HECO puts efforts into solar and wind power
In Charles Memminger's "Honolulu Lite" column (Star-Bulletin, June 7
), he says it's "weird that HECO would appear to be cool to Castle & Cooke's hot solar farm idea (on Lanai)." But Star-Bulletin reporter Allison Schaefers' excellent coverage of that announcement
"Maui Electric Co. ... is currently negotiating with Castle & Cooke to purchase the solar power and supply it to Lanai's community through MECO's electrical grid, said Ed Reinhardt, president of MECO.
"Maui Electric Company fully supports the installation of renewable energy sources, and Lanai's unique location will create a model for future projects,' Reinhardt said."
Maui Electric is a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric. In short, the premise that we are cool on Castle and Cooke's plans is wrong.
Hawaiian Electric strongly supports solar power, both for customers to heat water for individual homes and to directly create electricity for any home or business that chooses to invest in rooftop photovoltaic panels. In fact, Hawaiian Electric will shortly have our own PV array at Ward Avenue to get power from the sun and be able to advise our customers when they ask us how it works. That's been widely reported, too.
Regarding Castle and Cooke's longer term plans to look into a $750 million, 300- to 400-megawatt wind farm, Hawaiian Electric currently uses electricity from wind farms on Maui and Hawaii Island and we are looking for Oahu sites. We strongly support more wind energy for the islands, but it would be irresponsible for us not to note that wind energy is "as available," because the wind does not blow constantly or uniformly. Wind energy is part of the solution, but it's not the only solution. Also, having a large wind farm on Lanai poses other problems, including the need to move that electricity to other islands where it would be needed. In studies during the last two decades, the state has learned that moving massive amounts of electricity between islands via undersea cables would be very challenging, with heavy environmental impacts and very high costs to customers.
Still, we welcome Castle & Cooke's decision to re-examine these issues in light of possible changing technologies. We support their solar, wind and biofuels efforts on Lanai and look forward to working with them.
In addition, the Hawaiian Electric utilities' commitment to renewable energy already includes using renewable power from four wind farms, at least four hydro facilities, a major geothermal plant, and biomass from bagasse and the garbage-to-energy facility (H-Power). The 110-megawatt biodiesel plant to be built in Campbell Industrial Park will be the largest renewable facility in Hawaii. One of the first such facilities in the world, the biofueled plant will nearly double the megawatts of renewable facilities statewide.
The reality is that we must reduce our use of oil, period. And the fact that we have perhaps even greater challenges in reducing the use of fossil fuels in the transportation area does not mean that Hawaiian Electric will relax in any way in our drive to lessen the use of oil for electricity.
Robbie Alm is senior vice president for public affairs at Hawaiian Electric Company Inc.