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Kauai Island, Hawaii: An Incubator of Large Scale Clean Energy Projects

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by SageBrush, Mar 9, 2017.

  1. SageBrush

    SageBrush Active Member

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    #1 SageBrush, Mar 9, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2017
    Overview | Kauai Island Utility Cooperative

    Like many islands, Kauai has been dependent on imported oil for electricity generation for decades. But an understanding of climate change and a desire to lower costs and volatility have pushed the island to embrace a heterogenous mix of clean energy solutions. Tesla recently completed a large PV/battery installation here of 13 MW PV with 52 MWh battery -- so far as I know, the largest to date.

    The co-op page is interesting reading. Of note, for the ~ 33,000 co-op customers:
    • 10% of co-op customers have residential PV
    • 7.5% of current needs is from old hydro, and the co-op is looking into building a pumped hydro from PV
    • Utility PV is currently 37 MW
    • Bio-mass is 7 MW
    • On sunny days, PV has provided up to 90% of demand
    • 62 MWh of online battery storage
    Added up (but not accounting for capacity), this works out to over 1.5 kW per customer from the utility
    I'm not sure why they do not use off-shore wind, but the integration of hydro and PV is smart since they tend to complement one another during the day. It will be interesting to follow the PV+pumped_hydro project, since it strikes me as a direct competitor with PV+battery.
     
  2. SageBrush

    SageBrush Active Member

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    Addendum:
    Regarding off-shore wind, a co-op document detailing future plans mentions that the endangered species act has been a barrier.
     
  3. dgpcolorado

    dgpcolorado high altitude member

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    #3 dgpcolorado, Mar 9, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2017
    There is no continental shelf around mid Pacific islands so the water is very deep just offshore in most places. [This is also an issue along the USA Pacific coast: the water depth increases rapidly, unlike the Atlantic coast or the Baltic Sea in Europe, where offshore wind is more practical.] To put it in perspective, Mauna Kea on the island of Hawai'i is more than 30,000 feet tall when measured from the bottom of the ocean. The Hawaiian Islands — all of them — are the tops of very tall volcanoes formed by a hot spot in the Earth's mantle than burns through the crust (ocean floor) as it moves across.

    Given fairly steady trade winds, onshore wind along ridge lines would work. But when scenery is the main industry, the visual impact of wind turbines figures to be a tough sell in Hawai'i.

    - fifth generation kama'aina
     
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  4. Ulmo

    Ulmo Active Member

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    #4 Ulmo, Mar 9, 2017
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    Summary of what I think about adding wind generation: whenever it is not done, I am ok with it. Whenever it is done, I'd like to be able to use what has been done. (Better grid and end-use of grid power when it is available, and targeted variable use.)

    Long version:


