HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state administration is moving ahead with its long term plans to use less imported oil to meet Oahu's power needs.
Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona announced that the state has picked AECOM to prepare an environmental impact statement on a project to lay an undersea cable that would connect Molokai and Lanai to Oahu. The cable would be used to bring energy to Oahu, generated by wind farms that would be built on Molokai and Lanai.
Officials pointed to what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico as one of the big reasons why the project is necessary.
"Federal authorities estimate that 798,000 gallons of crude have been gushing into the sea every day," Aiona said.
"Estimates are that the amount of oil released into the Gulf is about equivalent to the amount of petroleum we burn in the state for electricity per day." said Ted Peck, administrator of the Hawaii State Energy Office.
Peck added that the state spends $6 billion a year on oil, which supplies 75 percent of Hawaii's electricity.
"We estimate we're going to get about 1.4 million megawatt hours per year out of this project," said state Energy Facilitator Joshua Strickler. "That equates to roughly 12% of Oahu's needs."
Energy officials said there are already other cables under Hawaii waters, and they are confident the cables will have a minimal impact underwater.
However, they said that there are big questions on how wind farms will impact Molokai and Lanai.
"What we're going to ask the people of Molokai and Lanai to do is give up a significant part of their islands for the benefit of Oahu," Strickler said. "So we need to figure out what is the right benefit for those islands."
Environmentalists said they will watch the project closely, but are glad the state is actively looking at alternatives to oil.
"When you look at what's happening in the Gulf today, thank goodness we don't have oil offshore," said Jeff Mikulina of the Blue Planet Foundation. "But we do have plenty of wind. And windspills aren't so bad."
The state is using $2.9 million dollars in Federal stimulus money to pay for the environmental impact statement, which is scheduled to be ready in April 2012. If approved, the entire project would cost anywhere from $800 million to $1 billion, with construction beginning in 2014 or 2015.