What is the Matter with Renewable Energy?
Energy generation follows a line starting from low energy sources to high energy sources. Wind, solar and water (for hydroelectric power) constitute the low end and coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear are, in that order, constitute the high.
Getting power from low or diffuse energy sources require a high matter commitment in that it takes more physical mass and land area.
A hydroelectric dam requires tons of concrete and floods a river valley. Commercial wind and solar power generation require extensive land area and multiple generation points to gather the diffused energy. Even more land and mass are needed to store power in shipping container sized batteries.
High energy sources such as what the Kahe and Waiau Power Plants achieves with oil, or the even better ratios if they were converted to natural gas, have a much smaller material need and land area footprint.
This contrast between the matter and land area required to achieve the same results, is the choice facing the consumer of generated power.
The residence of Kahuku on the North Shore did not clearly understand the massive change to their visual environment that the construction of industrial wind generation would bring. That the industrial use of open space in Kahuku for wind and the Waianae Valley for solar begins to flesh out some of the real cost of renewables.
The question that needs addressing for a 100% renewable energy system is how much matter and space is required? All present batteries systems cannot supply long term storage. This means you need a system designed to supply your average energy use based on your lowest power generation days. So, you must have a renewable energy infrastructure that is two to four times bigger than what would be required on your high energy production days.
The next question is generating more power. Oahu and all the islands need to increase power to stay prosperous. The massive increase in power to supply rail transit and more so if there is a mass conversion to electric vehicles (electric vehicle charging is the equivalent of 2 days of a typical house power consumption) are just two of the reasons, we need to plan on generating more electrical power into the future.
Neither can an overpriced and under-performing power system be rationalized based on climate change.
Climate change if and how it takes place is 100% beyond anything the Hawaii state legislature or HECO can mitigate. The Co2 output of China and India dwarfs anything Hawaii can add to global averages outside of the particulates thrown into the atmosphere by a Big Island volcanic eruption.
What Hawaii needs is an expanding economy, technological advancement, a lowered cost of living and an abundant and secure power supply. This is what’s required to have both the resources and wherewithal to deal with whatever the future may hold.
A large part of Oahu economy is based on the beauty of the island. Looking up Waimea valley and seeing the back of an industrial wind generator or coming around the corner to see the giant windmills looming over Kahuku doesn’t portend a good future for Oahu’s tourism if this trend continues.
Oahu’s energy future needs to be based on common sense planning not ideological mandates. We need to take a holistic view of balancing power requirement, while preserving the scenic environment. We also need to factor in the ultimate cost the consumer pays and the need for future energy expansion.