AN ATTEMPT BY A SOLAR DEVELOPER to convince a few Ocean View residents that a highly unpopular industrial-scale solar proposal could be mitigated met with minimal success during a recent meeting held in Ocean View.
Kevin White, a Director for Market Development at SPI Energy, headquartered in Shanghai, China, met with residents to discuss his company’s plans to build a 6.5 megawatt solar project on 26 scattered housing sites among rural homes. The
project has been on hold since September when the state Public Utilities
Commission received a 73-page formal complaint from residents who contended
that the project should not be in the Feed In Tariff program to sell
electricity to Hawai`i Electric Light Co.
|Kevin White represents the Chinese|
Company wanting to put industrial solar
in Ocean View neighborhoods.
Photo by Ann Bosted
HELCO and the developer, SPI Energy, applied to the PUC in August 2015 for permission to construct an overhead transmission line to connect the project to the grid. The application triggered a community meeting in February 2016 before PUC Chair Randy Iwase and then Consumer Advocate Jeffery Ono. Iwase and Ono listened with interest to the plethora of complaints about the project. They acknowledged that the project was more than a NIMBY (not in my back yard) issue, and Iwase told residents that their testimony “has not fallen on deaf ears.”
Ono, writing that the project is not in the public interest, recommended that the overhead transmission line be "undergrounded" at the developer’s expense. He also recommended that the PUC require the developer to pay up front for the costs of removing the transmission line, the substation and all the 26 solar installations at the end of the 20-year project. He cited SPI Energy’s lack of a “Community Give-Back Program.” White’s meeting could be seen as a reaction to Ono’s criticism.
Before the transmission line issue could be decided, the PUC received the formal complaint, asking that the project be either terminated or relocated. The PUC immediately put the Transmission Line Application on hold.
On Sept. 14, Iwase told the Honolulu Star Advertiser: “Nobody is going to move on the FIT project. We have suspended any action on the application pending a review or an investigation or resolution of the complaint.”
Residents loudly told White, “Go away,” and “We don’t want you here ruining our community.” Others said, “Your panels will be good for target practice,” and “This program was set up for agricultural people, not for you.” One said, “You are scamming us for roads and poles.” Another asked, “Have you heard of the Monkey Wrench Gang?”
One resident contended: “As soon as your project was made public, our land and home values went down. This affects all of us. Everyone in Ocean View will take a hit”.
White, who was vacationing with his wife in Hawai`i for a week, told the audience: “If I was in your shoes, I would feel the same way.” He acknowledged that moving the project would be the “number one solution,” adding “I understand that – I would want the same thing.”
Residents recalled that the project had been conceived in 2011 when Pat Shudak bought three acre lots for the project, at prices above the going rate, in order to speculate on entitlements for solar power. He sold the package to SPI. One resident told the meeting that SPI can make more money by taking the state and federal tax credits - and then flipping the project once it is complete - than from selling solar power.
“They can get 65% of the cost back from taxpayers like us and then if they sell the project for, say, 80% of the cost, they will have received 145% of the cost – amounting to a 45% profit before producing one kWh of power for the grid. That is why they want to ruin our neighborhood.”
Three phase power, good roads, cheap land and
a lucrative FIT program were the incentives for
solar installers to buy up housing lots to install 16
two-acre solar power generating plants among
homes in Ocean View. Photo by Ann Bosted
A written motion to ask SPI to donate its 18 building sites in Ranchos to Habitat for Humanity was objected to by a resident who said that “poor people” in Ocean View would cause problems. It was pointed out that Habitat for Humanity’s homes are all built to code and that the prospective owners invest at least 400 hours of “sweat equity” in their construction. In addition, prospective owners are extensively interviewed and their backgrounds checked. They also pay affordable mortgages, the resident contended.
Most residents were neither in favor nor against the motion. Since many said it needed more discussion, the motion was tabled.
In spite of verbal opposition to their project, the SPI representatives handed out slips of paper, and White requested that each person write down three items that the town needs. The Whites collected the slips without divulging the contents. Some residents loudly encouraged others to write: “Go away, go away, go away.”
Sandi Alexander, former President of Ocean View Community Association, was clearly amused by White’s “Santa Clause-type ploy.” She told The Ka’u Calendar “I don’t believe they have any clue who they are dealing with and how much opposition they will continuously have to deal with until this goes away.
“Why would anyone want to invest in technology that is already out of date? We are going to be stuck with outdated, horrible, structures rusting away, and we are going to have to deal with them. My first choice is ‘no project at all and my second is ‘project elsewhere,’” said Alexander.
