Hawaii has the dubious distinction among the fifty states of obtaining more than 90 percent of its energy from oil. Its geographically remote location means it cannot obtain power from nearby states. It has no conventional energy resources of its own, such as oil, coal or natural gas. It imports all of the oil and coal that it uses.
What better location to take advantage of solar power? Kauai, with a resident population of roughly 58,000, has a proposed solar project in the works that will bring power to 8,000 homes. The 12 megawatt facility will be situated on agricultural land. The privately owned company, PowerWorks Inc., reports on their website that they are “currently working on advanced site development activities.”
The benefits to Kauai are obvious and subtle at the same time. Energy the project will generate will be clean, renewable, and is estimated to result in a sizeable reduction in dependence on imported oil, saving the consumption of 11,800 barrels per year. The power generated by the project will be stable, cost-wise, since it will not be subject to the volatility of foreign oil price spikes.
PowerWorks Inc. says the less obvious benefits will save our society roughly $80 million over 20 years in health and societal costs. Water pollution/consumption should be reduced by 8,600,000 gallons per year.
The company also claims that the emissions and pollution that will be prevented in the course of the project’s life of 20 years should equal over 567,000,000 pounds of NOx, SOx, and CO2.
According to PowerWorks:
Further, the hidden economic burdens placed on society from air pollution created by fossil-fired power generation is huge—the costs to "medicate" and "repair" our society, based upon the various air pollution values over 20 years mentioned above, is roughly estimated at $80 million, which comprises health care and disease costs, plus damage to crops, property, climate, livestock, etc., as well as, impacts to public services.
PowerWorks and its affiliate, Pacific Winds Inc., currently own and operate four wind power projects that use 900 wind turbines, generating 95,000 kilowatts of energy at their fields near Livermore, California.
Other proposed projects around the country are envisioned for Texas, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Kansas, California, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Missouri, and Colorado.
Hawaii’s economy will benefit by the creation of local construction jobs and expenditures on materials, supplies and equipment rentals. The local economic benefits from this solar Project over 20 years are estimated to be approximately $33 million. This figure includes property taxes, payroll from high-skilled jobs, land owner/farmer land leases, sales taxes, business taxes, various services purchased from local retailers (both during initial construction, plus continuing services for operation and maintenance), etc.
Kauai has some of the most spectacular and vulnerable wildlife habitat in the world. PowerWorks claims that the use of clean, natural solar power saves human lives, but it also saves the lives of birds and other wildlife:
Birds are far more sensitive to pollution than humans due to the thinness of the bird's lung's air-sac gas-exchange tissue, roughly half of the thickness of mammals, plus the large amounts of oxygen required for flight. Therefore, birds are far more sensitive to airborne particulates and pollution. In addition, fossil-fired power plants cause significant bird fatalities not only from air pollution, but from mining, destruction of forests, collisions with power plant smokestacks and structures, climate change which wreaks havoc on migration routes and degrades habitats, etc.