Tag Archives: Geothermal Working Group

Testimony to OHA Supporting Geothermal

Richard Ha writes:

OHA is contemplating investing in geothermal. I am in favor of that, for the reasons that I mention below.

I sent the following testimony to OHA:

***

Subject:  OHA testimony re: Huena Power Co/IDG

April 17, 2013

Office of Hawaiian Affairs
711 Kapiolani St.
Honolulu, HI  96813

Aloha Chair Machado and Board members of OHA:

The Geothermal working group report, which Wallace Ishibashi and I co-chaired, recommended that geothermal be the primary base power for the Big Island. OHA was represented on the working group by trustee Robert Lindsey.

I believe that OHA should participate in geothermal development because it is an income source for OHA to provide services to the Hawaiian people. And it can influence the course of our people’s history.

Geothermal-generated electricity is proven technology, affordable and environmentally benign. The Big Island is expected to be over the “hot spot” for 500,000 to a million years so its price is expected to be stable.

The Pahoa School Complex in Puna, at 89%, has the highest number of students in the State who participate in the free/reduced school lunch program. Participation is related to family income. The Big Island has had electricity rates 25% higher than O‘ahu’s for as long as anyone can remember. So a large portion of the school budget, that should go to education, goes instead to pay for electricity. Yet the best predictor of family income is education. A lower electricity rate, generated by geothermal, will have a direct effect on education. And if OHA, through its influence, emphasizes education in the community, there will be even more positive results.

Rising electricity rates act like a giant regressive tax. The folks on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder are affected disproportionately. Those who can leave the grid, leave. Those who cannot leave end up paying more for the grid. Too often those folks will be Hawaiians.

Hawaiians should be able to live in their own land. Yet there are more Hawaiians living outside of the State, because they needed to move elsewhere to find jobs to raise their families. Exporting our children is the same as losing our land. OHA is in a position to drive the agenda so Hawaiians can afford to live at home.

During the development of the Geothermal Working Group report, Rockne Freitas arranged a meeting with Carl Bonham, Executive Director of the University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization (UHERO), and some staff.

I asked Dr. Bonham two key questions: “Is it fair to say that if the Big Island were to rely on geothermal energy for its primary base power as oil prices rises, shouldn’t we become more competitive to the rest of the world?” He said that was fair to say.

I asked: “Then is it fair to say that our standard of living would rise?” He said: “Yes.”

I am a farmer on the Hamakua coast with family ties — Kamahele — in lower Puna. I farmed bananas at Koa‘e in the late 70s and early 80s. I have been to five Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) conferences. I went to learn and to position my business for the future. I found that the world has been using two and three times the amount of oil than it has been finding for more than 30 years and that trend continues. The price of oil has quadrupled in the last 10 years.

Until the first ASPO conference, I was just minding my own business, being a banana farmer. But what I learned became my kuleana. I did not ask for it.

Until last year, when Kamehameha Schools sent Giorgio Calderone and Jason Jeremiah and Noe Kalipi went to the conference, I was the only person from Hawai‘i to attend. The subjects were always data driven and conclusions could be duplicated.

We have the resources here to dodge the bullet. We need to drive a clear agenda for the benefit of all the people, not just a few.

One of the controversial issues in the Puna district is H2S gas. I went to Iceland and sat in the Blue Lagoon, where a geothermal plant within a quarter mile emits geothermal steam into the atmosphere. Millions of tourists visit the Blue Lagoon for health purposes.

There are small geothermal wells within the city that are used to heat the residences and businesses. If you did not know what to look for, you wouldn’t even know they were there. I walked by and touched the walls.

A long term study of the effects of H2S on people who suffer from asthma was just completed. It was done in Rotorua. They found no correlation of asthma to daily ambient H2S levels of 20,000 parts per billion over a three-year period. The study indicated that there might be a beneficial effect because it relaxes the smooth muscles. See link above.

The human nose can detect levels of H2S at incredibly low levels: 5 parts per billion. The Department of Health requires reporting when levels exceed 25 parts per billion. The Rotorua study was done for three years at average levels that were 20,000 parts per billion. OSHA allows geothermal plant workers to work in a 10,000 parts per billion environment for 8 hours per day without a mask.

Wallace Ishibashi and I went to the Philippines with the delegation that Mayor Kenoi put together. We visited a geothermal plant that sat on a volcano that last erupted 100,000 years ago. Mauna Kea last erupted 4,000 years ago. We may have more resources than we know.