THE MYSTERY HAZE OF 1950 is the title of the latest Volcano Watch by scientists of Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, who produce the weekly column and pinpoint the origin of the word vog:
On June 13, 1950, Honolulu was suddenly blanketed by the thickest haze seen since record keeping began there in 1906. Interestingly, the haze was first noticed four days earlier at Johnston Island, 800 miles southwest of O‘ahu, and then on June 12th at Wake Island 1,500 miles west-southwest. The total area covered by the dense haze layer was estimated to be 1,200,000 square miles.
The Weather Bureau in Honolulu, led by an up-and-coming new meteorologist named Robert H. Simpson, described the phenomenon as a “dry haze…due to a concentration of salt particles…and other impurities such as smoke.” The Bureau surmised that the haze was trapped beneath a stable layer of air we know today as the inversion layer, which prevented vertical movement of the haze. So, although the Weather Bureau was able to roughly characterize the nature of the haze by where it was found, its cause was still a mystery.
This was the era of atmospheric nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands, so an atomic blast was the first suspected cause. But that was quickly ruled out after Geiger counters, operated by the Hawai`i Sugar Planters’ association, detected no radiation.
|Robert Homer Simpson, left, led the Weather Bureau in|
Honolulu, founded Mauna Loa Observatory and later
led the National Hurricane Center. He lived to
the age of 102.
The first was that there had been a cataclysmic eruption (like Krakatoa in 1883 or Katmai in 1912) someplace on Earth at some distance, probably to the southwest. However, none was known in recent times.
A second hypothesis was that a giant dust storm somewhere in the world had ejected fine dust particles high into the atmosphere and they were carried to Hawaii by winds aloft. Although dust from storms in the Gobi Desert of northern China and Mongolia has been detected in Hawai`i, no such storm was happening then.
The third hypothesis was that the haze was indirectly caused by the Mauna Loa eruption going on at the time. According to mainland geologists, Mauna Loa could not have directly caused the haze because it was a “quiet” type of volcano, not explosive, like Krakatoa in 1883. They acknowledged that the Mauna Loa eruption, specifically its ocean entries, probably contributed to the haze but was not a main component because the haze appeared to move toward, rather than from, Mauna Loa.
More testing was done on the particles collected from the haze. Hawai`i Board of Health analysis showed “500 to 600 times the normal amount of suspended particles in Honolulu’s air.” Twenty-two percent of the particles were salt and the rest were unidentified dark, slightly acidic solids. Pineapple Research Institute scientists found more sulfate than salt in the soluble particles (prompting the term ‘smalt’ for the haze—combining the words ‘smog’ and ‘salt’), suggesting a volcanic source.
With Mauna Loa looking more likely as the source, Simpson suggested that high altitude winds might have carried emissions westward to Wake (and Johnston?) Islands, where lower level winds blew the haze back to Hawai`i. A colleague, Captain Charles K. Stidd, commanding officer of the 199th weather station, Hawai`i Air National Guard, suggested that, because the inversion layer rose above the elevation of Mauna Loa’s vents during the time that haze covered the Hawaiian Islands, it may have allowed Mauna Loa emissions to remain within the lower atmosphere around the islands. Capt. Stidd called the haze “vog.” Once the inversion layer dropped below Mauna Loa’s erupting vents, the haze was again confined above the inversion layer. Trade winds then cleared it out of the Hawaiian Islands and minds.
|Mauna Loa Observatory, founded by Robert Homer Simpson. Photo by Forrest Mimms III|
Simpson, the weatherman searching for the mystery haze’s origin, later founded what is now the Mauna Loa Observatory (a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration atmospheric research facility), among his other career contributions. Since the time of Simpson, Stidd, and the 1950 Mauna Loa eruption, our understanding of vog and its effects on humans, agriculture, and the natural environment has increased as well.
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory staff recently updated the U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet on vog. This four-page document, Volcanic Air Pollution in Hawai`i, can be found online at https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/fs20173017.
Visit the HVO website (http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov) for Kīlauea daily eruption updates, Mauna Loa weekly updates, volcano photos, recent earthquakes info, and more; call for summary updates at 808-967-8862 (Kīlauea) or 808-967-8866 (Mauna Loa); email questions to askHVO@usgs.gov.
Dance Imagined with Karen Masaki begins on Tuesday, May 2 at 10 a.m. at the Volcano Art Center campus in Volcano village. The five-session series begins with a general warm up, moving through all body parts to get the blood flowing and joints loosened. Attention will then shift to explorations of spinal and joint movements and breathing exercises to build fluidity and strength. No dance experience required. See www.volcanoartcenter.org.
A Hula Pele Workshop with Kumu Ab Valencia, begins on Tuesday, May 2 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Volcano Art Center. As King David Kalakaua said, “Hula is the language of the heart, therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian People.” The classes continue Tuesdays, May 9, 16, and 23. See www.volcanoartcenter.org.
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