Sunday, March 29, 2009

Musings: Greened to Death

Showers and blustery winds kept Koko and me in bed later than usual this cool, gray, Sunday morning, which was just fine with both of us. We’re nearly always on the same wave length, which likely explains the absence of friction in our relationship.

A major source of friction in the Islands is now on its way back to its birthplace in Mobile, Ala., leaving in its wake the usual long comment thread alternately bemoaning the influence of special interest groups (which for some reason are always identified as environmentalists, rather than more aptly as political power brokers) and bidding bon voyage to the barf barge.

Guess we won’t have the Superferry to kick around for a while, but there’s still Lingle and her team at DOT, who have yet to fully inform us, to borrow the words of a Big Audio Dynamite song, why did it happen and who is to blame?

The question now is, will it be back? I guess that depends on what sort of lucrative contract it can get elsewhere, or whether the military is looking to lease a couple of prototype JHSVs while waiting for Austal to deliver the rest.

A friend suggested that maybe the state could sell the Superferry "improvements" at Nawiliwili Harbor on E-bay: Big ramp only used twice.

Meanwhile, DOT is doggedly pursuing the EIS it should have done years ago, saying it could be pau by the end of the year. But it’s still unclear whether it will be a full and complete EIS, or simply a souped-up version of the faux EIS allowed under the now discredited Act 2.

Changing course, three candidates advocating alternative energy (and no, I’m not talking nuclear) managed to squeeze their way on to the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative board of directors. In an article in today’s Garden Island, the two that were interviewed sounded full of hope and enthusiasm. Of course, they haven’t actually sat down with the rest of the Board yet….

While it's good to get some fresh air in that closed room, I was a little concerned about comments made by Steve Rapozo, one of the newly elected KIUC members:

Rapozo hopes to see a solar farm on the Westside, wind farms in south and north central Kaua‘i, as well as updated hydro plants.

“If we can’t complete this in the three years, then at least to have it be in the works with some kind of master plan,” he said.

Let’s hope he’s not talking about resurrecting the Wailua hydro project, or he’s going to run into some serious opposition. We need to be talking about putting more water back in the streams, not diverting it for hydro.

As for wind farms, why in the world would we want to clutter up our beautiful landscape with those ugly structures? And worse, why would we want to create yet another death trap for endangered birds?

As the Star-Bulletin reported:

Developers of the first wind farm on Maui want to expand, adding a 21-megawatt sister facility, despite some endangered bird species found dead at the existing site.

Carcasses of two adult nene birds and a Hawaiian petrel were found at the existing wind power site between July 1, 2007, and June 30, according to Kaheawa Wind Power report.

A dead Hawaiian hoary bat was found at the site in September, according to federal officials. The deaths were within the numbers allowed for "incidental take" under a state Department of Land and Natural Resources permit.

"We're well within the take limit," [Kaheawa spokeswoman Noe] Kalipi said.

The state license to Kaheawa Wind Power allows up to 60 dead nene during a 20-year period and 40 for the Hawaiian petrel.

The wind venture also has authorization for incidental take of up to 40 'a'o, or Newell's shearwater, and up to 20 Hawaiian hoary bats during a 20-year period.

It seems strange that these “take limits” can be set for species like the Newell’s shearwater, bat and Hawaiian petrel, when we don’t even have have an accurate sense of their total numbers. Newell’s seem to be steadily declining on Kauai, and the population is even smaller on Maui. Nene are being successfully bred in captivy, but even so, their numbers aren’t robust.

And when you start adding in wind farms elsewhere around the state, will the allowable carnage be figured cumulatively, or just project by project?

But mostly I’m wondering, if the Maui wind farm hits its allowable take in 10 years, what’s the likelihood it will shut down? The feds have been trying for years to hold KIUC’s feet to the fire to reduce its Newell’s take, and aside from throwing some money toward picking up downed birds, KIUC hasn't dealt with the problem at its source by undergrounding utility wires in fly zones.

While it’s obvious we need to move away from our near total dependence on foreign oil, it seems that conservation hasn’t been emphasized nearly enough.

Embracing alternatives is tempting and trendy, but if we’re going to end up killing wildlife or making people sick and stressed just because we’re too lazy to hang clothes on the line or too spoiled to turn off the AC, well, that just doesn’t seem very “green” to me.


Anonymous said...

it will be interesting to see if kauai really does start to get moving on some serious solar, wind, and/or hydro projects...and what the opposition is, if any, to such a given project on a particular site

Katy said...

I agree fully that conserving energy has to be primary. I also think that wind power should find a way to avoid bird deaths.

Having said that, though, I really question the aesthetic argument against wind farms. Haven't we all surrendered to ugliness all around us for far more frivolous ends? KFC joints, gas stations, power lines, cars, Wal Mart, Pizza Hut, acres of treeless parking lots - that shit is ugly! Way uglier than something that could be a critical part of saving our ecosystems.

Larry said...

Wind farms are not only an eyesore and kill birds, but suffer badly when wind goes away. This isn't to say they are not useful, but that there are alternatives to that alternative.

I have a suspicion that utilities push wind farms knowing that communities will oppose them. Then they can shrug their shoulders and say "we tried."

Europe is doing well with wave power, which is variable but (if I understand it correctly) always there. Solar is intermittent but doesn't kill birds or annoy people who oppose their takeover of the visual landscape. With geographical diversity and appropriate grid interface devices, solar is less intermittent. Geothermal seems constant also, though in Hawaii there have been cultural objections that ought to be respected. Ocean thermal is also constant though still experimental.