The Phillipines and Hawai‘i started geothermal exploration at the same time. They now have in excess of 1,200MW, while we have 38MW. We are so far behind them, a supposedly Third World country, that it is embarrassing.

OHA is in a unique position to be able to influence the future. It is as if we are getting ready to duplicate that first voyage from the south so many years ago. It’s not whether or not we are going. It’s who should go, and what should we put in the canoes? Mai‘a maoli? Popoulu? What else?

Richard Ha
President, Mauna Kea Banana Company

I am a member of the Hawaii Clean Energy Steering Committee, Board of Agriculture and farmer for 35 years.

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Kenoi Can Guide Big Island into Uncharted Future

Richard Ha writes:

Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi has consistently made the point that in this changing world, we, too, must change. He pointed that out again recently: That our highest-in-the-nation electricity cost – which is 25 percent higher than O‘ahu’s – is too heavy a burden for the Big Island’s people to bear. To help the most defenseless among us, as well as our local businesses, we need lower cost renewable electricity; not higher cost electricity.

The mayor has consistently been in favor of finding lower cost alternatives to the status quo (which is, of course, dependency on
expensive fossil fuels). The Geothermal Working Group, co chaired by Wally Ishibashi and me and authorized by the Hawai‘i State Legislature, could not have carried out its work without the mayor’s backing. It was an unfunded mandate implemented by volunteers. The mayor just told his people, “Make sure they have what they need.”

Mayor Kenoi is a quick learner; one who gets both the big picture and the small one.

He led a delegation to Ormoc City, Philippines to see how 700 MW of geothermal energy was developed in a place with a population size similar to the Big Island. I was on that trip and saw how the Philippines is way ahead of us in assessing and utilizing its resource. It’s a great credit to Filipino leaders that, as the Philippines incorporates more geothermal into its grid, the country will be very well-positioned to cope in a world of rising oil
prices.

The Philippines produces a large percentage of the food its people eat, too, as compared to Hawai‘i. Our trip also resulted in a university-to-university relationship.

It’s not that geothermal is the only solution. But because we have geothermal here on the Big Island, that fact-finding trip was a responsible thing to do. That was a very practical, useful and cost effective trip Billy led.

Sitting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawai‘i is vulnerable to events out of its control, and is sailing into uncharted waters. It’s similar to when our early predecessors sailed up from the south to find a better life.

Who can I see leading today’s expedition that carries the Big Island to a better tomorrow?

I see Billy Kenoi as that leader.

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My Talk at the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit

Richard Ha writes:

At the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit yesterday, I gave a bit of history about how the Geothermal Working Group Report evolved. The Big Island Labor Alliance’s geothermal committee was formed four years ago as an off-shoot of the effort to bring the Thirty Meter Telescope to the Big Island. Both projects had the same objective: To help Big Island families have a better life.

I became involved because it was all clear to me, having been to Peak Oil conferences and knowing that oil prices were probably going to keep on climbing until it became unaffordable. I had the same motivation as the Big Island Labor Alliance: To lower electricity rates for Big Island families.

Three years ago, at the request of the geothermal committee of the BILA, Senator Russell Kokubun introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 99. It asked the question – Could geothermal be used as the primary base load electrical power for the Big Island? In the final report, the answer was yes.

The report is a consensus of all the group’s members.

You can find the final Geothermal Working Group final report on the County of Hawai‘i R & D Department website. Or on my blog.

Here is my talk:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the working group consist of eleven members with the Mayor of Hawaii County designating the chairperson, including:

The Hawaii County Energy Coordinator, or designee, me; One member designated by Hawaii Electric Light Company, Jay Ignacio; One member designated by the Big Island Labor Alliance, co chair Wally Ishibashi; One member designated by the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board, Inc.,Barry Mizuno; One member designated by the Chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission, Big island rep came to listen; The Hawaii Island Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee, or designee, Bob Lindsey; One member designated by the Director of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, Andrea Gill from the energy office; One member designated by the Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, none; One member who is a representative of a non-profit, environmental group to be selected by the President of the Senate, Nelson Ho-Sierra Club; One member who is a representative of a cultural organization to be selected by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Patrick Kahawaiola’a-pres of the Keaukaha Community Ass’n; and One member representing West Hawaii to be selected by the Mayor of Hawaii County, Jacqui Hoover.;

SCR 99 established the Geothermal Working Group to evaluate geothermal energy as the primary source of baseload power for electricity in the County of Hawaii. An analysis of technical data and of expert testimony provides convincing rationale to develop local renewable energy plants and transition away from the county’s dependence on petroleum-fueled generators for baseload electricity. Each stage of development must consider public safety and environmental concerns. Funding for research is required to ensure that the transition never harms people, property, or wildlife and that a robust and reliable supply of energy is always available. It is critically important to the welfare of all Hawaii residents that we begin to develop local energy immediately.

