Hawaii Agriculture Research Center plans to build Oahu solar farm – Pacific Business News

The nonprofit Hawaii Agriculture Research Center in Kunia on Oahu plans to build a 500-kilowatt solar photovoltaic facility on two acres of land owned by the center and Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., according to a City and County of Honolulu Planning Commission public hearing notice.

Solar Hub Utilities LLC and the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center are named as the applicants.

In June 2012, SPI Solar said it acquired the rights from Solar Hub Utilities to co-develop and build almost 70 solar energy facilities in Hawaii.

The facilities, which will be no more than 500 kilowatts each, are located on Oahu, Maui and the Kona side of the Big Island, and are mostly ground-based with some rooftop and shade structures, SPI Solar previously said.

The solar facilities are expected to feed energy into the power grids operated by Hawaiian Electric Co., Maui Electric Co. and Hawaii Electric Light Co. through the utilities’ feed-in tariff programs.

Hawaii regulators are re-examining the FIT program, which is designed to encourage the addition of more renewable energy projects in the state.

The hearing on the project is scheduled for Sept. 18 at 1:30 p.m. at the Mission Memorial Building located at 550 S. King St. in Honolulu.

Hawaii Agriculture Research Center plans to build Oahu solar farm – Pacific Business News

Lots of interest being shown in Maui waste plant

WAILUKU >> Some of the nation’s biggest names in waste-conversion technologies are interested in building a plant on Maui.

Maui County’s call for a developer to build the plant is getting a lot of bites.

The county last month began seeking bids to convert the island’s solid waste into energy in an effort to cut down on the amount of trash that ends up in the central landfill in Puunene.

As of last week, the Maui News reports that the Department of Environmental Management had received 111 prospective bidders. Those include industry leaders Jacoby Energy, Zero Waste Energy, Novi Energy and Novo Energy. Officials say on the list are numerous companies or individuals listing Hawaii addresses.

Maui generates between 450 tons and 500 tons of waste a day.

Lots of interest being shown in Maui waste plant – Hawaii News – Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Geothermal meeting gets heated

Geothermal wells tap into something much more than a renewable energy source, members of the Pele Defense Fund and other geothermal opponents told the Hawaii County Council on Tuesday evening.

They drill into the goddess Pele herself, a process that can also lead to the release of a “toxic soup” of chemicals from under the surface during leaks and blowouts, the activists said.

At the council meeting attended by over 300 people at the Pahoa High and Intermediate School, the group and other geothermal opponents called for better monitoring of Pahoa’s geothermal plant, protested past leaks, and urged the council not to allow more facilities to be built on the Big Island.

“We’re not getting a fair shake,” said Robert Petricci, who argued that money used on geothermal could be spent on solar power for residents and other forms of energy.

“To say that we have no other choice … is not a true statement.”

The council held the rare meeting at the school to hear concerns on geothermal power from those most affected by the issue, which has been gaining attention since the Hawaii Electric Light Co. announced earlier this year that it would like to more than double its use on the island.

And they got plenty of feedback.

Eighty-one people signed up to speak, with geothermal opponents, many from the Puna District, where the island’s only geothermal power plant is located, dominating the testimony.

Only six of those who signed up wrote that they planned to speak in support of geothermal power.

It took two hours of testimony before one of them made it to the microphone.

The first, Richard Ha, said the island needs to move away from oil-burning power plants to avoid steep increases in rates.

“The only way I can see that being done is through geothermal,” he said.

Lanai solar energy project operating at full capacity

A solar energy project that supplies Lanai with 10 percent of its electricity needs recently began operating at full capacity after a battery system was installed to better integrate the renewable power into the small island electrical grid.

The La Ola photovoltaic solar project, owned by Castle & Cooke, has a maximum output of 1.5 megawatts of direct current, or 1.2 megawatts of after converting the power to alternating current for household use.

Since launch of the La Ola project in December 2008 its output had been restricted because officials were concerned that the power fluctuations associated with solar energy might damage the electrical grid. To address the issue Castle & Cooke installed a battery back-up system developed by Xtreme Power to smooth out the volatility of the solar energy. Completion of the battery installation, orignally scheduled for last summer, was delayed due to technical issues.

When operating at full power the La Ola project has the largest percentage of solar energy penetration of any independent island grid in the world, according to Castle & Cooke.

Lanai solar energy project operating at full capacity – Hawaii News – Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Saving desert tortoises is a costly hurdle for solar projects

Stubborn does not come close to describing the desert tortoise, a species that did its evolving more than 220 million years ago and has since remained resolutely prehistoric.

Its slowpoke take on biological adaptation has exposed modern vulnerabilities. The persnickety reptile is today beset by respiratory infections and prone to disease. Its only defenses are the shell on its back and the scent of its unspeakably foul urine.

At the $2.2-billion BrightSource Energy solar farm in the Ivanpah Valley, the tortoise brought construction to a standstill for three months when excavation work found far more animals than biologists expected.

BrightSource has spent $56 million so far to protect and relocate the tortoises, but even at that price, the work has met with unforeseen calamity: Animals crushed under vehicle tires, army ants attacking hatchlings in a makeshift nursery and one small tortoise carried off to an eagle nest, its embedded microchip pinging faintly as it receded.