In other words, it doesn't have to be wind, and we don't have to accept bird kills or become players in a game with fossil fuel burners.

Larry said...

I was referring to the current "windmill" style wind generator in the previous comment. Before someone jumps on me about that, I do know that there are other forms coming (e.g., horizontal) that are not eyesores. Those aren't what are being discussed for Hawaii to the best of my knowledge. I don't know if they would kill birds or not.

I even wrote on my own blog about a funny building to be constructed in Dubai with integrated wind generators between floors. Who knows how that will work out, or if it will be completed, but it's an example of alternative thinking.

Anonymous said...

At that windmill hearing, the boys with the windmills dismissed my question about endangering birds as if it was laughable; so dismissive that they were almost going to be allowed to not answer the question.

Anonymous said...

"Let’s hope he’s not talking about resurrecting the Wailua hydro project, or he’s going to run into some serious opposition. We need to be talking about putting more water back in the streams, not diverting it for hydro."

Bravo! Thank you, Joan.
Several years ago I gathered several thousand signatures from tourists as well as residents against this.

When you think about the attraction the waterfalls are to visitors and how the state cares mostly about the visitors, itʻs surprising the state would allow this.

Oh sorry. I was corrected by one of our local ʻgreensʻ that the hydro would run underground...^*&(**^&%%&^**&

Anonymous said...

Hydro is the way to goRemove the water upstream , use it and return it to the stream before the waterfalls.
Besides fewer tourist, less electric needed and less impact on the aina.
Isn't that the ultimate goal?
Fewer people, fewer problems!

Dawson said...

Here's a novel idea: how about less tourism and more ag? How about putting fewer New Yorkers in rental cars and putting more island-grown food on the residents' tables?

How about putting the people who live on Kaua'i first, and the corporations that shovel tourists onto the island and suck dollars off-island second?

Anonymous said...

If I could interupt the Luddites for just a sec and get back to Katy:
As a resident of the Bay Area for several years, you must have driven through the Livermore pass at least once. Once is enough to seriously consider, rather than dismiss, the "aesthetic argument." Livermore's also been a killing ground for hawks for forty years now. The totals for this slaughter are really stunning. Their are also plenty of problems for the ranchers and farmers in the area. I was there when it was the same wide eyed innocent dream it is here now. It was a great idea until it happened.
Joan, your points are excellent; but, it's a swift politically correct current you're paddling against.

Andy K said...

To Anon. March 29, 5:13 PM - I'd be interested in hearing more about the momentum against Wailua Hydro. Last I heard, they were redoing their application because they got rebuffed by DLNR about doing anything in the Wailua River State Park. Please email me at andy {at} great-hikes {dot} com.

Unknown said...

Conservation is always great, but wind power would make a big dent in Kauai's power needs. Gas prices will go back up again...

Modern windmills rarely kill birds because they are geared to turn slowly, while still generating a lot of power. The blades just don't turn fast enough to do much damage.

The windmills near Livermore, CA indeed kill many, but they are of an older design. It isn't really relevant to any discussion of Kauai's alternatives. Here's a good article:

Anonymous said...

yes, conservation first and the alternatives will surface to be efficient,economical and eco friendly. waves and ocean temps should be where are planning to harvest energy for industrial scale. water, wind and sun small scale for residents in small scale, like backyard gardens, will go a long ways in creasing the health and vitality of the residents here in paradise. large scale power to continue our wasteful ways is just wasteful. we can do better that. congratulations to the people of kauai who did not return two incumbents who could bother to show up at any public candidate forums. good riddance dane and ray.

Anonymous said...

Casey, this is why it is relevent:
Those that built Livermore 40 years ago as well as the upgrades over the years and just in the past few, all...and I mean ALL, said the same things that you just wrote.
This industry has a long history of lies and a long line of dreamers who believe them.

Unknown said...

I agree that the industry will always push forward information that makes it look good. I disagree that there has been no technological progress in the past 40 years.

The idea that we can never trust is incredibly pessimistic and leads nowhere. It would be more instructive to look at relevant examples. Consider examples like Denmark: very liberal, environmentally-friendly, and generating more than 15% of its power from windmills.

Anonymous said...

"there has been no technological progress in the past 40 years"

-- whoa i missed that. who said that?

"The idea that we can never trust is incredibly pessimistic and leads nowhere."

-- its easier intellectually and emotionally, thats why we see it

ps - denmark's system works b/ they are able to sell excess wind electricity to germany etc. they could teach us a thing or two for sure tho

Larry said...

Actually, we have a lot to learn. We have sun, we have wind, we have waves. While DBEDT babbles incessantly about Hawaii being a world leader in one thing or another, we clearly lag behind some other places on utilizing our free resources to cut dependence on oil-generated power. Even the cost factor did not motivate us to "leadership."

It ought to be possible to do something... that's the frustration.

Projects hit the newspaper as though they are separate, individual, uncoordinated events, like a traffic accident.

Has anyone priced out an undersea cable from Lanai to Oahu? I wonder where that money will come from? For some reason I have $500 million in my head but I can't remember if that was the number I heard. Does it make sense to pay that, or couldn't Oahu make all the power it needs without major overhead like that to import it?

The Penguin Bank wind/wave farm was a stealth attack, not planned in Hawaii, not wanted, but while we sit around, someone else did something.

I'm not sure what it would take for us to plan alternative energy generation. Maybe it will happen helter-skelter, like development does here.

irk said...

dead link, claw.
how goes the search?