Advantages of geothermal:

  • It is an indigenous resource
  • It generates revenue for the state
  • It generates community benefits
  • It provides stable power
  • It is less than half the cost of any of the renewable energy alternatives.
  • The Big Island will be over the geothermal “hot spot” for 500,000 to 1 million years

Potential adverse impacts are listed below:

– Interference with worship of the Goddess Pele

– Interference with certain Native Hawaiian practices – Rainforest destruction

– Possible health and safety impacts

– Disruption of the way of life for nearby residents

– Hydrogen sulfide and other air quality issues

– Noise

– Increased strain on an inadequate infrastructure – Impact on native fauna and flora

       IV. Recommended Steps for Hawaii State Legislators

– Make the allocation of geothermal royalties more transparent to show how benefits come back to the community. Designate the records of the allocations to be public domain.

– Establish a community advisory board to offer suggestions to the DLNR about how royalties generated by geothermal power plants are spent. The advisory board should be members of the communities that host existing or future geothermal power plants and/or those who are most impacted by the development of geothermal energy.

– Encourage the DLNR to use geothermal royalties to identify promising geothermal sites and to further develop the resource.

– In light of the probability that oil will reach $200 per barrel (Lloyds of London), the legislature is requested to commission a study to show the economic impact of various prices of oil.

– Facilitate development of geothermal with a critical review of the geothermal permitting process, regulatory capabilities, and possible investment incentives.

The Geothermal Working Group’s principal findings

– Geothermal is a renewable resource indigenous to the island of Hawaii that is dissociated from the price volatility of petroleum fuels.

– Geothermal can be a key component in a diversified energy portfolio for Hawaii County, both for the electrical grid and for transportation.

– In Hawaii, geothermal is a firm-energy resource at lower cost than fossil fuel. – Developing multiple geothermal plants is the most prudent approach.

– Geothermal has the potential to supply baseload electricity; long term reliability and the ability to supply grid management services (currently supplied by conventional fossil-fueled power plants) must be demonstrated in order to consider geothermal as the primary energy resource.

– With geothermal power plants, agricultural fertilizers, hydrogen, oxygen, and business-enterprise power can be produced for off-peak rates during the hours of curtailed electrical demand.

Comment by Robert Rapier

Or a simpler way to put it is this. It may be that the U.S. economy and America’s per capita oil consumption of 23 barrels of oil per person per year can’t grow in the face of $100 oil. But if countries like China and their 2 barrels of oil per person per year continue to grow while buying $100 oil, then we have truly entered a new paradigm. What may happen is that both China and the U.S. end up consuming 5 or 8 barrels per person per year, which could still grow China’s economy, while the U.S. gets there by shrinking ours. China’s growth is probably the most worrisome factor because we will be competing against them for global oil supplies.

In closing: The Big Island is paying some of the highest electricity rates in the state. Our communities are struggling, and yet the Big Island will be sitting over the hot spot for 500,000 to 1 million years.

What is taking us so long?

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Speaking at the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit

Richard Ha writes:

At the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo 2012, which starts Monday in Honolulu, I’ll be part of a panel discussion where we each give a 10-minute talk, followed by questions and answers.

About the Summit and Expo

The 2012 Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo will be held at the Hawai‘i Convention Center, August 13 – 15.

 The event is the preeminent meeting place for international leaders and energy experts at the forefront of the clean energy movement. Securing energy independence and developing a clean energy industry that promotes the vitality of our planet are two reasons why it is critical to reaffirm already established partnerships and build new ones throughout the Asia-Pacific region and the world.  The Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo provides a forum for the high-level global networking necessary to advance this emerging clean energy culture. 

