Your Views for April 25

Energy pitfalls

Energy, once again, seems a topic of interest in Hawaii. Mayor Billy Kenoi has stated an interest in a trash-to-energy incinerator, and geothermal expansion seems to be in the works.

In a previous County Council meeting in Pahoa concerning former Mayor Harry Kim’s proposal for a trash-to-energy incinerator by Wheellabrator Corp., I testified, as an electrical engineer, that the proposed incinerator was obsolete technology which required purchasing fuel and chemicals to operate and was unduly expensive to operate. I suggested that a plasma incinerator, such as used by Plasco Energy Group, was a more intelligent solution to the problem as it would produce its own fuel and would create marketable products from the trash.

In the future, the landfills will be mined for their valuable resources. Let’s hope that the incinerator selected by Kenoi will not be based on obsolete technology.

Investors looking into expanding geothermal production in the Puna area should think twice. Puna is in the volcanic rift zone where the unexpected can happen.

In the 1960s, the village of Kapoho, which was near the proposed expansion, was buried under cinder from a nearby volcanic eruption. In the 1990s, the village of Kalapana was buried under lava. Also there is talk of sending the power to where it is needed over expensive power lines and undersea cables. A certain amount of power loss occurs per length of power line or cable. Geothermal expansion should be built in less geologically active areas areas and closer to where the demand for power is located.

China is now contracting with Lockheed Martin and Reignwood to construct a 10-megawatt ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) power plant in south China which would lead the way to a future 100-megawatt OTEC plants being built. OTEC uses the temperature difference between surface sea water and deep sea water to produce electricity.

Hawaii was going to build a similar plant but scrapped the idea. A 10-megawatt, pollution-free, OTEC plant would save the equivalent of 130,000 barrels of oil per year, or about $13 million per year in fuel costs (at $100 per barrel for oil). Are the Chinese leaders smarter than the Hawaii leaders?

Let’s hope that in the future, politicians will make intelligent decisions based on what is good for the people — not on making their friendly corporations profit at the public’s expense.

Herbert G. Dorsey III



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