    Just like I think we should save dirty fossil fuels for a day when we actually understand and want to efficiently cause global warming (if indeed that day ever comes) and meanwhile enjoy a beautiful clean Earth, I also think that it is short-sighted to be installing more mechanisms to alter the function of weather, magma, and regrettably, I admit, processed nuclear power. An engineer can show me the numbers. But seeing dead planets makes me concerned. Here's my quick list:
    • Nuclear power: if done right, safe, clean, recyclable, and very powerful. Unfortunately, often done wrong, and also extreme advantage political opposition. My problem with it besides all that: adds to the total energy on Earth, adding to the total amount of expected heat, by generating energy that would not have been generated before. Just like wind power, I'm OK with nuclear as a temporary solution, but it is also fairly pricey, and pretty big-industry, so it is just administratively messy to use as a temporary situation in 2017. And because it adds to total heat (on surface), I'm concerned that it has effect overall that is as of yet pretty unknown.
    • Wind power: Very clean, but has side effect that it slows down wind. While it does not change the amount of energy on Earth from my understanding, it does move it out of the sky and into our use. If that use then turns back into the sky and washes out, then I'm fine with it, but I haven't seen any impact studies on it. It makes sense that wind energy then goes into human use which would turn into heat and float up into the sky, and may then wash out, but what if it turns into something besides wind at that point? It seems likely that it turns back into wind, but I'd like to know more. For now, I don't mind wind power as a band-aid to get us off of fossil fuels and to deal with the foreign enemies that want everyone to shut down hydro and nuclear before we're ready for it. In the long run, we may find out that wind power collection has whatever combination of being returned to weather and non-impact or positive impact that it's OK, but who knows that?
    • Geothermal power: this is what alarmed me at first most recently (I've always been aware of everything having some impact, but who knows if it's good or bad). If it's already escaping Earth naturally, then we can assume that nature would have done it anyway, and start from that basis, but I've read that we've extensively developed new geothermal holes, collecting more heat from our Earth. Planets have warmth from gravity, and that's not going away fast, but also from their forming crashes, and from my novice understanding, that can deplete. A depleted core can potentially devastate Earth. This is one of the most worrisome types of energy, as far as I'm concerned: depleting the core is potentially extremely bad, and I don't know how we could heat it back up again if we mistakenly cool it too much. For this reason, I don't want any more geothermal power created, and I'm on the fence about immediately plugging the extra developed geothermal capacity we have and keeping the warmth in the Earth. If we can collect some of the nuclear power heat we generated and send it back down there, that seems like more than enough to offset it.
    • Solar panels and solar power: that big fusion reactor in space is burning its energy really fast, since that's what stars do. We can work with it or not. I chose to work with it. Already, we get huge amounts of energy from it: forests make our air, farmers make our food, forests make our coal, animals eat the plants and other animals eat those animals and make our food, and our oil. Not all of that power comes from Sun, since obviously some comes from geothermal sources (just the heat that keeps plant roots alive must have some impact from the core, unless I'm completely wrong about that), as well as other random sources (other stars, space radiation, some chemical reactions releasing stored particle energy, etc.), but a huge amount of it does. Now, we're learning how to collect our own solar power and turn it directly into electricity, which we can readily use. We collect almost all of it here on Earth (yes, some satellites collect minuscule amounts and beam it back in, but right now that's negligible), so that's energy that the Earth would have received anyway. That means, we are not changing the amount of energy and eventual heat the planet would have naturally received by collecting solar power. Thus, I conclude that photovoltaic solar power must be not only cleaner than other sources, but very unimpactful on the total energy state and distribution of energy in, on, and around, our planet.
    • Dirty fuels, such as coal and oil: they're just too dirty, unless we want that dirtiness, and I haven't yet seen comprehensive studies showing how the benefit of that dirt is enough to outweigh all its detriments. If we ever do figure out the dirtiness is a good thing, we should save all of it for using it more effectively for that when we understand it better, anyway. Otherwise, we should stop using it. Same conclusion either way.
    If you'd like to poke holes in what I said above, you can say that I said I'm scared of cooling the core of Earth and scared of heating the crust and skies of Earth, and that those are opposite scares. Unfortunately, the fact that they're opposite doesn't reduce my concern: we need our core, and we need a mild temperature in our skies. We don't know if the heat radiation from our hotter skies radiates back down into the core as effectively as it does up out into space. If we've been adding more heat to our skies than we've been taking out of our core, does that heat get radiated back into the core in equal or greater amounts to what we've taken out of the core through geothermal work? What if the core is so insulated from geothermal sources that they're unrelated? (You'd have a hard time convincing me of that. It'd be easier to say that it's such a small proportion that it doesn't amount to much of anything, but I'd like to see the numbers before believing that.) We also don't know what temperatures are optimal for our skies, but we know that Earth has produced us and a beautiful environment for us before we had the ability to change all of that incrementally, so that's at least some sort of starting point.

    And about wind, I also don't know if we know whether slowing down wind is bad or not, and by how much. Just for sake of discussion, I can imagine we could take a hurricane, put a (big enough self-forming) windmill in the middle of it, collect all of its energy, transmit it through extremely high capacity pathways (electromagnetic and/or superconductor??) to other places on earth, with just-as-huge propeller there, specifically with the intent to trigger a new hurricane in another location, possibly also transmitting heat and cold to proper areas of that new hurricane location to create the environment necessary to sustain a hurricane for a little while. While this is scientifically and engineering-wise intriguing and launches many dreams, just from an environmental standpoint, would it be "bad"? From a sustaining energy state in wind point of view, it might or might not be. From an environmental point of view, it might or might not be. It might cause things to happen in areas that it would have never happened, and that could either be bad or good. From sustaining wind point of view, if it didn't counteract existing wind function, then it might be OK, as long as it didn't somehow boost current wind function beyond good. It could even be used to designed effects, such as restoring wind function, cleaning some part of Earth, or for questionable human activities like war and disease (creation and elimination in combination, of course). But, it asks: can we do it and succeed at proper wind function? Would some wind in another part of the world be OK to keep wind function enough, or would our mere act of moving it even with a very good understanding of it cause problems in wind? Once again, I am aware that hurricanes have much more energy than windmills currently collect per-footprint. (For instance, nuclear bombs are tiny & negligible compared to a single hurricane.) In the extreme, if we converted an entire hurricane into mechanical, computational, and/or chemical reactions that we need, and that finally turned into heat, would it float back up into the skies re-causing the necessary winds for new natural hurricanes? I'd like to know much, much more before calling windmills our savior for the next hundred million years, whether or not their current scope is enough to match that of a hurricane, because, at this pace, what is the goal, and is that goal comparable to an amount of effect that we don't know and may be too much in some direction if we don't know what we're doing correctly? Too many systems run with huge amounts of internal function and very little adjustment over time. One small adjustment may either be washed out or cause huge effect. Do we know?