I will talk about the Geothermal Working Group, which Wally Ishibashi and I co-chaired, and the group’s Report, which recommends geothermal as the primary base power for the Big Island.
TUESDAY GEOTHERMAL SCHEDULE
10:30-12:00

Power Generation & Management – I

Geothermal: Building to Utility Scale in Hawai‘i & Other Island Communities

Chair and Moderator: Guy Toyama, Friends of NELHA (Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawai‘i Authority)

Geothermal heat is considered one the most energy efficient, environmentally clean, and cost effective systems for electricity production and temperature control. Unlike solar and wind energy, geothermal energy is always available, 24/7 and 365 days a year and the technology is proven and has been used since the Roman Empire. If geothermal energy has so many advantages, why is its use not more widespread? This panel on Geothermal Energy has gathered experts from the industry to provide insights into geothermal development in the Asia Pacific region. The program will highlight geothermal projects, technologies, policies and development and will encourage interaction and discussion about government policies, projects developed and in development, market potential and the challenges/opportunities for a developer.

Richard Ha, Geothermal Working Group
Robert Harris, The Sierra Club
Carty Chang, Hawai’i State Department of Land and Natural Resources
Jon Lorentz, AECOM-New Zealand
Andrew Sabin, Geothermal Program Office, U.S. Navy
Hyung Kee Yoon, Korea Institute of Energy Research, Korea 

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Health & Safety re: Geothermal in Puna

I was very encouraged at the County Council meeting on geothermal that was held in Pahoa this last Tuesday evening. The community had a chance to be heard.

The Puna community met several times prior to that meeting, and Steve Hirakami, acting as facilitator, identified the community’s main concerns. About 100 votes indicated that the Pele cultural issue was a top concern. Non-Hawaiians taking this position vastly outnumber Hawaiians. Seventy to 80 folks listed health and safety as their top issues.

From the testimony at Tuesday’s meeting, it is clear that the Puna community feels uneasy about geothermal. I understand that the Environmental Committee, chaired by Councilwoman Brittany Smart, will be holding hearings regarding environmental issues – specifically health and safety. The hearings will bring clarity to the issues.

What we do know right now is the State Department of Health does not allow open venting, and requires they be alerted when emissions exceed 25 parts per billion. Note that personal H2S monitors sold on the Internet measure in “parts per million.” A billion is a thousand million. The Department of Health’s requirement is a very conservative one.

IMG_0262

Hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide coming out of the ground at the Sulfur Banks at Volcano, Hawai‘i

I commend Mayor Kenoi for initiating the Sister City relations with Ormoc City and for supporting the Geothermal Working Group, which was operating under an unfunded mandate. He has taken on the goal of making Hawaii County 100 percent reliant on non-fossil fuels by 2015.

That’s a high bar, but he has the guts to aim high. What’s at stake requires us to have a clear goal, for the benefit of all of us. Mayor Kenoi knows that geothermal will result in a better future for us all.

Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, President of the Keaukaha Community Association, told me, “It is about the process” – and so we need to aloha everyone, no matter what side of the issue they are on. And Kumu Lehua Veincent told me: “What about the rest?” He meant that this is about all of us, not just a few.

We all know that oil prices have doubled every 5.5 years recently. If it continues to follow that pattern, we do not have much time to act. We must all work together to find the best solution for all of us.

I visited both Iceland and the Philippines, and in both places open venting is allowed at their geothermal plants in certain circumstances. I learned that Hawai‘i’s air quality standards are very high compared to in those countries.

In August 2000, the EPA issued a report regarding the geothermal well blowout that occurred at Puna Geothermal Venture in June 1991. Read “Report on the Review of Hawaii County Emergency Operations Plan and Puna Geothermal Venture Emergency Response Plan” here. The Environmental Committee can use these findings and recommendations as a starting point.

From that report:

Blowout of well KS-8 June 12, 1991

Cause and Duration

“The blowout caused an unabated release of steam for a period of 31 hours before PGV succeeded in closing in the well. The report finds that the blowout occurred because of inadequacies in PGV’s drilling plan and procedures and not as a result of unusual or unmanageable subsurface geologic or hydrologic conditions.”

“Not only did PGV fail to modify its drilling program following the KS-7 blowout, but they also failed to heed numerous “red flags” (warning signals) in the five days preceding the KS-8 blowout, which included a continuous 1-inch flow of drilling mud out of the wellbore, gains in mud volume while pulling stands, and gas entries while circulating mud bottom up, in addition to lost circulation, that had occurred earlier below the shoe of the 13-3/8-inch casing.”

