Notes from Clean Energy Meeting, Kihei March 17, 2011
- Situation in Japan
- Reation what can we do
- Why 2011 is “Solar Year”
- Solar Investing
- Action Items in Maui and Honolulu
- Kanu Hawai’i – July energy challenge
- The reactors are out of control.
- The situation is worse than Chernobyl, which had 1 million deaths. Now there are 6 reactors compared to 1 in Chernobyl. Some commentators say this is 500 times worse.
- Reactor 3 is run partially on plutonium which is 1000 times more dangerous, experimenting with MOX for 3 months 5-15% plutonium
- A Google news search for plutonium incidents shows that the US media doesn’t report them, but they are big news in Germany.
What can we do?
- Set up a web page with radiation information. Click here to see this new posting.
- Discussion: Should we start a Facebook page for distributing information about radiation risks and protection on Maui? What organizations already exist here with those resources?
- Call for replacing nuclear with clean energy, wind, solar.
- The Sierra Club already has anti-nuclear position, but it hasn’t started to point what we should be learning from the Japanese events and implementing in the U.S. We are prompted to encourage the Sierra Club to more actively to promote renewable energy in place of nuclear.
- There is much discussion now on the internet about nuclear risks and suggested political actions.
- There is also some information about the risks on Maui from the Japanese nuclear accidents and recommended precautions.
Click here for some online resources as of 3/18/11.
- Radioactive Iodine (Iodine-131) was major risk from the Chernobyl nuclear plant meltdown is not as big a factor with the current situation, which is leaking more Cesium.
For radioactive iodine, potassium Iodide is recommended, but only when person is exposed. It’s absorbed by the thyroid, which then doesn’t take in the radioactive substance.
Good natural sources of iodine are edible seaweed, like nori, kelp, dulse and irish moss as well as asparagus, garlic, lima beans, mushrooms, seafood, sea salt and fortified salt, sesame seeds, soybeans, spinach, summer squash, swiss chard and turnip greens.
2011 SOLAR YEAR
- PV costs have come down to between $2.80/watt (Germany) and $6.50/watt (US).
- Chinese thin wafer technology is less expensive but can fracture more easily.
- China is installing a new coal plant each week.
- Safe nuclear? This is a problem because of the long half life of nuclear waste, which contains certain radioactive elements (such as plutonium-239) from “spent” fuel that will remain hazardous to humans and other creatures for hundreds of thousands of years. Other radioisotopes remain hazardous for millions of years.
- What is needed is the political will to make the change to clean energy happen sooner. Because of the wealth and lobbying power of the established oil, coal and nuclear suppliers , this is a huge challenge. How can we make the change?
- Suggestion: Lease rooftops to MECO to generate electricity.
Response: MECO did survey about this and found it difficult to manage a large number of small roofs.
- One problem with locally generated clean energy is the limited capacity of the grid to take variable energy. Reliable forms of storage are needed, perhaps incentives for homeowners to get batteries to store sun and wind generated electricity during high production and and installation of available systems that let individual batteries feed back into the grid at specific times of day, like peak demand between 7-9pm.
- Currently the best batteries are Lithium-Ion batteries.
- Energy can also be stored by Pumped Hydro systems, but local studies about feasibility of pumped storage at Ulupalakua revealed serious problems regarding environmental impact statements and getting permits.
- A planned reservoir in upcountry has a cost of $100 million to build and an 18-year of permitting process. Two of those would be needed for pumped storage. MECO is only worth $100 million and they burn $300 million of oil burned/year, which is paid for by consumers. It is hard for them to invest $100-200 million in a storage system.
- The Lanai PV farm was designed to store energy, but the battery company failed and the Chinese bought it. Lanai is just now getting a new battery.
- The new FIT (Feed-in-Tariff), policy allows an electricity producer to upload a maximum of 250 kw to MECO for 20 years at a guaranteed rate of 21-27 cents per kw hour.
- Net metering is better for homes than FIT, however, a producer can have a FIT meter on a separate meter from the Net Meter.
- An investment in a PV system with a 6% interest loan gives power costs for 30 years between 14-33 cents / kWh. MECO currently charges $0.30-0.34/kWh and that will likely only get higher.
- Inverters for PV systems are warranted for 10-15 years and will likely be replaced because of limited lifetime and improvements in technology.
- The PV modules have 10 year warranty, but can least for up to 40 years if not damaged by a big voltage surge, people walking on top of them and creating micro fractures, or getting serious corrosion on the terminal or getting water seepage.
- The resulting return on a PV system is between 8% and 13%, depending whether tax incentives are utilized.
- This grows to a 31% annual return in 20 years (considering a 5.5% increase in kWh prices)
- Commercial systems pay off in 2-4 years -
- Investments in solar parks yield 7-14%. A solar park is where people rent out their land or their roof and others invest in the PV installation.
- One problem is that the rush to install at the end of the year for tax write-offs chokes installation process with over demand of limited supplies.
- People need to learn how to use the tax benefits that are year-round.
- Need to have clean energy education for architects and bankers.
- LEED (international green building certification system) points are given for generating energy, but not for design. Because of the current low economy, there are few LEED projects on Maui now.
- PV installation also protect roofs, but you need to start with a roof in good condition.
PROMOTING SOLAR ENERGY
- Signs in front of PV homes or stickers on their mailboxes could show the trend.
GARAGE AND CARPORT PV SYSTEMS.
- These are very practical, can be placed in parking lots, give shade to parked vehicles and provide power for all the associated businesses or homes.
PV IN THE GARDEN
- Alternating PV pipes and open space can make the right amount of shade for vegetables like tomatoes. Some panels let sunlight through and could also be installed in gardens.
GROUND MOUNTED PV SYSTEMS
- Ground mounted systems require a building permit and they must be engineered.
SOLAR HOT WATER
- Solar hot water was tested by, and standards developed in part by the utilities. Now it is mandated for new construction, but regulations and enforcement were not mandated. The mandate eliminated solar hot water tax credits and rebates and costs the state money for inspection. Contractors also must be trained to properly install the units.
- Architects also need to be educated about locating solar electricity and solar water units appropriately, too limit length of pipes from source to end use.
- These are made from amorphous materials and serve a double purpose, but are not yet efficient enough to be really practical.
- The Small Wind Power market is still developing.
- The vertical axis installation at the MECO office is wobbly. Same problem at the UHC. The 20′ height above the bearing creates cantilever problems on bearings.
- All wind units get energy from their “swept area”, which is one of the most important factors in predicting energy production
- Vertical wind turbines swept area is half the cage size because because half of the time it’s rotating into the wind.
- The small turbines at the Ma’alea aquarium are challenged to follow shifts in wind direction.
- Wind turbines must be high enough to avoid turbulence, which kills energy production.
- Wind power provides better dollar per kw hours than solar in a good wind resource.
- Durability is issue with wind equipment. There’s a 20-year design for the better units.
- The first big Maalea turbine fell apart each week because it was an old design that wasn’t made for the salt environment)
- The <i>First Wind</i> farm now has storage in the form of a semi-truck sized GE battery. Their new farm will go up soon. Huge pieces of the new windmills can be seen stored beyond the fence at the end of South Holopono Street in the Maui Research Park.
- Land is leased from the state by First Wind. Customers pay MECO which pays First Wind which pays state.
- When excess energy is generated, it can be curtailed by stopping the windmill from turning.
- Construction has begun at the Auwahi Wind Energy 22-megawatt wind energy and battery storage project near Ulupalakua. Because it’s at end of power line, it needs a massive 30 MW battery.