Category Archives: Hawaii

Ooops — A Power Failure just after sunset

While I don’t really believe in signs, I must admit, the last week I spent in Honolulu provided the encouragement I needed to give Kailua-Kona a try.   Honolulu was encouraging me to find someplace else to be.  It had been a great 4 week stay full of Saimin, Portuguese Sausage, papaya and walks on Kailua Beach.

It all started when the good folks at the Honolulu Board of Water Supply decided to replace a water main in front of my Hawaii residence location.  This 8 to 10 month long process was spectacularly noisy.  Hours were spent listening to a saw cut strips in asphalt.

A few days later, on Monday January, 12th,  I went for a drive to a favorite beach of mine near Kaena Point.  I got caught in an 90 minute traffic mess because the city closed one lane of the Farrington Highway.  90 minutes to go a bit over a mile.

Later that evening, shortly after sunset, on a windless night, the power system got stressed by the anticipated evening peak. The utility issued a series of rolling blackouts to prevent total system failure. People watching the National Championship Football game were not pleased.

Hawaiian Electric (HE) has not constructed a new peaking power plant since 1991.  The most recent plant of significant size (a 130 megawatt plant) was built by a private firm in 1992.  That’s a long time without significant power additions.  Plants get old, technology changes, new loads get added.   The traffic mess that is Kapolei did not exist in 1992.   No wonder the grid is stressed.

Hawaii needs 4 old plants to operate properly for the city to stay lit at night.  Three oil fired plants owned by the utility and one owned by a private firm, AES.

AES constructed it’s plant in 1992, some 22+ years ago…and it’s…are you ready for this… coal fired with coal imported from Indonesia!  This 130 megawatt plant  burns an odd assortment of waste in addition to the coal.  Old tires and waste motor oil provide fuel for the plant. The plant uses an old technology to clean the coal exhaust. On the plus side, it does get rid of lots of hard to handle waste, on an island that has little surplus land.

In 2010, the utility began the process of converting existing oil plants to algae based biodiesel.   And in 2014, they included biomass as a future feedstock in the coal plant contract.   I worry that converting existing peaking plants might put the grid at risk, should the new technology not work as well as advertised.

It’s never a good idea to be first to market using a new technology.  It’s generally a good idea to go second or even third.  Our optimistic nature produces rosy scenarios that are nearly impossible to meet in the real world.  We fail to anticipate problems. Many expensive mistakes are made as we learn.  Remember the Boeing 787 airplane, chock full of new technology.  It turned out OK because Boeing had the resources and time to make it work. The project was years late and billions over budget.

I remember something called the Healy Clean Coal Plant that was constructed in Healy, Alaska.

This new technology plant was supposed to burn waste coal cleanly.   The 300 million dollar plant was  completed in 1998.  It sits idle today…the victim of frequent plant failures, poor quality control during the test phase and a plethora of legal difficulties.

Hawaii politicians seem to be OK with the notion that evening power failures are part of the price Hawaii must pay for Hawaii’s clean energy policies.  I don’t get it.   It’s going to get worse.

Hawaiian Electric is not spending money to meet the peak demand and is spending money to stabilize the grid so that it can take more solar energy during the day.  Too much solar in remote locations has destabilized the grid, causing voltage surges.  This has forced the utility to limit new installations.

Generous subsidies have created a thriving solar business.  When the utility limits these installations, the utility has a significant PR problem.   Hawaiian Electric’s (HE) approach is to figure out ways to take more power during the day….and announce in advance when power failures are going to show up in the evening.

Spending money to expand the dirty old oil system is unpopular. Three main power plants provide the majority of Honolulu’s oil fired power.  The largest is the Kahe Oil Plant on Oahu’s west shore.  Between 1963 and 1981 this plant was expanded 5 times from 81 Megawatts of Power to the 661 Megawatts it has today.  Facilities at this plant are over 30 years old, with many facilities over 40 years of age.

The most recent major expansion of the Hawaiian Electric Oil system was completed when the Kalaeola Cogen plant was finished in 1991.  This “newer” Cogen plant  added almost 300 megawatts of power between 1989 and 1991.  The newest power generator in the system is 23 years old.

The third major oil fired plant, the Waiau Oil Plant provides a bit over 200 Megawatts.    I can remember driving by this plant in 1960.  Some equipment dates back to 1950, most of the generation was constructed in the 196o’s.

As HE approached the rolling blackout days, several HE oil plants were having difficulties and the coal plant was struggling too.  Peak capacity was severely limited as the utility struggled to get the failed units back on line.  No new peaking plants in over 20 years in a system that must exist without assistance from other operators.  Sometimes being on an island is a bitch.