“PGV personnel took appropriate steps to control the well following the kick. However, there were certain inadequacies in PGV’s drilling operations and blowout prevention equipment. The mud cooler being used was inefficient. Monitoring equipment was not strategically placed. A sufficient supply of cold water was not available to pump into the wellbore to properly kill the well in the event of a blowout. The choke line was not of sufficient diameter to handle the volume of fluid that had to be vented, and there was no silencer on the end of the choke manifold line to reduce noise.”

It’s good that the County Council will be addressing all those issues. We all need to have a common frame of reference regarding safety. Everyone wants to do the right thing.

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Peak Oil in the Rear View Mirror; Geothermal in the Headlights

Last week Wally Ishibashi and I gave a presentation to the Hawaii County Council. There’s a video of our talk up now on local channel 52, where it will repeat from time to time.

Wally spoke about the Geothermal Working Group Report we gave to the legislature. I talked about “Peak Oil in the Rear View Mirror,” from the perspective of having been the only person from Hawai‘i to attend four Peak Oil conferences.

On Monday, I gave an essay presentation to the Social Science Association of Hawai‘i, whose members are prominent members of our community. This organization has been in operation since the 1800s.

From Kamehameha School Archives, 1886 January 21 -1892. Bishop becomes a member of the Social Science Association of Honolulu. All Bishop Estate Trustees and the first principal of Kamehameha Schools, William B. Oleson, are members. Members meet monthly to discuss topics concerning the well-being of society.

And yesterday I gave a “Peak Oil in the Rear View Mirror” presentation to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment (BAE) Committee.

I was interested to note that the Hawaii County Council, the Social Science Association of Hawaii and OHA’s BAE committee were all overwhelmingly in favor of stabilizing electricity rates. It was clear to everyone that we in Hawai‘i are extremely vulnerable, and also so lucky to have a game-changing alternative.

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Hawaii is the world’s most remote population in excess of 500,000 people. Almost everybody and everything that comes to Hawaii comes via ship or airplane using oil as fuel. As isolated as we are, we are vulnerable to the changing nature of oil supply and demand. There is trouble in paradise.

I explained how it was that a banana farmer came to be standing in front of them giving a presentation about energy.

My story started way back when I was 10 years old. I remember Pop talking about impossible situations, and suddenly he would pound the dinner table with his fist, the dishes would bounce, and he would point in the air. “Not no can, CAN!” And at other times: “Get thousand reasons why no can, I only looking for the one reason why can.” He would say, “For every problem, find three solutions …. And then find one more just in case.”

Once he said, “Earthquake coming. You can hear it and see the trees whipping back and forth and see the ground rippling.” He gave a hint: “If you are in the air you won’t fall down. What you going do?”

I said, “Jump in the air.” He said yes, and do a half turn. I asked why.

He said, “Because after a couple of jumps you see everything.”

Lots of lessons in what he told a 10-year-old kid. Nothing is impossible. Plan in advance.

I made my way through high school and applied to the University of Hawai‘i. But I came from small town Hilo, and there were too many places to go, people to see and beers to drink. I flunked out of school.

It was during the Vietnam era, and if you flunked out of school you were drafted. Making the best of the situation, I applied for Officers Candidate School and volunteered to go to Vietnam.

I found myself in the jungle with a hundred other soldiers. It was apparent that if we got in trouble, no one was close enough to help us. The unwritten rule we lived by was that “We all come back, or no one comes back.” I liked that idea and have kept it ever since.

I returned to Hawai‘i and reentered the UH. I wanted to go into business, so I majored in accounting in order to keep score.

Pop asked if I would come and run the family chicken farm. I did, and soon realized that there would be an opportunity growing bananas. Chiquita was growing the banana market and we felt that we could gain significant market share if we moved fast. But, having no money, we needed to be resourceful. So we traded chicken manure for banana keiki.

A little bit at a time we expanded, and after a bunch of transformations, we became the largest banana farm in the state. Then about 20 years ago we purchased 600 acres at Pepe‘ekeo and we got into hydroponic tomato farming.

Approximately seven years ago, we noticed that our farm input costs were rising steadily, and I found out that it was related to rising oil prices. So in 2007, I went to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) conference to learn about oil. What I learned at that first ASPO conference was that the world had been using more oil than it was finding, and that it had been going on for a while.