    If someone has just as much opposition to solar photovoltaic collection, I'd like to hear it. So far, I haven't come up with as many problems with solar PV collection as I have with geothermal, wind, nuclear, and recycled mined fuels (oil and coal, mostly). Others complaint of land use, and I see that as us being that land use rather than some plant or animal, and that we're natural. Furthermore, some land has less plant and animal use naturally than we can put on it with solar panels. For this reason, the argument that solar panels supplant plants and animals is not an overall reason not to do it for me. As far as I'm concerned, we can terraform an area to have the right ground structure, soils, and atmosphere, in order to grow new vegetation to replace some localized lost vegetation like in tropical areas like Hawaiian islands where solar panels would supplant some plant life (we will be doing stuff like this on the Moon, Mars and other moons and planets, anyway, so we're going to get very good at it). (That's an island effect, mostly. We would put the terraformed areas in larger deserts, the way I think of it. And while we're not so worried about occasional washing away, we could bring up a small portion of seabed to grow on, even if we don't go live there.)

    I know, a lot of nuisancesome rattling on from me, but I pointed out all of the above basically to say I'm ok with wind project ideas that don't get built. I'm much more interested in solar projects, and using other less-dirty fuels effectively in the meanwhile.
     
  5. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    Nothing about cost? Seems like that should be a consideration when debating energy sources...
     
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  6. Ulmo

    Ulmo Active Member

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    #6 Ulmo, Mar 9, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2017
    I agree, but I find that more theoretical than practical, when looking at vision. Here's why:

    Essentially, over time, various energy sources change in price. Engineering, science, economies of scale, real estate opportunities, use efficiencies, integration efficiencies, etc., all come into consideration, and eventually, the costs will go from some huge numbers here to some huge numbers over there in the equations, and even the equations will change. It's sort of a moving target, and eventually, you get to a point that long-term, anything you pay attention to that has a good outcome for us as a species (and by extension our environment) is what is most economical, but sometimes the money path isn't really efficient at getting us to that state quickly. Money becomes sort of a description of what and where everything has been and the process of things turning into new things and places. It's an accounting method that is very good, but doesn't always look at the bigger picture of what it's for in the first place as quickly as us humans can do it if we put our attention to something. Because a lot of what we do is made manifest by our attention to do it, that becomes a more essential element when looking long term.

    After that, the money comes into play, and we have to pay attention to it, so it feels redundant to mention it first, from my point of view. But, I also think it's integrated, in its own way. Money is part of the plan like arithmetic is part of science. Sure, it's there, but we learned it in elementary school and before. At some points, of course it's used.

    Sometimes I think you're pretty out there in your statements, and this time, it seems like the other way around, because I feel like I'm being that way this time :rolleyes:

