Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mega Watt to Mai Tai--How Hawaii Uses Energy

Grab your sunglasses and your sun tan lotion because we are headed to the Hawaiian islands..oh don't forget your calculator.

Energy production in HI sparks the imagination.  Think of all the natural resources available: Wind, Solar, Geothermal (big island), Hydro, biomass, ocean thermal, and tidal.  So where then does all the energy come from?  The vast majority is from petroleum, shipped in and refined locally.
Here is a breakdown of power production from this HI government source:

 If we make a quick calculation and solve for the equivalent MWe plant size we can get an idea of the size of plant to cover an entire Island's production or to cover the production from oil import.  See also the annual cost (2007) of the imported oil. (Assumes 100% availability of the plant and average power use (no peaking))

A couple of notes as we take a look at the data.  Existing plant capacity seems adequate especially considering that energy use is down since 2007.  This may be the reason why there is not a big driver to radically change how HI produces energy.  Notice that the use of municipal solid waste in Honolulu produces energy equivalent to a 35MWe plant.  Trash is a big deal in HI and it is getting worse.

Municipal Solid Waste
Honolulu makes up 80 percent of Hawaii's population and generates nearly 1.6 million tons of garbage a year. More than a third of the trash is incinerated to generate electricity. The remaining garbage is sent to the 21-year-old Waimanalo Gulch landfill on the island of Oahu's southwestern coast. Monday's agreement between the city and Chutz' firm requires the garbage that cannot be burned to be sent to the Waimanalo Gulch landfill, which must close by July 2012. Around that same time, the city hopes to start operating a third trash furnace at its electricity-generating plant in Kapolei, allowing the burning of about 902,000 tons a year.

Plans for the Future
A 2007 energy study showed a potential of 180MW from wave energy production with Oahu having the most favorable waters.  According to this study wave, biomass, and Photovoltaic (PV) adoption depend on oil prices. Wind, geothermal, and MSW are assessed to be robust.  

The state has a goal to meet 70% of its energy needs with clean energy by 2030.  Learn more about the Hawaiian Clean Energy Initiative  HCEI.

Hawaiian Clean Energy Initiative data shown below (link)

Oahu Data

Ocean Energy

Although not currently commercial, ocean energy projects, particularly ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC—steam generation by means of temperature differential between warm surface waters and cold waters at depth) could potentially be an additional energy source for O‘ahu and for Hawai‘i generally. One company is pursuing a 5- to 10-megawatt OTEC pilot plant on O‘ahu, which it hopes will serve as a model for building 100-megawatt plants.


To help meet its ground transportation fuel needs, O‘ahu could readily develop biofuel production facilities. O‘ahu has some biomass and waste resources that could serve as biofuel feedstocks. Although it is not yet commercially available, algae-to-biofuel technology could also contribute to O‘ahu's clean energy portfolio in the future. As with electrical generation, however, O‘ahu would likely need to import biomass from neighboring islands to supply a significant portion of its transportation fleet with clean energy. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and electric vehicles could also play a role on O‘ahu once they become commercially available, and studies are under way to determine how such vehicles could be best integrated with the island's grid and infrastructure. In addition, developing renewable energy resources to power alternative-fuel vehicles is essential if such vehicles are to become a part of O‘ahu's clean energy future.


Castle & Cooke, Inc., which owns the majority of Lana‘i, has proposed a 200-megawatt wind farm for providing power to O‘ahu via undersea cable. The proposal remains under discussion. Approximately 30 megawatts of wind power are currently proposed for O‘ahu. 

Big Island Data

The biggest potential renewable resource on Hawai‘i is geothermal, which provides baseload electricity generation at all hours of the day. In fact, according to one study the island has an estimated 750 megawatts of potential—nearly three times its current electrical use. Hawai‘i's 30-megawatt geothermal plant may expand to add an additional 8 megawatts of capacity.
In addition to meeting the Big Island's electricity needs, geothermal could eventually help power a number of electric vehicles to help the meet the island's ground transportation energy needs.
In addition to the substantial geothermal resource available on the Big Island, other potential renewable resources that have been identified include
  • Hydroelectric power—20 megawatts
  • Wind power—55 megawatts
  • Municipal solid waste combustion—13 megawatts
  • Solar power—25 megawatts
  • Biomass combustion—25 megawatts.

So there are initiatives in place.  I for one would think that the islands are good candidates for continued renewables and even small modular reactors.  Who knows, but I am sure there are many people who would be okay traveling to HI to help the cause no matter what the type of production is!!

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