Screen shot 2012-02-09 at 11.25.05 PM

In addition to using more than we were finding, it was also apparent that the natural decline rate of the world’s cumulative oil fields needed to be accounted for. The International Energy Association (IEA) estimates that this decline rate is around 5 percent annually. This amounts to a natural decline of 4 million gallons per year. We will need to find the equivalent of a Saudi Arabia every two and a half years. Clearly we are not doing that, and will never do that.

At the second ASPO conference I attended, in Denver in 2009, I learned that the concept of Energy Return on Investment (EROI) was becoming more and more relevant. It takes energy to get energy, and the net energy that results is what is available for society to use. In the 1930s, getting 100 barrels of oil out of the ground took the energy in one of those barrels. In 1970, it was 30 to 1 and now it is close to 10-1.

Tar sands is approximately 4 to 1, while some biofuels are a little more than 1 to 1. And, frequently, fossil fuel is used to make biofuels. That causes the break-even point to “recede into the horizon.”

But the EROI for geothermal appears to be around 10 to 1. And its cost won’t rise for 500,000 to a million years.

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After the oil shocks of the early 1970s, the cost of oil per barrel was around the mid-$20 per barrel. That lasted for nearly 30 years.

In this graph above, one can see that oil would have cost around $35 per barrel in 2011, had inflation been the only influencer of oil price.

The cost of oil spiked in 2008, contributing to or causing the worst recession in history. In fact the last 10 recessions were related to spiking oil prices.

From late 2008 until mid-2009, the price of oil dropped as demand collapsed for a short time. But demand picked back up and the price of oil has climbed back to $100 per barrel – in a recession.

It is important to note that we in the U.S. use 26 barrels of oil per person per year, while in China each person uses only two barrels per person per year. Whereas we go into a recession when oil costs more than $100 per barrel, China keeps on growing. This is a zero sum game as we move per capita oil usage toward each other.

What might the consequences be as China and the U.S. meet toward the middle at 13 barrels of oil per person?

People are having a tough time right now due to rising energy-related costs. Two thirds of the economy is made up of consumer spending. If the consumer does not have money, he/she cannot spend.

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How will we keep the lights on and avoid flickering lights? Eighty percent of electricity needs to be firm, steady power. The other 20 percent can be unsteady and intermittent, like wind and solar. So the largest amount of electricity produced needs to have firm power characteristics.

There are four main alternatives being discussed today.

  1. Oil is worrisome because oil prices will likely keep on rising.
  2. Biofuels is expensive and largely an unproven technology. The EPA changed its estimation of cellulosic biofuel in 2011 from 250 million gallons to just 6.5 million gallons because cellulosic biofuels were not ready for commercial production.
  3. Biomass or firewood is a proven technology. Burn firewood, boil water, make steam, turn a generator – that’s a proven technology. It is limited because you cannot keep on burning the trees; they must be replenished. And it’s not clear where that equilibrium point is. There are also other environmental issues.
  4. That leaves geothermal.

The chain of islands that have drifted over the Pacific hotspot extends all the way up to Alaska. This has been going on for over 85 million years.

It’s estimated that the Big Island, which is over the hot spot now, will be sitting atop that hot spot for 500,000 to a million more years.

Of all the various base power solutions, geothermal is most affordable. Right now it costs around 10 cents per Kilowatt hour to produce electricity using geothermal, while oil at $100 per barrel costs twice as much. The cost of geothermal-produced electricity will stay steady. Allowing for inflation, geothermal generated electricity will stay stable for 500,000 to a million years, while oil price will rise to unprecedented heights in the near future.

Geothermal is proven technology. The first plant in Italy is 100 years old. Iceland uses cheap hydro and geothermal. It uses cheap electricity to convert bauxite to aluminum and sells it competitively on the world market. With the resulting hard currency, it buys the food that it cannot grow.

Iceland is more energy- and food-secure than we are in Hawai‘i. Ormoc City in the Philippines, which has a population similar to the Big Island, produces 700MW of electricity with its geothermal resource, compared to our 30 MW. Ormoc City shares the excess with other islands in the Philippines.

Geothermal is environmentally benign. It is a closed loop system and has a small footprint. A 30 MW geothermal plant sits on maybe 100 acres, while a similarly sized biomass project might take up 10,000 acres.

In addition, geothermal can produce cheap H2 hydrogen when people are sleeping. It is done by running an electric current through water releasing hydrogen and oxygen gas. One can make NH3 ammonia by taking the hydrogen and combining it with nitrogen in the air. That ammonia can be used for agriculture. NH3 ammonia is a better carrier of hydrogen that H2 hydrogen.

