State begins EIS for undersea electrical cables

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With the state officially committed to 70% clean energy by 2030, the Hawaii Energy Office filed notices of intent Wednesday to prepare an environmental impact statement for electrical cables from Maui County to Oahu.

Federal funding for the study requires it be done by April, so the state is moving to gather public input and study several possible routes for electrical cables that would run along the ocean bottom to Oahu from Lanai and/or Molokai.

"We are examining large infrastructure investments with considerable impacts on our communities," said Ted Peck, administrator of the State Energy Office. "We have to seriously study the best way we can use the renewable resources we have."

Three quarters of Hawaii's population lives on Oahu, but conditions for the generation of wind power are superior on Lanai and Molokai. Both islands have large open areas with very strong winds that could generate hundreds of megawatts for the Oahu grid.

The study, a state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism said Wednesday, "will incorporate a thorough analysis of overall impacts and benefits, but will not grant any development rights or privileges to a specific wind farm project."

The study will consider cables from possible sites on both the north and south shores of Molokai, and from the northeast part of Lanai, landing on Oahu near the Mokapu Peninsula (where Marine base is) or the southern coast between Pearl Harbor and Honolulu Harbor.

It's broadly estimated at this early stage that will be a billion-dollar project no matter where the cable is routed. It's also estimated that the savings will top $5 billion in less than 20 years.

Residents of both Lanai and Molokai are watching the issue closely. There is already an organized opposition movement on Lanai that puts out newsletters. Molokai residents are open to economic development but not if it interferes with the island's way of life.

To comment on the project or simply read about it:

To be conducted by AECOM Technical Services, the EIS is funded by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with a scheduled completion date of April 2012. This is a programmatic EIS, which looks mostly at the basic feasibility of the idea.

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