

    Monsanto is active on the island, that's a much bigger problem.

    Oh and by the man who had worked for Gay and Robinson for 26 years was earning ten dollars an hour..according to the local newspaper discussing this issue.

    I was a recent visitor.

    Think Tank. "A place where people are paid to think by the makers of tanks" Naomi Klein.

    by ohcanada on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:33:16 PM PST

  •  Hawaii is already generating ... (16+ / 0-)

    ...64MW of wind energy, 51 of those MWs having come on line in the last two years. Army families on Oahu will be receiving 7MW of solar for nearly 7900 Army Hawaii Family Homes (about 15% of total use). It's the largest such project in the world, the next being the 6MW Olympic Village in Sydney. The project is being built without subsidies.

    "Just remember, boys, this is America. Just because you get more votes doesn't mean you win." - Special Agent Fox Mulder

    by Meteor Blades on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:33:23 PM PST

  •  I'll tell you why (12+ / 0-)

    Firstly, Delirium, you might want to examine solar a bit more.  I live in the Bay Area, known for it's incessant fog.  However, even in the foggiest parts of San Francisco you will find solar panels galore.

    Unless you live north of the Arctic Circle, or have property that is shaded by tall trees or buildings, solar panels will work for you.  

    I visited Kauai this last summer (my honeymoon) for the third time.  This time I spent some time looking into why there's such a lack of solar, as well as hybrids, on the island.

    The person whose cottage we rented is quite active in the community and if you pick up the local newspaper or scan the local blogs, you'll probably figure out who I'm talking about.

    Basically, Kauai property is controlled by a small handful of entities.  And the business of shipping stuff in (like coal, gas, cheese, etc . . .) is controlled by relatives of one of these entities.  Think about it, if you controlled all shipping into a region, including all the coal that comes into the island; bringing a few boatloads of solar panels to the island might later cut into your coal shipping business.

    Also, these same five entities have folks that are in city/county government.  You probably can imagine how they might slow-walk applications for building permits for PV systems.

    On an island as small as Kauai, I think electric cars would be PERFECT!  After all, the range of most EVs is still more than a trip from Hanalei Bay to Waimea Canyon and back.  Nowhere on the island is the speed limit faster than 45 (that I can recall).  

    If you happen to be on the South side of Kauai, you'll see the ugly smokestack from the coal plant.  I will say that they have been making progress with using ethanol (extracted from the sugar cane which is grown using water diverted from streams that used to end in gorgeous tall waterfalls that come off the 'palis' (cliffs that jut up into the heavens).

    So the short answer to why Kauai isn't solar: greed and keeping the money where it's at.

    I have a dream of one day opening an EV rental on Kauai but my friend who lives there says it would be a miracle if the business was ever given a permit to open.

    By the way, I strongly suggest staying in a privately-owned cottage next time and just getting a day pass to the Hyatt.  That way your money stands a slightly better chance of staying on the island.  :)  But I agree, that chain of pools is pretty idyllic!

    •  Local politics (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aexia, jackspace, betson08, empathy, Topaz7, offgrid

      Great post! Can't believe how much people know about this...

      Seems like a group of smart local political activists in Hawaii could have an impact on all of this, especially if there were money on the table for a revolving fund or something similar. Investment might be game changing if it creates a constituency.

      •  land on the Hawaiian Islands is leased, (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rolfyboy6, jackspace, betson08, Topaz7, Nab

        not for sale.  It used to be owned by a couple of big sugar cane conglomerates as I recall. I don't know how they were able to purchase it and own it in that manner. Does anyone know how that was impacted when they became a state?

        Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities-Voltaire

        by hairspray on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:52:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Much is communal Hawaiian land (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jackspace, betson08, Nab

          managed by teh state to the detriment of the indigenous people.

          "It's the planet, stupid."

          by FishOutofWater on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:56:56 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  So the leasing arrangements are with (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jackspace, Nab

            the state government who collect the payments and keep the money for the people (or so they say)? The money is then used for infrastructure or care of the natives and their culture?  I lived there as a kid (Hickam) and always thought it was strange that people got 99 year leases.

            Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities-Voltaire

            by hairspray on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 09:01:15 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Missionary Boy's Club (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          hairspray, OHdog

          Descendants of Missionary Boy's Club stole most of the land.

           They came up with a scheme to divide up the land and then manged to steal it. That's why just a few families own just about all of the land in Hawaii. (I grew up in Hawaii.)

