Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Musings: Screaming in the Dark

It wasn’t that early, but a thick cloud cover made it so dark when Koko and I went out walking this morning that I was forced to use a flashlight, something I rarely do, other than to turn it on to alert approaching cars to my presence.

But today I needed it, and was glad I had it, when we approached a densely vegetated valley and heard the snuffling of pigs. I knew they often crossed the road in that spot, so I was on the alert, as was Koko, with her ears up, posture erect, tail high. And then we heard the pigs screaming, and scuffling sounds, and more screaming. If you’ve never heard it, let me tell you it’s a chilling, unnerving sound, especially in the dark.

Koko started whining then and pulling hard at the leash, and making short little barks. The screaming started up again, and I knew a pig(s) was trapped. Then I heard men’s voices and two muffled gunshots and all was quiet, save for Koko, who was now in a small frenzy, wanting nothing more than to check out the action up close. I know the damage pigs do, and I love smoke meat, but still, it was sad.

Almost as sad as hearing some KKCR DJs spreading misinformation on air yesterday. The county has finally begun retrofitting the Vidinha Stadium lights, a fact that came to me in a text from a friend that read: “They are working on the stadium shearwater killers.”

One of the KKCR DJs had seen the contractor at work, too, which prompted him to say on air that since there were no more night football games, it seemed that fixing the lights should be a low priority for the county. This prompted another guy with a microphone to say maybe they were getting rid of the lights, and then they started to read from a Star-Advertiser article about hundreds of wedgetail shearwaters being collected on Oahu, so what was the big deal on Kauai, where only 12 were killed?

Unable to bear it any longer, I had to call in and set them straight: that the county was retrofitting the lights as part of its plea agreement with the Department of Justice so that night games could be played again; that the birds at issue here are Newell’s (`A`o), not the more common wedgies, and that no one really knows how many `A`o died on Kauai this year. They seemed interested, and asked me a few more questions, but when I got off the phone they moved on to talking stink about County Clerk Peter Nakamura, using a recent Andy Parx blog post as their sole reference….

Moving on to other topics, I’ve been watching construction proceed on the ”solar farm” being built on a four-acre site along Olohena Road, near the Kaapuni Road intersection. I guess that makes solar panels the newest crop being “grown” on ag land. Better than mansions, but still….

It certainly won’t be the last alternative energy to be constructed on ag lands, not with massive wind projects planned for Lanai and Molokai so the electricity generated — some 400 MW — can supply Oahu via a transmission line of up to 200 miles. It’s a project of superlatives: the largest energy project in Hawaii history; the largest amount of power brought on line at one time and the longest transmission line ever built at one time in the Islands, according to Henry Curtis of Life of the Land, who already filed the group’s comments in response to an Environmental Impact Statement Preparation Notice (EISPN). As Henry sees it:

[A]s a result of its cost and the size of the renewable systems being planned, it will displace other alternatives that might achieve the same thing, with different technologies, different costs, and with different winners and losers.

Right now the losers are slated to be the folks who actually live on the rural islands of Lanai and Molokai and object to their land, including the sacred area of Keahiakawelo (erroneously known as Garden of the Gods) on Lanai, being industrialized to keep the AC going in Honolulu.

When I interviewed Henry for a recent article on biofuels in Hawaii, he noted HECO (Hawaiian Electric Co.) has officially launched, albeit slowly, a feed-in tariff program, a concept that started in Germany in 1990. Unlike net metering, the utility has to pay for excess power generated by independent users/producers through solar, wind and hydroelectric.

But KIUC managed to get an exemption from implementing the program because, according to Henry, "the co-op is membership based and KIUC said we’ll do what our members want, and they’re not asking for it.”

So if you do want it, you might want to ask. Because as Henry sees it, feed-in tariffs offer a cheap, cost-effective and truly community-based way to get utilities off the grid. It's certainly something to think about before the state moves into a costly and controversial project like the Molokai and Lanai windfarms and undersea cable.


Anonymous said...

Solar panels seem to make more sense on the sunny westside, not on the rainy windward side of the island.

Maybe we could have solar panels instead of a shrimp farm?

Anonymous said...

You can have what ever you want. Design the project, gather investors and off you go.

Anonymous said...

Good grief. That crap land being used for that small windfarm isn't worth squat for farming.

Windmills have tiny footprints. There's nothing stopping the land around them from being grazed or farmed.

There's no perfect answer other than cutting demand via conservation or population decrease, but that only gets you so far. At some point something gets sacrificed -- views, air, water. If you damn each alternative in turn, you end up with what?

Anonymous said...

Kapaa isn't all that wet and cloud.

if you follow that link and look right at the bottom, you see an insolation map of the island. The difference is <10%.

It's better to spread these things around to minimize transmission losses. Producing everything on the west side means bigger lines/greater losses.

Anonymous said...

thnx joan 4 calling in and trying to set the record str8. maybe they'll read your blog more often and not just the rabid reporter :)