Power Play: A Plan to Connect the Electric Grids of Oahu and Maui

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In a major change that could effectively nix plans for the long-debated industrial-scale wind farm proposed for Lanai, state policymakers have in recent months shifted their interest toward connecting the Oahu and Maui electric grids.

If the grid-link comes to fruition, it should allow more renewable energy to be brought online, help the state toward the goal of energy independence and potentially bring down electricity rates, say officials.

Mark Glick, who heads the state energy office, told Civil Beat that it's highly unlikely that Hawaii would simultaneously pursue both the Lanai wind project and the Oahu-Maui grid connection. For now, it looks like it will be one or the other.

The energy office administrator restated his view that the controversial Lanai project, which proposes to bring wind energy to Oahu via an undersea cable, is not essential to meeting Hawaii’s mid-term renewable energy goals.

Both projects are currently being debated before the Public Utilities Commission as developers make their case for each.

Glick argues that the benefits of connecting Maui are far greater than for the cables proposed for Lanai and Molokai under the Big Wind project. And he thinks the Maui project can be executed in a way that prevents the sort of community opposition that has plagued Lanai and Molokai. (The Molokai portion of the project has since fallen apart.)

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