           And my bet is that some of the big land owners are also on the "board" of directors of the oil companies. That's how they "pay off" and keep the oil flowing to the islands.

          I'm speculating on the board of directors and "pay-offs" because that's how it works on many Caribbean islands. These are islands that could have major geothermal plants -- as well as wind mill etc etc. Lots and lots of crooks -- getting "pay offs" -- they're getting rich while the elec. power bills are going through the roof -- doubling in ONE year!!

      •  Hawaii is clannish (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tmo, jackspace, offgrid, Carib and Ting

        and thinks in terms of an America that is gone by on the mainland.  Heco, the Hawaiian Electric Co, won't use concrete electrical poles although they would last three times as long and could be made in Hawaii.  It's not real clear but someone has the concession to import the wood poles (in Hawaii shipping is everything) and besides they've always used wood poles.  Example after example is like that.  It is compounded by us versus them attitudes.  Locals would resent any smartass organizers from the outside.  It's still fifty years ago in places on Hawaii.  Hawaii simply isn't used to the idea of independence, life there is governed by the Jones Act, which requires all shipped items to go in American bottoms.  Hawaii isn't even in control of its own maritime activity.

    •  I have to ask, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hairspray, Topaz7

      I visited Kauai this last summer (my honeymoon) for the third time.

      third trip to Hawaii or third honeymoon? ;-)

      Solar works OK in Alaska but it definitely is seasonal. Have friends who live in a remote setting in a house and shop they power with a small solar array. We are at 58degrees N. Lat. so even in the winter they do fairly well, at least on sunny days.

      The great tragedy of Science, the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact. T. H. Huxley

      by realalaskan on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:49:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  hehehehehe, third visit to Kauai (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rolfyboy6, realalaskan

        I was so pleasantly surprised when my wife and I found out we could produce plenty of electricity with panels on our small roof.  I will add that if you are thinking of going solar, grid-tie systems are nice and all, but until they pass legislation that forces the electric power barons to pay you for your surplus electricity, it might as well just be stored in a battery bank (and these are getting smaller and less dangerous every day).

        In Germany solar is all the rage (having lived in Bamberg across the street from Kos actually heheheh) and I promise you it's certainly not as sunny there as most of the Midwest, and certainly Deutschland gets less sun than Kauai.


        •  Homeowners Power Act (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jackspace, offgrid, trivium

          I think this is outrageously good politics. Solar is irrationally popular -- voters love it beyond what it's actually capable of. I always thought a smart politician could pick it up and run on it.

          The idea of Homeowners Power Act is populist: why is the government denying me the right to produce my own power? I should be able to sell at peak market rates, goddammit!

          •  You can (0+ / 0-)

            And most do.

            I'll reprint a post I made in another thread a day or two ago:

            It's called "Net Metering"

            where you have one electric meter on your house, and it runs forward when you are buying power from the utility company, and it runs backwards, giving you "credit" to offset your purchase, when you are producing more power then you are using at that moment.

            You enter into a net metering contract with the utility, who supplies the bi-directional kWh meter. Then your billing is based on a one year schedule, instead of monthly (you still get monthly statements so that you can keep track). A typical photovoltaic (PV) system produces most of it's yearly power in the summertime (long days and all that), that is banked as credit to offset your winter energy use.

            At the end of the 12 month period, the utility company draws a line and totals out the year - if you've used more power then you produced, you pay them the difference. If you produced more power then you consumed...well...the utility company gets that for free, and can sell it to someone else. They don't pay you for excess production.

            While at first glance this last part sounds like a rip-off, it's really a great deal for the homeowner. Every kilowatt/hour produced or consumed is based on retail value, hence the "net" in net metering. The alternative is to buy the power at retail pricing, and then sell power at wholesale pricing, which is a much worse deal.

            Net metering is available now in 42 States and DC. Here is a link to the best site out there for info in your state:


            "If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy." -teacherken

            by offgrid on Fri Dec 21, 2007 at 12:49:51 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The Grass Valley Yoga Farm (0+ / 0-)

              The Grass Valley Yoga farm managed to convert to solar in two 50% swoops, and they did not go into debt to do it.  I imagine we could even see communities or small groups pool resources and put up solar power stations and supply the less sunny properties in the area.

              One thing that makes ood engineering sense with producing electricity where you use it is the inherent loss, of real energy, over the distances of wire.  In fact, did you know that solar flux, a measure of electro-magnetic activity on the Sun, affects our grid system?

