Undersea cable impacts and costs too severe, says National Grid

I Aloha Molokai News Release

A high-voltage undersea transmission cable planned for Massachusetts has been killed by one of the nation’s major utilities because it would be a “high-risk” installation, too expensive to construct, with too many severe environmental impacts and too difficult to maintain.

The State of Hawaii is now seeking to build an undersea power transmission cable to move electricity to Oahu from industrial-sized wind farms on Molokai and Lanai.

The National Grid, which serves much of New England and New York State, released the findings of its Cable Feasibility Study this week. The cable would have been built using the latest technology called horizontal direct drilling — the same technology planned for sections of the interisland cable proposed by Governor Neil Abercrombie and HECO, and now being considered by the Hawaii Legislature.

The giant utility has just released an executive summary of its Cable Feasibility Study, stating that an underwater high-voltage cable is, “a high-risk installation, has increased environmental impacts, has increased project costs, and poses adverse long-term maintenance/reliability issues … As such, this project alternative has been deferred from further analysis and consideration.”

Undersea drilling also poses even more environmental risks, National Grid said, because of the environmental impacts of a large platform necessary for cable laying. It added that if there were a problem, locating and repairing an undersea cable failure would be time-consuming, very costly and destructive to marine life.

The governor’s and HECO’s proposed multi-billion-dollar interisland cable would substantially increase Hawaii electric rates and taxes. It would be constructed through the Hawaii Humpback Whale National Sanctuary, the world-famous Molokai Reef, and the Penguin Banks, one of the most significant marine environments in the Pacific. No environmental or economic analyses of this project have been done, and the governor is attempting to exclude it from such studies and public review.

The cable’s staggering cost and environmental impacts parallel a recent analysis by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who terms Hawaii’s high electric rates as one of the three barriers to the state’s economic growth. Rather than build huge and wasteful wind and cable projects, Stiglitz stated, Hawaii should concentrate on expansion of rooftop solar, which would reduce our electricity rates “to a fraction of what you are paying today.”

I Aloha Molokai has repeatedly stated that the Hawaii interisland cable proposal must be subjected to full public, economic and environmental review before it can be considered by the Legislature. With Hawaii’s electricity rates already the nation’s highest, to continue this colossal and environmentally destructive boondoggle is unfair to all Hawaii ratepayers and residents.


7 Responses

  1. After reading about this project, I found this is a really odd project for IAM to refer to. In the case of the National Grid, it was the community who wanted the cable to go through the harbor, which served as a more expensive route than the route that National Grid wanted to use. It was National Grid who claimed that it would be “High Risk” and an enviromental threat. Upon request from the community, National Grid refused to release their findings. Below is one of the articles I found on the subject.


  2. Hey Steve.
    The bottem line is that there is NO concrete information on the effects of the underwater cable and its effect on the ocean animal’s lives and environment. Being a man of the ocean and I myself from the islands and lived in the ocean daily as child, it is just obvious unless they have evidence and facts don’t persue it.I do not believe the governor even knows the whole story on the cable and the towers and how they will effect the environment of our island in the long run. The rail is the same issue ,I believe the government and these companies mainly want to just create jobs, nothing more then that.I do not think the politcians really want to work hard for the people and the environment and find out the facts for the future children of Hawaii.I wonder how many lobbyist contributed to the governor’s campaign fund and other politicians from the windmill group.
    With all the sun shine we have in the islands lets make use of it.

    • Aloha e Molokai Wahine,
      I agree that there has been too little real information provided. While I grow tired of the demagoging of opposition groups, which are aimed more at exciting our emotions- on the other hand the state has failed to contrast these attacks with any factual information. Certainly there are other projects and environmental studies of such projects to compare with. I do however agree with IAM that the interisland cable proposal should be subjected to full public, economic and environmental review before being considered by the Legislature. In regard to Solar, I am not entirely confident about cost projections that solar would be more affordable. Being someone who depends entirely on Solar and is off the grid, the problem that I see with roof top solar on a large scale is that you could possibly create well over a hundred thousand independent power providers in Hawaii. Although Solar is fairly low in maintenance, there is some maintenance and observation required. PV systems deteriorate and the performance curve diminishes after so many years, and of course the sun doesn’t always shine. So who will maintain this mass number of independent systems and keep them in check? Yes there can be jobs created to do this, but this cost a great deal of money. Further more there is a great deal of initial capital required. Where will the source of this capital come from? Is this also to be placed on tax payers? I am not saying it is impossible but again a thorough economic comparison report is necessary.

    • i thought creating jobs justified anything???this cable\windfarm issue is no diffrent than the monsanto issue…if your for one how can you be against the other??

      • I do not support either because of their impacts to the environment. However, I believe you have to have a SOLUTION to replace these entities which are NOT good for our environment.

      • I do believe that Monsanto’s jobs are more consistent, where the windmills are more temporary. Yes, jobs are important for the families on Molokai. Med-Quest program has changed,and has lowered its gross earnings to 133% of the federal proverty level, some people will no longer qualify for the 2 programs.Times are tough and companies provide medical if you work full time. So, there is a lot to consider when it comes to jobs. Unemployment breeds domestic violence, drug abuse,insecurity and desparation for many who feel there is no way out of their situation. It is the big picture to think about and the effects on people’s lives when they can not find a job to support themselves and their families.Public assitance goes only so far. Mahalo

  3. i thought for a moment the story said “world-famous molokai reefer”.

    i guess the reef is also pretty well known 🙂

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