HE has been pretending, literally for years, that their peaking problem does not exist.  It is only going to get worse as local politics trumps basic utility operations.   Algae based biodiesel might work, but it will probably be years late and billions over budget.

Goodbye Honolulu, hello Kona and all that geothermal power.

 

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Hawaii Travel Tips – part 2 – Food Tips

Hawaii is a marvelous mixture of many food types, courtesy of the many cultures that thrive there.  My favorites include:

  • Portuguese Sausage.   I have had similar sausages made in other places, but the Hawaiian concoction is my favorite.   McDonald’s serves it a a breakfast meat.
  • Portuguese Bean Soup.  Yummy.  Cinnamon’s Restaurant is my favorite place for Portuguese Bean Soup, but Cinnamon’s is in Kailua and is popular with the locals.  Expect to wait a while, particularly on weekends.   Lots of places make an acceptable version.  Give it a try.
  • Teri beef, pork or chicken.  Yeah, I know,  it’s a Japanese dish, but it’s everywhere in Hawaii.  I grew up munching on teri beef sandwiches after a day at the beach.   Lunch wagons, fast food restaurants, and even relatively nice restaurants feature the stuff.
  • Saimin is a noodle dish similar to Ramen served in a broth with lots of other stuff thrown in.  My favorite place to get Saimin is Zippy’s.   Zippy’s offers both sit down and counter service.  Sit down and order my personal favorite, Chicken Katsu Curry Saimin.  I really like the way the curry flavors the broth.  A full meal for less than $8.  Zippy’s has about 5 different types of Saimin and they are all good.  And Cheap.
  • Kalbi.  Korean barbecue ribs.  Yummy.
  • Katsu Chicken, another yummy treat courtesy of Korea.
  • Mahi Mahi.  I like it dipped in egg batter and fried.  It makes a good sandwich or a main course at dinner.
  • Ahi in some form.  Yellow fin tuna (Ahi) is served raw as Sashimi or Poki (both are available at Costco) and cooked as sandwiches and as a main course in restaurants.  I like my Ahi charred rare with a nice spicy dipping sause.

Spice-Rubbed Seared Tuna Steaks with Balsamic Reduction

You have probably noticed a dearth of Hawaiian Food.   I’m not a fan, but if you’re a first time visitor give some a try.  It’s definitely different.  A worthwhile experience.

I tolerate Lau Lau

and enjoy Kalua Pork.

I avoid poi

Lomi Lomi Salmon  and Haupia.  Lomi is just too salty for me, and I have never been a fan of coconut, so Haupia fails to make it for me as a dessert.

Some odd American concoctions are available too.   I’d avoid Spam, it’s everywhere.  And Vienna Sausage too.   And then there’s a uniquely Hawaiian Breakfast sure to give you a heart attack, the Loco Moco.

Loco Moco Plate

Two scoops of rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg and gravy.   It’s everywhere and I must admit I have never even considered eating one.   Rice and gravy for breakfast is just not my thing.

Hawaii Travel Tips

Tomorrow I leave the Islands after a 3 week stay.   I am ever amazed by the number of people that visit Honolulu and never leave Waikiki.   Hawaii is so much more.  Rent a car or book a tour.  Take a city bus.  But go.

And there are so many great places to visit.

The Tripadvisor Oahu top ten is a good place to start.  10 popular destinations.   I’ve been to all of them at one time or another in my years spent in Hawaii.   Each is a good place to visit.  I haven’t been to most of them in years and years.  It’s not what I do when I go to Oahu.   I sight-see, eat in my favorite restaurants, and walk at my favorite places.

  • I like the trail inside Diamond Head.  Lots of cool stuff including old WWII bunkers.  It can  be crowded and hot, so go early in the day.
  • A walk around Ala Moana Park including Magic Island (not really an island) is a short walk from Waikiki and a great place to walk in the evening.  And the Friday night fireworks look good from there.
  • I love walking on Kailua Beach.  My favorite beach in Hawaii.   A trip to the Island that does not include a walk on Kailua Beach is a bit of a disappointment.   Go at low tide for the best walking.
  • The Malaekalana Recreation Area is a wonderful undiscovered Oahu gem.   A beautiful stretch of beach that is never crowded.
  • I try not to miss the short hike up to Makapuu Point Lighthouse.

The scenery is spectacular.

And I go mostly on weekdays.   Oahu literally means The Gathering Place in Hawaiian.  80% of Hawaii’s million plus population live on Oahu. Places that are relatively quiet on weekdays are crowded with locals on weekends.  Popular beaches (like Hanauma Bay) are crowded every day, but just a few miles up the road is Bellows, a beautiful beach that is nearly empty on weekdays.