History has shown the tortoise to be a stubborn survivor, withstanding upheavals that caused the grand dinosaur extinction and ice ages that wiped out most living creatures. But unless current recovery efforts begin to gain traction, this threatened species could become collateral damage in the war against fossil fuels.

Biofuels become a victim of own success – but not for long | Damian Carrington

Biofuels have become a victim of own success, it appears: for the first time in a decade global production has dropped. Production in 2011 dropped a touch from 1.822m barrels a day in 2010 to 1.819m in 2011, according to IEA statistics (p30) highlighted by the Financial Times.

The key reason has been the rising cost of the feedstock for most biofuels, corn, sugar and vegetable oil. And the main reason for the rising food prices is, many argue, the huge quantity consumed by biofuels. It’s a big business. The global biofuels business would, if a nation, rank 16th in the world for oil production, just above the UK and Libya and a bit below Norway and Nigeria, all major oil producers. In the US, 40% of the corn crop now gets diverted into fuel tanks, giving the US 50% of global biofuel production.

On top of the peaking of production, the US has just phased out some fat subsidies and tariffs protecting the domestic biofuel industry from international competition. So is the biofuels boom over?

In a word, no. The key driving factor is the price of ordinary oil. In the medium and long term, crude prices seem very likely to remain high and vulnerable to shocks, such as the current Iranian situation. “Once oil is over $70 a barrel, conventional and new generation biofuels become cost competitive, certainly with tar sands and shale, and with oil from much of the Middle East and Brazil’s new offshore fields,” said Jeremy Woods, at Imperial College, when I spoke to him in March. Today, Brent crude is at $113. The IEA predicts a 20% rise in biofuel production to 2.2m b/d by 2015, although that is a slower rise than in the past.

This brings us to the environmental crux. “The less biofuel you have the more gasoline you need,” Amrita Sen, oil analyst at Barclays Capital in London, told the FT.

NSW gets world’s toughest wind farm rules

PEOPLE living within two kilometres of proposed wind farms will have the right to veto them, under a NSW government proposal.

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Brad Hazzard says NSW remains committed to being part of the Federal Government’s 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020, despite proposing what he has described as the world’s toughest wind-farm guidelines.

Under the proposal, a company wanting to set up a wind farm in an area where landowner consent has not been given will have to go to an independent regional planning panel if there is community opposition. ”That means 100 per cent of neighbours have to be happy within that two-kilometre zone,” Mr Hazzard told reporters in Sydney.

Mr Hazzard said he hoped the idea would find a balance between residents living near wind turbines and supporters of renewable energy.

”Today I am announcing that the NSW coalition government is putting out for public discussion some of the toughest wind-farm guidelines in the country, possibly the world,” he said.

The Victorian coalition government this year gave residents within a two-kilometre radius a right of veto over wind turbines.

But Mr Hazzard said the NSW proposal was different to Victoria’s and that wind-farm proponents would get a bigger say.

Planning panel approves Auwahi wind farm

WAILUKU – The Maui Planning Commission unanimously approved permits Tuesday for Auwahi Wind Energy to build and operate eight 428-foot-tall wind turbines on Ulupalakua Ranch land.

Two dozen people testified on the proposed special use and special management area permits, and none were opposed to the project, according to planner Ann Cua. Some testifiers shared concerns about traffic, safety and visual impacts of the wind farm.

The project would have the capacity to generate 21 megawatts, which would be enough power to supply electricity to 10,000 homes. The $140 million project’s infrastructure includes an energy storage system; a 9-mile, 34.5-kilovolt power line; an interconnection substation; a microwave communication tower; and a construction access road. Each generator pad would require about 2.4 acres of cleared area, while the entire project would cover 1,466 acres, almost entirely on Ulupalakua Ranch land.

The project aims to provide power for Maui island only. It is not part of the “Big Wind” project, which calls for wind farms on Lanai and Molokai to provide power to Oahu via an underwater cable.

Commission members attached conditions to Auwahi’s permits, including one that requires Auwahi Wind, a division of Sempra, to work with the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and Ka Ohana O Kahikinui Inc. to develop a community benefits package. The groups would develop a plan and sign a memorandum of agreement addressing the roadway improvement and other needs of the Kahikinui homestead community.

The project area contains more than 1,100 archaeological features on 174 sites, and the developer has designed the turbines and power lines to avoid culturally sensitive burials and heiau.

Lightning strike at geothermal well causes small release of hydrogen sulfide gas

lightning strike at a geothermal well in Pahoa today temporarily shut down operations and caused a miniscule release of hydrogen sulfide, Hawaii island firefighters said.

A resident in the Lani Puna subdivision reported the smell of hydrogen sulfide — a poisonous, flammable gas that smells like rotten eggs — about 1:35 p.m., firefighters said. The subdivision is west of Puna Geothermal Venture, a power plant that creates energy by tapping volcanic heat.

Firefighters arrived at the scene and found a power plant representative taking air readings of 62 parts per billion of hydrogen sulfide. Firefighters took their own readings and recorded less than 0 parts per million of hydrogen sulfide, well below the evacuation level of 10 parts per million, firefighters said.

A spokesperson for the power plant told firefighters that a lightning strike caused the shut down at the power plant and a small release of hydrogen sulfide, firefighters said. Power was restored and the plant’s operations were returned to normal.

Lightning strike at geothermal well causes small release of hydrogen sulfide gas – Hawaii News – Honolulu Star-Advertiser