              Every time I see old photos with windmills, I just think "wow, they were on the right path".  

              If Leary's "Declaration of Evolution" made our main main pursuits to be ultimately Space Migration, Increase Intelligence, Life Extension (SMIILE); I think we'd better get back on the path or our spaceward leap will be a lost oppurtunity that keeps me from being reborn as Captain Kirk.  :)

    •  Day pass at the Hyatt is non-starter (0+ / 0-)

      much of the time.

      They don't sell them when they are crowded and when they do, it's like $250/day.   They don't much tolerate gate crashers either.  The Marriot has a better day pass deal from what I hear.

      If you happen to be on the South side of Kauai, you'll see the ugly smokestack from the coal plant.

      burns diesel not coal.  

      Come start an EV rental if you wish.  You'd get a permit without any real hassle I'd guess.  If you are serious, I could put you in touch with the right sort of people to get your permits handled expeditiously.  As long as your vehicles are street legal.  No biggy.  They're letting people drive unsafe mopeds on the highway.  So far no dead cruise ship renters but it's a matter of time.

      The big landowners do indeed try to roadblock wind farms and the like, but they wouldn't have much luck stopping you from renting a parking lot and doing what every other rental car company does.   The paranoia about the big 5 is a bit overblown.  Outside of land control and the shipping biz, their power has waned.

      Our highway speed limit is 50, but you'll get run over by a jacked up truck if you don't stay a bit north of that.

  •  Solar Hot Water (8+ / 0-)

    About 25 years ago the federal government gave good tax benefits to people that installed solar water heating units. I sold them in Hawaii for awhile and it was really a good deal. I can't remember how much the tax benefit was, but it really helped pay for it and the smart people took advantage of it.

    After people had them for awhile we went back and checked out their electricity bills. In most cases the bill went down over 40%. Most people don't realize just how much of their electricity bill is from heating water.

    Frankly I find it extremely foolish that they are building homes without solar heating units and stupid that the government isn't helping with a subsidy.

  •  Solar is sold-out in California (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, badger, Rolfyboy6, hairspray, betson08, offgrid

    Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric are working with Stirling Energy Systems, a Phoenix startup that has paired a large and efficient solar dish with a 200-year-old Stirling engine design.
    Stirling Energy Systems is planning to build two separate solar farms, one with the capacity to generate 500 megawatts of electricity in the Mojave Desert near Victorville, California, for SoCal Edison, and a 300-megawatt plant in the Imperial Valley, near Calexico, California, for SDG&E. The utilities have signed 20-year deals to buy all the juice the farms can turn out, and have options to expand the plants if they are successful.

    "Without question, this will be the largest solar project in the world," said Gil Alexander, a spokesman for SoCal Edison. "It will be bigger than all U.S. solar-energy projects combined."
    The first phase of the SoCal Edison project will be to build a 1-megawatt test site using 40 dishes, which should be complete by spring 2007. Construction on the full, 500-megawatt facility is expected to begin in mid-2008, and should take three to four years. Each dish can produce up to 25 kilowatts, and the site will eventually have 20,000 dishes stretching across 4,500 acres of desert.

    The last time I checks, SES was accepting neither investors nor sales requests (but there was a waiting list).

    qui pro domina reductio ad absurdum

    by opendna on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:45:08 PM PST

  •  Hickam Air Force Base (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    opendna, hairspray, betson08, offgrid

    The US Air Force has been experimenting with green and doing a lot of work at Hawaii's Hickam Air Force Base with, if memory serves, a hydrogen bus, solar street lights, and other initiatives.

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at

    by gmoke on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:48:47 PM PST

  •  Solar Whammy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The US distributed solar/dynamo AM/FM/SW radios in Afghanistan before the invasion.  NATO is continuing to distribute them.  With a few modifications they could also charge standard size dry cell batteries beside the internal hard-wired battery for the radio.  That would make a battery-switching solar and human-powered electrical network possible in areas where electricity has never been.

    The dynamo could be operated for a half hour a day as a kind of solar swadeshi in the spirit of Gandhi and his Pashtun compatriot, Badshah Khan.  

    Too bad nobody's interested.

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at

    by gmoke on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:56:57 PM PST

  •  doesn't tidal make a lot more sense? (0+ / 0-)

    Even in HI the sun goes away every 12 hours and the ocean doesn't.

