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Saturday, September 17, 2011
Panos: Is Sopogy Hawaii’s Solyndra?
By Panos Prevedouros PhD @ 11:25 PM :: 8906 Views :: Energy, Tax Credits

by Panos Prevedouros PhD

Neil Wants Expensive Solar Power

Hawaii has adopted mandates for HECO to include renewable energy. There is a technology battle between Concentrated Solar Panel (CSP) and Photo-voltaic (PV). This battle is basically played with your money. Read on!

Why should Hawaii pay more for electricity generated from CSP than it does from PV? Hawaii’s leaders have proposed that HECO pay CSP developers up to 60% more than it pays PV developers for the same power.[i] Even a modest size CSP facility will cost Hawaii tens of millions of dollars more in tax credits and electricity purchases. It is an obvious and unnecessary waste of money.

PV wins the Solar Technology Battle: Government and industry analysts say that CSP (also known as “solar thermal” technology) is losing the solar energy cost battle and is doomed. [ii],[iii] The project developers are cancelling numerous CSP projects or converting them to PV.[iv]

Hawaii’s Experience with CSP is even worse. Hawaii’s first CSP facility cost approximately $20 million dollars to build and has a tiny capacity of 100 kW.[v],[vi] The cost to build the CSP facility in Kona was approximately $200/watt while PV is less than $7/watt. Actual electrical output from the Kona facility has not been made public.

Outrageous cost! HECO buys renewable energy produced by geothermal, wind, PV, and biomass local suppliers at 12 to 22 cents per KWh. With the proposed CSP rate, HECO will be forced to buy solar energy at 31.6 cents per KWh. Such discriminatory favoritism is unjustified and insulting to electric power customers. For reference, the average price of electricity sold to mainland households is 11 cents per KWh. HECO’s rate is approximately three (3) times higher.

Bottom Line: Hawaii should not subsidize an expensive and unproven CSP technology when proven and less expensive PV options readily exist. President Obama has tried to spin yet another one half billion dollar mistake but his own green friends won't let him: Solyndra bankruptcy was disaster waiting to happen. Neil has been informed multiple times about Sopogy. What’s he going to do about it?

Call to Action: The Governor and the PUC are preparing to approve a “highway robbery” deal for a multi-million dollar CSP deployment at Kalaeloa on Oahu. This deployment must not be approved. Call the Governor and the PUC and ask them to step away from this very costly proposal.

Jade Wants an Expensive Train

Jade Moon used her MidWeek column, plenty of emotion and wrong information to paint a favorable picture for Honolulu’s proposed elevated rail which she wants and supports. (Read it here.)

Jade issued a call to action because the pro-railers are not being heard: “I think it’s time for rail supporters to come back out and make a little noise. Make yourselves heard again.”

At the same time, the City shamelessly uses tax monies to produce, print and mail hundreds of thousands of glossy fliers to households monthly, it produces TV programs including a regular spot on O’lelo, it gives rail propaganda shows with food and music at high schools and colleges, and Inouye, mayor or HART have at least one press release or pro-rail event every week. This is not enough noise for Jade.

Moreover, the Star-Advertiser routinely rejects anti-rail letters and MidWeek has refused my multiple offers to print my articles. Councilman Tom Berg is being shadowed by Go-Rail-Go every time he arranges a town-hall meeting with rail on the agenda. Recently pro-rail unions flooded the Land Use Commission hearings on the destruction of prime agricultural land by Ho’opili, a transit oriented development (TOD) tied to the rail project. But none of this is enough is Jade. She wants to make sure that anti-rail voices are swamped.

Our future demands that we protect our environment, that we have viable transportation choices. Clean mass transit must be one of the options on the menu” she claims.

The energy required just to build the foundations, columns, structures and trains involved will give a fatal stroke to anyone willing to quantify the project’s energy consumption and pollution for construction alone. National statistics clearly show that hybrid cars are less energy demanding and polluting than heavy rail, and 4-cylinder cars are not far behind the hybrids. That’s by mainland standards which include substantial nuclear and hydro (clean) power and less than 3% oil-for-electricity. In contrast, over 95% of Oahu’s electricity comes from oil and coal with little end in sight. It is the dirtiest electricity in the U.S.

Remember that a parked car does not pollute. A train system runs about a third full for most of the time. Plus station lights, elevators, escalators, ticket machines, controllers, air-conditioners are on all the time. What a continuous waste of resources!

Here are a couple of green transportation alternatives for Jade: Telecommuting and Bicycling. Since the turn of the millennium, more Americans telecommute than take trains. Two years before the 2008 “rail referendum” on Oahu there was another one about bikeways and a whopping 72% were in favor. What did Mufi I (Hannemann) and Mufi II (Carlisle) do about bikeways?

It would revitalize the construction industry…” No, it’ll keep some of them busy for a few years. Then what? Construction megaprojects are not sustainable. All they do is create “bubbles” of temporary growth.

“…stimulate business and economic development and provide opportunities for employment.” Maybe, but correctly spent, six billion dollars can go way further for Oahu. Here is a suggestion: A $6 Billion Plan for Hawaii's Long-term Prosperity.

Listen to the voices of the people who are tired of traffic hell.” I’d agree that by local standards the Kapolei to town commute is what Jade calls “traffic hell.” But Oahu’s congestion ranking is between 49 and 52 worse in the U.S. according to the Texas Transportation Institute congestion index estimations: Mobility Data for Honolulu (2004 to 2009.) This does not justify major national expenditure on Oahu’s modest problem.

My biggest fear for rail is that it will somehow stumble into a legal no man’s land.” Jade got this right. Even if the Cayetano, et al. suit fails, even if the Bombardier complaints fail, there will be dozens of eminent domain and other suits. Big projects typically get stuck. One heiau in Halawa did it for the H-3 Freeway. How’s several football field sized stations 40 ft. up in the air in Waipahu, Kalihi, and Kakaako?

Rail for Oahu has been, is and will be a losing proposition. Its guaranteed features include manini traffic relief, manini and short-lived net economic boost, huge visual and aina impacts, huge cost to implement, and huge traffic and court tie-ups.

As always, I am thankful for your support in defraying expenses and keeping us going. Mahalo!



PS1 – I spent 11 days visiting several cities in China: Shanghai, Nanjing, Harbin, Jilin, Chanchung and Beijing in August. Here are some interesting and unusual photos: (1) Wow traffic observations, (2) Sample of China's Transportation, and (3) The Great Food of China. And I will be posting more on my Facebook.

PS2 – I have developed a presentation on Europe, US, China and India Comparisons. It has great implications to us in Hawaii, our country and our planet. I’d be delighted to present it to your hui.

NOTES for “Neil Wants Expensive Solar Power”







Panos D. Prevedouros, PhD

Professor of Civil Engineering

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