The extra H atom makes NH3 one third more energy-dense than H2 hydrogen. It can be shipped at ambient temperature in the propane infrastructure.

The use of geothermal can put future generations in a position to win when the use of hydrogen becomes more mature.

If we use geothermal for most of our base power requirements for electric generation, as oil prices rise we will become more competitive to the rest of the world. And our standard of living will rise relative to the rest of the world.

Then, because two thirds of GDP is made up of consumer spending, our people will have jobs and we will not have to export our most precious of all our resources – our children.

In addition, people will have discretionary income and will be able to support local farmers, and that will help us ensure food security.

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Spoke to the Hawaii County Council’s Energy Committee

Wally Ishibashi and I gave a briefing to the Hawai‘i County Council Energy Committee yesterday. We are co-chairs of the Geothermal Working Group, which submitted its final report in time for this legislative session. Wally briefed them on the Working Group report, and I briefed them on the four Peak Oil conferences that I have attended.

People testifying commented about public safety such as evacuation plans and gas emissions, as did council members. As co-chairs, Wally and I are strongly in favor of addressing safety issues. Nothing is more important. The Working Group suggested streamlining procedures, but never at the expense of public safety.

Although the working group was not required to abide by the sunshine law, Wally and I believe in transparency, so we operated in the spirit of that idea as we worked on the Geothermal Working Group report.

We’ve had about 25 meetings with the community and we strongly believe that we must continue to “talk story.” The discussion must start from the ground up, and we encouraged the council members to arrange opportunities for us to engage their constituents.

The council members expressed support for energy independence, and for geothermal in particular. They are very aware of the vulnerability we face because we are located in the middle of the Pacific, where we rely on fossil fuels to sustain most of our lifestyle. It is about safety: physical, economical and societal safety.

I shared my perspective after having attended four Peak Oil conferences. The most significant thing that has changed recently is that the price oil is now being driven by increasing demand, rather than abundant supplies. For the past 150 years, it has been driven by abundant supplies.

That’s why we now have oil that costs $100 per barrel, even in a recession. If world economic activity increases, the price will go even higher. The changes that will come from this will be profound, and the effects will have human consequences. The rubbah slippah folks understand this clearly.

I offered my opinion that we do not have the luxury of waiting 10 years. I think that we may be lucky to have five years to make meaningful change. It is clear that we are moving too slow in terms of safeguarding the well-being of our people.

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What the Geothermal Working Group Found

Advantages of geothermal:

  • It is an indigenous resource
  • It generates revenue for the state
  • It generates community benefits
  • It provides stable power
  • It is less than half the cost of any of the renewable energy alternatives.
  • The Big Island will be over the geothermal “hot spot” for 500,000 to 1 million years

I want to share some highlights of the Geothermal Working Group’s final report.

Page 10, Revenues derives from geothermal:

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Page 12:

IV. Recommended Steps for Hawaii State Legislators

– Make the allocation of geothermal royalties more transparent to show how benefits come back to the community. Designate the records of the allocations to be public domain.

– Establish a community advisory board to offer suggestions to the DLNR about how royalties generated by geothermal power plants are spent. The advisory board should be members of the communities that host existing or future geothermal power plants and/or those who are most impacted by the development of geothermal energy.

– Encourage the DLNR to use geothermal royalties to identify promising geothermal sites and to further develop the resource.

– In light of the probability that oil will reach $200 per barrel (Lloyds of London), the legislature is requested to commission a study to show the economic impact of various prices of oil.

– Facilitate development of geothermal with a critical review of the geothermal permitting process, regulatory capabilities, and possible investment incentives.

Page 5:

The Geothermal Working Group’s principal findings

– Geothermal is a renewable resource indigenous to the island of Hawaii that is dissociated from the price volatility of petroleum fuels.

– Geothermal can be a key component in a diversified energy portfolio for Hawaii County, both for the electrical grid and for transportation.

– In Hawaii, geothermal is a firm-energy resource at lower cost than fossil fuel. – Developing multiple geothermal plants is the most prudent approach.

– Geothermal has the potential to supply baseload electricity; long term reliability and the ability to supply grid management services (currently supplied by conventional fossil-fueled power plants) must be demonstrated in order to consider geothermal as the primary energy resource.