Hawaii is an Island, and the perimeter roads are circular.   The result, nobody seems to know which way is North.  North moves around.  The mountains (Mauka in Hawaiian) are to the North in Honolulu, but to the South in Kaneohe.

And the city fathers were, shall we say, creative in their use of directional labels on streets.   North King Street is West of downtown is South King Street is East of downtown.  East Manoa Road is East of Manoa Road, but both Manoa and East Manoa run in a northerly direction.

Local directions are given using reference points.  Head Mauka or Makai (towards the ocean) or perhaps toward Diamond Head or perhaps Pearl Harbor.  As one moves around the Island, the references change.   Once you know where the local landmarks are, it’s easy.

Two mountain ranges run diagonally from Southeast to Northwest and there is a large central plain in between.  The Koolau Mountains separate Honolulu from Kailua and the windward side.   The Waianae Mountains run all along the western coast.  Northeasterly trade winds dominate normal weather.   The windward shore including most of of the Koolau Mountains are wet, the West shore is hot and much drier.

The map that follows has one important flaw.  THERE IS NO ROAD around Kaena Point (the western most point on the island).   The road has been impassable since the late 1960’s.  I have no idea why it is shown as  a road.

And the road across the Waianae Mountains (route 780) traverses military lands and is only open one day a year.

https://i0.wp.com/www.aaccessmaps.com/images/maps/us/hi/oahu/oahu.gif

If you rent a car and want to view the dramatic scenery there are 3 basic choices.

  1. Tour the East end of the Island
  2. Visit the West shore
  3. Tour the stuff in the middle.

My favorite relatively short one day trip covers the East end of the island.   Take Kalakaua Ave. toward Diamond Head until the road ends, then follow Diamond Head Road into Kahala.  Work your way up to H1 East.  When the freeway ends you will be on the Kalanianiole Highway, the main road around the East end of the Island.

Possible stops include Hanauma Bay, the Blow Hole, Sandy Beach, the Makapuu Point Lighthouse, Makapuu Beach, Sea Life Park, Waimanalo Beach, Bellows Beach and Kailua town.  The stretch of road from Hanauma Bay to Waimanalo is spectacularly beautiful.   Pull off the road a few times and take in the view.   On a clear day you can see Molokai in the distance, and if the humidity is low you can see Maui too.

I like to stop at Hanauma Bay,

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Park, Honolulu, HI

just to look at the spectacular view, then stop again at some point along  the road before Sandy Beach.  If the surf is high, the Blow Hole is a fun choice.

Next is the Makapuu Lighthouse parking lot.  The walk to the lighthouse and back takes about an hour.  After a lunch in Kailua town,

I’m ready for Kailua Beach before heading back to town.

Free Electricity in Hawaii

I’ve spent the last few blogs trashing electric vehicles in Hawaii.   I’ve been too harsh.  I now think I’d consider an electric vehicle if I lived in Honolulu.

What prompted this change of heart?  A trip to Panda Express in Kapolei.  Yep, Panda Express.  There it was, mounted on the sidewalk, near the front door,  where the handicap parking usually resides,  my mind changer…..a  free electric car charging station.

Call me stupid…. it hadn’t occurred to me when I was doing the math on electric car costs that the state would give electricity away.  They are here, there, everywhere.  Free electricity dispensers.  Hawaii is giving away energy ….and who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Yes, you heard right, the state with the highest electric rates in the country is giving the stuff away as a way to encourage electric car use.  Both the feds and Hawaii pay you to buy an electric car, and Hawaii pays your fuel costs too.   Wow.

I could park my car there at Panda express on my way home from work, wander around the area getting exercise, maybe pick up some grinds….and eventually go home after scoring a few dollars worth of free fuel.  Suppose I worked at Schwab (or somewhere else that provides free energy) in downtown Honolulu, I could score free energy all day while I was at work.  If I played it just right I’d never pay for fuel again.

Yeah, I know it’s stupid to give away energy especially in a state that uses oil to make electricity….but Governments do stupid things all the time, so I might as well cash in.

Suppose, just suppose, I’d combined my electric car with a huge solar project at my home (last year before the 35% solar credit ran out).   People who can afford the first costs (it’s still expensive with a $10,000 subsidy) did just that.  The installation makes much more electricity than the house can use….and the excess is sent onto the electric grid.   The Solar customer then uses utility power in the evening and gets credit for the surplus provided earlier in the day.