    Also, why the preference for PV over solar thermal?  Nothing that can't lick the baseload problem is ever going to replace coal.  Since storing energy is a big part of the problem there, it seems like storing it as heat in water would help a little bit.  

    Since shutting down all the coal plants ASAP must be goal #1, there's no avoiding that new nuclear plants are bitter pill we're going to have to swallow in some places.  Environmentalists need to make a point of admitting this publicly, however begrudgingly, if politicians are ever going to quit being scared of it.  

    •  Hawaii has very small tides (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      betson08, offgrid, Carib and Ting

      It is pretty close to the point of zero tides in the Pacific.

      "It's the planet, stupid."

      by FishOutofWater on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 08:59:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There's almost no free coast line (0+ / 0-)

        With the possible exception of the Big Island and parts of very dry and low populated Molokai, almost all coast line is occupied.  The islands are really very small.  The plus in that is they would make excellent pilot project areas.

        •  You don't need coast line (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          offgrid, trivium

          They have devices that capture energy from the cyclic motion of waves and you can put them miles off shore so that no one complains about them ruining the view.

        •  Hawaii is not as small as some people think (0+ / 0-)
          Hawaii is bigger than Massachusetts
          43 Hawaii
          44 Massachusetts
          45 Vermont
          46 New Hampshire  
          47 New Jersey
          48 Connecticut  
          * Puerto Rico  
          49 Delaware  
          50 Rhode Island

          Also much residentisl power could be produced on existing rooftops.

          . There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS. Mahatma Gandhi

          by Sacramento Dem on Fri Dec 21, 2007 at 01:36:10 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I just found out this list includes water (0+ / 0-)
            The land area of Hawaii is less than MA, NJ, VT and NH.

            . There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS. Mahatma Gandhi

            by Sacramento Dem on Fri Dec 21, 2007 at 11:23:34 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  solar agnostic (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      offgrid, trivium, brouski

      First of all, I love it that your moniker is VelvetElvis.

      Second, I'm solar agnostic. I'm hearing big claims about how cheap they're getting solar thermal to be -- I hope China can find a way to do it even more cheaply than Silicon Valley, or better yet, with Silicon Valley.

      From ourChron piece:

      Today, Silicon Valley venture capitalists and entrepreneurs are stepping up to the challenge. Just last month, Google announced a "Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal" initiative to invest hundreds of millions into wind and solar power. But achieving this objective requires a global investment in the hundreds of billions, not millions. Today solar provides less than 1 percent of the world's energy, according to the International Energy Agency. But what would happen if Europe and the United States guaranteed the market for silicon solar panels just like we did with silicon microchips? We know that for every doubling of production of solar panels, price drops 20 percent. Experts say it would cost $50 billion to $200 billion to make solar as cheap as coal.

      •  Not when you figure in (0+ / 0-)

        external costs such as environmental degradation.

        And don't forget that all fossil fuels are subsidized, making them appear cheaper then they really are.

        "If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy." -teacherken

        by offgrid on Fri Dec 21, 2007 at 12:55:02 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Photovoltaics are only one form of solar energy (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, wu ming, offgrid

    There is a very high proportion of solar thermal energy use in Hawai'i, in the form of solar water heaters.

    It seemed like when I was growing up there, everyone had a solar water panel on their roof.  (although that link seems to suggest the fraction was smaller than I remember)

    And that cuts into the demand for coal.

    Don't knock Hawai'i too hard, brah.

    Abe: My Homer is not a communist. He may be a liar, a pig, an idiot, a communist, but he is not a porn star!

    by Sylvester McMonkey Mcbean on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 09:27:26 PM PST

  •  Hawai'i does seem to be making an effort (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Legislation that was enacted in 2006 strives to enhance the islands' energy self-sufficiency:

    This bill, which becomes Act 162, emphasizes Savings Through Efficiency and Independence Through Renewable Energy by:

       * Authorizing the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to establish a public benefits fund to support energy efficiency and conservation programs also known as demand-side management (DSM).  The PUC is charged with determining if energy efficiency and DSM operations are better managed through an independent organization rather than being run by the utility.
       * Authorizing the PUC to determine whether the existing Energy Cost Adjustment Clause fairly allocates the risk of fuel cost changes between the public utility and its customers.  Currently, changes in the price of oil are passed on to customers, without the utility absorbing any of the impact.  On Maui, this cost makes up 50 percent of a homeowner’s electric bill.  On the Big Island and O`ahu, the energy adjustment charge is almost 30 percent of a typical utility bill.
       * Directing the PUC to establish a ratemaking methodology that removes or significantly reduces any linkage between the utility cost of fossil fuel and payments to independent power producers using non-fossil resources.  This change will potentially enable utility customers to benefit from fuel cost savings.  It will also allow renewable energy producers to negotiate and sell their power at fair rates.
       * Strengthening the Renewable Portfolio Standards law by eliminating guaranteed utility profit language and authorizing penalties to be established by the PUC for failure to meet the standards. The standards are set at 10 percent renewable energy by 2010; 15 percent by 2015 and 20 percent by 2020.