– With geothermal power plants, agricultural fertilizers, hydrogen, oxygen, and business-enterprise power can be produced for off-peak rates during the hours of curtailed electrical demand.

Page 9:

Overview

Geothermal energy can be developed to become the cheapest form of baseload power for Hawaii County. There are no importation or storage costs. Using geothermal as the primary source of baseload power will permit the county’s businesses to be more competitive with the rest of the world. Using geothermal as the primary source of baseload power will also help folks on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder—those who struggle with the cost of services.

In addition to stability and affordability, geothermal can leave less of an environmental impact than the commercially-available baseload power sources of electricity. There are no greenhouse gases, emissions and no oil spill risks.

The lower rates of off-peak geothermal electricity encourage the production of ammonia locally. Ammonia is an efficient hydrogen carrier that can be used to power internal combustion engines and as an aid to local agriculture as fertilizer. Light-industry business parks constructed near geothermal energy plants can use excess heat as a resource for heating vegetable and tropical flower hothouses, drying wood, and drying fish.

Benefits of geothermal energy to the community include sharing in geothermal royalties. In accordance with state law, the geothermal royalties are paid directly to the Department of Land and Natural Resources who allocate the royalties in three ways:

1. Department of Land and Natural Resources receives 50% 2. County of Hawaii receives 30% 3. Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) receives 20%

Potential adverse impacts are listed below:

– Interference with worship of the Goddess Pele – Interference with certain Native Hawaiian practices – Rainforest destruction – Possible health and safety impacts – Disruption of the way of life for nearby residents – Hydrogen sulfide and other air quality issues – Noise – Increased strain on an inadequate infrastructure – Impact on native fauna and flora

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Mayor Kenoi Announces Hawaii County Will Use 100% Renewable Energy by 2015

At the press conference announcing the Geothermal Working Group’s final report, Mayor Billy Kenoi announced that Hawai‘i County will use 100 percent renewable energy by 2015. That was significant.

Mayor Kenoi emphasized geothermal’s primary role as that of base load and he said we are lucky to have an array of options available, such as wind, solar and biomass. He mentioned that the County would be converting some of its passenger vehicle fleet to electrical. He said that we will need the help of the Federal, State and County governments, as well as that of the community.

He has already touched bases with Lieutenant Governor Shatz, and will be speaking with our congressional delegation next week. Senator Kahele and Representative Nakashima both reiterated the importance of enabling geothermal for base power.

More about the Geothermal Working Group’s final report press conference:

Big Island Video News: Geothermal Working Group Report Unveiled in Hilo

Hawaii 24/7: Geothermal Working Group Presents Findings

Although the topic of the press conference was the Geothermal Working Group’s final report, Mayor Kenoi’s announcement about taking the Big Island to 100 percent renewable energy by 2015 was the big news.

He is retaining the Geothermal Working Group, which will continue its work under the County of Hawai‘i.

As I have been saying, we are running out of time. Mahalo, Mayor Kenoi, for leading the Big Island to a safe place for us and future generations.

Following the Mayor’s lead, we can get there. Not, no can. CAN!

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Geothermal Working Group Report is Unveiled

We know the era of cheap oil is over, and that it is only a matter of when and how high oil prices will rise.

What we need now is to see what we can do to enable geothermal. Two-thirds of our economy is made up of consumer spending, and stabilizing electricity prices will help our people cope.

From Hawaii Reporter:

Geothermal Working Group- Final Report unveiled by the County of Hawai‘i

REPORT FROM HAWAII COUNTY – HILO, HAWAII – The Geothermal Working Group, with the support of Hawai`i County Mayor Billy Kenoi, will present the final draft of the Geothermal Working Group Report on Wednesday, January 4, 2011 at 2:30 p.m.  The press conference will be held at the County building on the Mayor’s lanai at 25 Aupuni St., second floor.

The report was sponsored by the County of Hawai‘i to evaluate geothermal energy as the primary source of baseload power for electricity on the Island of Hawai‘i.  The report includes an analysis of technical data and expert testimony providing convincing rationale to develop local renewable energy plants and transition away from the county’s dependence on petroleum-fueled generators for baseload electricity.  The report, which is currently being circulated within Hawai`i’s State Legislation, was developed as research to help support Hawai`i’s Clean Energy Initiative goals…. Read the rest

As I’ve talked about here before, Iceland has made itself energy and food secure. We can too.

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