The Utility is on the hook.  Hawaiian Electric gets power when it doesn’t need it and gets to give it back when it’s difficult for the utility to provide the power.  Who pays for the excess deliver-ability….everybody else.  And if this electric car thing takes off, peaking load will get worse as people plug their cars in when they get home from work, during the evening peak.

Hawaii politics in action…and the Electric Utility is right in there promoting the projects.   All the while the peak gets harder to meet and there are no new peaking plants being constructed, on a island….can you say blackout.

Hawaiian Electric Car Fuel Numbers Are Awful

Hawaii is one of my favorite places.   I love the local customs, the racially diverse society, the local food, and the weather is the best in the world.  Sometimes, though, the local politics drives me a bit crazy.

Hawaii is gaga over electric vehicles.  They have something called The Honolulu Clean Cities Coalition (HCC),  a non profit organization dedicated to reducing petroleum use in the transportation sector in Hawaii by advocating electric cars.  Oh, yes….it’s funded by the feds.

Here’s the problem.  Electric cars in Hawaii run on oil.  This makes them both expensive to purchase and expensive to operate.  And they have those nasty difficult to dispose of batteries.  Hawaii gets most of its electricity by burning oil.  Electric cars are only clean and environmentally friendly if their electrical source is clean and environmentally preferred.  The state is spending millions in federal, state and local subsidies to burn oil to make electricity to put into an auto…when they could skip the middle man and simply buy a gasoline vehicle.

There are federal and local subsidies here, there, and everywhere.  Without the subsidies, Hawaii would not have the program they have….and the citizens of the state would be better off.  They would have lower taxes and a cleaner environment.

Most electricity in Honolulu is produced by either oil or coal.  Even the natural gas used in the state is a manufactured process that starts out as oil.  There is a small amount of wind, a still under construction bio-fuels plant, and a rapidly growing Solar power generation program complete with Federal and State subsidies.

2012 was a banner year for Solar power in Honolulu.  The state subsidy (35%) went away on December 31, 2012 and people rushed to cash in.   The state revenue commissioner is not pleased.  He’s having trouble finding funds to offset the loss in tax revenue that Hawaii’s 35% credit caused.

Hawaiian Electric has special rates for electric vehicles.   If you pay $1.50 a month, you can get a sophisticated meter that allows you to pay rates based upon time of day.  The rates  encourage people to charge their cars at night which causes more oil to be burned because the main green alternative, Solar, is not available.

Honolulu’s typical rate is right around $.40 cents per kilowatt hour.   You could be paying as little as $.34 or as much as $.45.  The National average is a bit less than $.12.  The rate applies to all electricity used in the house, so it is really important not to use much juice in the evening.  The rate is a few cents higher on the other islands.

Let’s start by being optimistic…we’ll use 35 cents per kilowatt hour as a base price.  Next we add 20% or 7 cents per kilowatt hour to cover the losses in the charging and battery system.   In my last post I calculated a cost of 7.2 cents for the 220 V charging system, but I think I was a bit high, so we’ll just add 5 cents here.  That makes the cost of electricity in the vehicle 47 cents per kilowatt hour.

Now we must make an assumption on the cost of gasoline.   Yesterday I bought gasoline at a Costco in Honolulu for $3.999 per gallon.  If we pay 47 cents per kilowatt hour, how many miles would we have to go to spend $4.00 on fuel?

The EPA says the Leaf will go 2.94 miles per kilowatt.  At 47 cents per kilowatt that equals 47/2.94 or  15.99 cents per mile or 4.0/.1599 or 25 miles per gallon equivalent.

If I happen to fill up at a peak time I use 45*1.2+5 or 59 cents per kilowatt hour.   That math looks like this  59/2.94 or 20.06 cents per mile or 4/.201 or 19.9 miles per gallon equivalent.  Most economy cars on the road in Hawaii do better than that.  The Nissan Altima I am driving is averaging a about 2o.5 miles per gallon.

When an electric car uses oil based electricity it pollutes more than a modern efficient gasoline vehicle.  Hawaii would be better off dumping the entire Electric car program.  Gasoline cars are cheaper, cleaner burning and they don’t have those nasty Lithium Ion Battery packs.

The EPA and Hawaiian Electric try to make Electric cars sound like a good deal…and the locals here have installed over 200 electric charging stations…buying into the program.  The EPA could be right in a place with very low electricity prices, but there’s no way this statement by Hawaiian Electric is true

Switching to electric vehicles will use substantially less oil at lower cost to reach the same level of mobility, even if oil is used in the production of electricity.

Come on guys, tell the truth…we can take it.