    The Governor also signed HB2848 HD2 SD2 CD1, which appropriates $200,000 to reconvene the Hawai`i Energy Policy Forum to develop an action plan, timeline, recommendations and benchmarks to meet Hawai`i’s energy self-sufficiency goals.

    Energy costs drive the cost of living up in Hawai'i incredibly.  It only makes sense that they would try to do something.  Although scanning through this bill it seems perhaps a bit tepid.

    Abe: My Homer is not a communist. He may be a liar, a pig, an idiot, a communist, but he is not a porn star!

    by Sylvester McMonkey Mcbean on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 09:35:42 PM PST

  •  Dude -- fact check (0+ / 0-)

    In random order....

    1. as you've already noted, there is no coal being burned for power on Kauai.  

    We get about 50% from burning naphtha (basically low octane gasoline or say lighter fluid), 40-45% from diesel and a tiny bit of hydro for the balance.  Many resist any attempts to dam or divert stream flows for hydro.  We could get 10-15% of our power from a run-of-the-river system (no dam, only partial diversion) on the Wailua river.  No one has the guts to try to push it through.

    1.  The Hyatt is burning diesel just like the power station 10 miles down the coast.  Doing it themselves probably cuts their cost in half as our Co-op has very high rates (my bill was 30-35 cts/KWhr the last few months).  Legacy of 2 hurricanes shredding the infrastructure and poor decision making by the former utility and now our Co-op board.
    1.  Costco is putting a $4 million PV system on their roof.  Was in the paper this week.  They will not be exporting power.  This will just cut their bill.

    A north shore condo/timeshare is putting in a fairly large system.  Start up in Jan.  

    I saw 4-5 individual systems in the permits list published this week.

    1.  Solar is still expensive compared to $0.35/KWhr.  A system to make my bill go away would cost about $30-$35K not including batteries for night time.  More like $50K with sufficient battery storage.  At 6% on capital,  Our $250-$300/month bill is just barely covered with nothing left over for paying down the capital (and the equipment does wear out so you have to accrue to repair/replace).

    Sure, subsidies will cut the cost but they aren't all that huge.  A home windmill is about 1/2 the cost and it's windy enough at my house to work as well as solar.  Just got to get the neighbors on board.

    1.  Sun doesn't shine at night.  Our peak demand time is 5-8 pm when people come home, fire up stoves/washers/dryers etc.  Solar doesn't help with our need for capacity to cover the peak which is where we are beginning to look tight.
    1.  The local co-op has announced a biomass project for IIRC 8-10% of demand.  It will use scrap wood from a tree farm.
    1.  A wind farm project is finally getting off the ground.  The big developers/landowners have fought these as they want to sell their land to retirees at $1 meg an acre.  They fear anything in the view will limit their cashout potential.  We have enough wind here to cover our demand 5X over.  But storage for still days is a big problem.


    1. most of the land on this island not owned by the state is held fee simple.  You can buy/sell easily.  Leaseholds are not common here.  Oahu has large tracts in Waikiki held by the old Alii trusts (Hawaiian ruling class ie --Bishop/Campbell et al).  Where leasehold is all you can get.
    1.  As for "loving the land",  you should see the crap people (and not  mainland immigrants I'd guess) dump in the old cane fields and everywhere else.  This with a zero fee to dump at the County tipping points or auto recycle center.  It's a crime against nature, but there is a culture of "just throw it in the valley" that is also very very strong.  Hawaiian Homes is one of the worst areas judging from the number of truckloads they hauled away recently (at least they got organized and cleaned up their area)
  •  Subsidize solar???? (0+ / 0-)

    Why subsidize it when it is CHEAPER THAN COAL??

    Why are you positioning it as if it were ethanol or something marginally useful??

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -Mohandas Gandhi

    by ezdidit on Tue Jan 01, 2008 at 03:39:34 PM PST

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