Windmills as a Source of Green Power for Hawaii
We must remember that not all resources are renewable. Renewable resources are those defined as resources that can, through natural processes, be replaced regularly (for instance, oxygen in the atmosphere is produced by the earth’s plants; water is typically replaced through weather patterns, and historically, many food resources were considered to be renewable (a balance of resources were taken per year so that the offspring would replace those used.) Nonrenewable resources, however, are finite, and not replaceable within a realistic time frame (e.g. natural gas, coal, etc.). It is interesting to note that many so-called renewable resources can also move into the category of non-renewable due to overuse (overfishing, deforestation, loss of ground water, etc.). (Khanna, 2003).
The Turning Point — Transition to Renewable Energy — The bleak reality is that the age of oil has dominated global energy needs for the past century. This has caused a number of social, cultural, and economic issues. While there may be enough oil to last fifty to one-hundred years, the ecological consequences of doing so would change the entire sphere of quality of life and health issues. It is thus necessary from an economic and ecological perspective to transition to renewable energy sources; after all, the same technological revolution and expertise that has so transformed the Internet and global communication paradigm can also change the way humans use and store wind, biomass, and solar energy — which are 6,000 times more abundant on an annual basis than fossil fuels (WorldWatch Institute, intro). The 21st century must become a move away from fossile fuels, much as the 20th century was shaped by them. The computer chip market proved that conventional markets can shift quickly and decisively as lifestyles and market demand changes. It often seems that people vote with their pocketbooks, and if fossil-fuel prices rise enough, the impetus to change will likely increase.
Summary of Renewable Energy Resources – By definition, a renewable energy resource is one that can be constantly used because it replenshishes itself. For instance, wind power, solar power, geothermal energy, hydropower, bioenergy, wave (ocean) energy all are renewable but have not been developed enough yet because of the historical use of inexpensive fossil fuels. Wind power, of course, has been used for centuries to power sailing vessels, windmills, etc., but the idea of modern wind power is a manner in which the energy produced by the movement of the wind is turned into power (electricity) using a propeller like turbine. Currently, wind-power is on the rise, especially in Europe, but still only produces 1% of the world’s electricity. It is inexpensive, even the turbines, relative to the output, however, to be effective, a large amount of real estate is necessary to provide adequate room for the propeller transports (Matthew, 2006). For instance, wind power is utilized much more in Europe than the United States, mostly out of perception and willing ness to invest.
Windpower for Hawaii — Because of the location of Hawaii along the path of numerous trade wind patterns, it is an ideal location to open wind farms and product electricity for the islands (See Appendix A). The interisland Wind project, for instance, proposed to connect up to 400 megawatts of energy from Molokai and Lanai to Oahu using an undersea cable. This is only one part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Incentive of 70% of the Islands’ energy needs using clean energy by 2030. In addition, there is a 30 megawatt farm being built on Oahu’s North Shore, a project in partnership with the Federal Government’s Department of Energy. When finished, it will produce enough energy to power 8,000 Oahu homes and reduce carbon dramatically. The Kaheawa Wind Power farm expansion now has 14 more turbines which will make it a 50 megawatt production center with some capability for overnight battery storage. Even with the advances in technology, the idea of using wind — a free resource that simply needs funding for equipment and maintenance, is increasingly important (“Renewable Energy Sources,” 2010).
Other companies are exploring the combination of solar and wind to produce energy for smaller projects. For example, alternative power generators could drive down the need for energy if just 20% of corporations used renewable energy. One case in point is the Parker Rang, using a combination grid and tracking system that literally turns cells toward the sun and aims the wind turbines. This system was built in just 5 months, and will completely pay for itself within 10 years. After that, they will provide 20 more years of free electricity and save 70,000 barrels of oil. Already, Parker Ranch is saving 50% of its $20,000/month energy bill (“Hawaii Small-Scale Energy Projects,” 2010).
Because of the large amount of tourism and agriculture, Hawaii needs a great deal of energy. Even a 10-20% reduction offers huge cost and environmental savings. The teaming of Federal and State governments with major corporations and larger businesses seems idea to move these wind projects from theory to practice. For example, in 2006, Hawaii, the U.S. Energy Department, and Shell partnered with Ulupalakua Ranch in Maui to build a $200 million project with 20 turbines producing 40 megawatts of power. The ranch does not need all that power, so it will “farm the wind” and provide up to 20% of Maui’s total energy needs, benefit the ranch for its investment, Shell, and the government (“Maui to House Large Wind Power Farm,” 2006).
Experts hope that these cooperative projects will be guides for the rest of the country in the ease and practicality of wind power. Certainly, there are areas of the country where this is not feasible. However, vase areas of the West, the Midwest non-agrarian areas, and even areas in which turbines can be place alongside agricultural fields have the potential not only to lower America’s total carbon footprint, but to drastically reduce the dependence on foreign oil in a way that is win-win for all. The technological issues have such a momentum now that the price per megawatt has dropped by almost 15% just in the last few years; and compared to a decade ago, over 40%. Wind energy is inexpensive, clean, some say unsightly, but compared to a world with power rationing, one of the best ways we can work with the environment to produce clean power without negative consequences (“Hawaii Wind Energy News,” 2010).
Appendix A — Hawaiian Island Average Wind Speed Map
Particularly note the sections in blue and red which are the highest density speeds. Note there is a good section of Kauai, Molokai, parts of Maui, and the sourthern side of Oahu.
“Hawaii Small-Scale Energy Projects,” (2010). Power-Technology.com. Cited in:
“Hawaii Wind Energy News,” (2010). Wind Energy Industry Today. Cited in:
Matthew, S. (2006), Wind Energy: Fundamentals, Resource Analysis, and Economics, Springer.
“Maui to House Large Wind Power Farm,” (July 3, 20006). MSN News. Cited in:
Neha, Khanna, (2003), “On the Economics of Nonrenewable Resources,” [Ed. John M. Gowdy],
in Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), Developed under the Auspices of the UNESCO, Eolss, cited in http://www.eolss.net.
“Renewable Energy Sources,” (2010). Hawaii’s Energy Future. Cited in:
WorldWatch Institute. (2009). State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World. New York: W.W. Norton.
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