    Let me throw out an example. I'll use nuclear power, since it's dying, but it should have had a better life.
    • Very dangerous.
    • We know how to tame it.
    • We can recycle it. There is no such thing as nuclear waste, practically speaking.
    • Politically, nuclear waste is the biggest reason voters have voted to eliminate it.
    • "Proliferation" potential is way overblown but also exists, and has been artificially kept high in order to use as blame by political forces.
    • Lots of lies.
    • Politicians and business men have poorly managed a lot of the process. This has caused huge disasters.
    • Transport danger of the "waste" (i.e., recyclable goods).
    • Insufficient recycling capability.
    • Political impediments to fixing it.
    • Jealous/scared foreigners infiltrate companies and governments that are implementing nuclear power, and sabotage it, in various ways. Some of these ways result in some of the mismanagement and political disfavor described above.
    So, nuclear power becomes insanely expensive, because there's always problems with it, due to political pressure and mismanagement. Let's say real men still ran business and government and decided to do nuclear power right; that's unlikely today because no one wants real men doing much and because throughout all time enough of them were corrupted anyway that the impetus to do everything right wasn't strong enough, but let's say that pie in the sky thinking happened anyway in real life (it almost did around the Greatest Generation, but not quite, what with WWII and everything). Nuclear power would be recycled, wouldn't leak so much "waste" into the environment, would be allowed to output more good energy, any political favors about good locations to put plants would be ignored more in favor of engineering quality locations, when faults were found there would be better backups, and less political opposition to relocating the plants to better locations causing such ideas to be tenable, and generally speaking the energy from nuclear power would drop in price greatly. But, it didn't happen that way in today's history. Now, we're left with a legacy of bad politics and mismanagement of nuclear power, and looking forward, I don't even see it as a good thing, because it causes a net warming of the planet due to causing reactions that would have not happened in nature, whereas collecting sunlight that would have warmed us up anyway seems OK to me. But, if we had 200 years of perfect nuclear power use for 90% of our electrical needs (by perfect I mean 90% of our electrical needs served by nuclear power with no more disasters total than we already experienced in our current use, i.e., a huge proportional better quality of management), we would have almost no pollution, and the net warming of the planet would probably be within tolerances, and we would have had the extra money and resources to spend on things like building out solar panel farms, once we realized that's important. We'd have less oil wars, and more time and money to be bored and want to do things like build solar plants.

    I see money as not the sole driver, but more as one description of history, when I look at it from that perspective.

    Money may have bought jealousy from Chinese, Soviet, even OPEC operatives who interfered with our nuclear ambitions. It may have bought corruption. It may have bought power enemies within oil war mongers and oil concerns. Yet, what if China, USSR, OPEC, and oil companies never existed? Nuclear power would be the same thing today as Oil is (only cleaner and less war), and we'd be complaining that "solar power is the future, but no one will look at it!!!", when instead, solar power is starting to look like eventually it will do OK. Or, maybe there would be some new country called "Sovese" in that alternate reality that doesn't have oil and does have nuclear power, but comes in and sabotages a nuclear power plant in our country, not to cause the world to stop using nuclear power, but in order to gain some advantage over us politically for some other weird reason (maybe they like pointy noses and want more roses and we grow them plus they're addicted to our corn or something weird). Anyway, then nuclear power would become messy, again, and more expensive. I see cost as not the sole driver, there, either, but as a way to account for it, from one point of view, but not all points of view.
     
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  7. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    #7 nwdiver, Mar 9, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2017
    That was an incredibly enlightening post. I think I see a little clearer now why support for nuclear hasn't completely evaporated.

    Unfortunately we're not faced with a theoretical threat. And unlike nuclear... solar and wind offer practical solutions; today...

    We can Monday morning QB the mistakes that the nuclear industry made until the glaciers melt but it's not going to change the reality of our current situation. Woulda Coulda Shoulda... but they didn't. Nuclear probably could be cost effective... but it's not. And the odds that nuclear can recover and expand fast enough are as close to impossible as you can get. Westinghouse and EDF are broke and the only other company with a chance at scale production NuScale won't have their first plant up until ~2025 (~2040 in nuclear speak) I've worked in nuclear power for >15 years. The high cost of nuclear power can be summarized as this... it has a negative learning curve. I've seen this first hand.

    At this stage of the game... with CO2 at 410ppm and still rising... we simply cannot afford to keep spending $7-$10/w on nuclear plants that may or may not be completed when Solar and Wind are $1/w. The time for theoretical musings is over. We need to roll up our sleeves and get practical.
     
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  8. SageBrush

    SageBrush Active Member

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    I was reading Amory Lovin's essays on nuclear from the 1970s yesterday. Man was that guy prescient. Too bad for Toshiba that they didn't read his stuff, they would have known to steer far clear of Westinghouse.
     
  9. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    I wonder if James Hansen is confused by how Kauai is getting its grid to work without 'baseload' :) That guy needs to stick to climate science... and stop serving as a stooge for utilities...
     

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