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UH hired to find best routes for interisland power cables


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POSTED: Sunday, June 07, 2009

A $1.5 million survey of the ocean floor will be conducted to determine the best routes for undersea cables to deliver power from windfarms on Lanai and Molokai to other islands.

The state Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism has hired the University of Hawaii's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology to do the survey.

“;This cable is one of the major components of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative,”; said Ted Peck, the state's energy program administrator.

The cable would be able to connect large wind farms proposed for Lanai and Molokai with the power grids of those two islands, as well as grids on the more heavily populated isles of Maui and Oahu.

The cable will be at least 30 miles long and with a capacity of at least 400 megawatts to integrate a proposed 200 megawatt wind farm on Lanai with a 200 megawatt wind farm on Molokai.

The survey will be paid for with Federal Petroleum Violation Escrow funds, approved by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The survey will be the first step in a process that will allow the cable to qualify for federal economic stimulus funds, said Peck.

“;We wanted to get these funds to Hawaii and circulating in the local economy as quickly as possible,”; Peck said.

David Murdock, a billionaire who owns 98 percent of Lanai, has proposed creating a wind farm on the island.

His plan is to build 125 turbines spread over 10,000 to 12,000 acres and then export the power they generate to Oahu via undersea cables.

First Wind has committed $50 million to help the community buy the closed-down Molokai Ranch, which covers one-third of the island, including the area of the proposed wind farm.

First Wind and Castle & Cooke Hawaii agreed to build smaller wind projects together rather than competing to develop bigger wind farms. This allowed them to forgo a bidding war.

The companies say their collaborative effort may end after the early phase, and then they would start competing for the ability to provide Hawaii's renewable power.