Replacing Hawaii’s dirty diesel powered generators that provide the electricity necessary to run the islands isn’t an easy job. The state’s current plan is to feed Oahu, the state’s most populated island, through an undersea cable, from the wind farms on the islands Molokai and Lanai. Furthermore, the plan, out of which only the cable costs $1 billion, involved building two wind farms across more than 12,000 acres.
Initial assessments of the sea floor don’t show any difficulties in running the cable through the islands. Still, they are verifying that technically everything is in place to set the cable safely.
The projected inter-island cable isn’t the first of its kind, since Long Island is fed 300 MW of electricity all the way from Connecticut, but the cable linking the Hawaiian islands is the first to carry renewable energy. There have even been discussions as to how they could link the cables to Maui.
While oil spills are an issue at the moment and people want to avoid them, the idea of transporting the power through cables and not diesel fuel has flourished overnight. “It has made people more willing to listen. Would you rather look at an oil spill or a wind farm?,” said Joshua B.Y. Strickler, a facilitator of Renewable Energy Programs with Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative.
“It’s a hedge against oil at the end of the day. Our bet in Hawaii is it’s going to go up,” he also said. “When the Saudis sneeze, we say gesundheit.”
The possibility of locally implementing tidal power had been discussed, but the engineering behind it lacks possibilities to make it safe and durable. Honolulu gives another example of using the ocean to save energy. They work on implementing an air conditioning system that cools the buildings using seawater, which is then recycled back into the ocean, saving 77 million kWh a year and eliminating the 14 MW of peak capacity, whose addition to the existing grid had been planned.
The state of Hawaii has an ambitious plan of providing the population with 70 percent renewable energy by 2030. Running on fossil fuels is senseless, even if the project doesn’t seem to explain itself financially for the moment. The gains will be seen in the many years to come.