The state has asked University of Hawaii researchers to study the best possible routes for an undersea cable that would deliver power generated from windfarms on Lanai and Molokai to other islands. The cable, which would be at least 30 miles long, is part of Gov. Linda Lingle's effort to obtain 70 percent of Hawaii's energy from clean sources by 2030.
The state now gets about 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources, making it one of the most fossil fuel-dependent states in the nation.
The cable would be able to connect large wind farms proposed for Lanai and Molokai with the power grids of those two islands as well as grids on the more heavily populated isles of Maui and Oahu.
The survey would be the first step in a process that allow the cable to qualify for federal economic stimulus funds, said Ted Peck, the state's energy program administrator.
"We wanted to get these funds to Hawaii and circulating in the local economy as quickly as possible," Peck said.
Data collected from the survey would become part of an environmental impact statement for the cable, the state Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism said in a statement Thursday.
David Murdock, a billionaire who owns 98 percent of Lanai, has proposed creating a wind farm on the island.
His plan would build 125 turbines spread over 10,000 to 12,000 acres and then export power to Oahu via undersea cables.
First Wind has committed $50 million to help the community buy the closed-down Molokai Ranch, which covers one-third of the island, including the area of the proposed wind farm.
First Wind and Castle & Cooke Hawaii agreed to build smaller wind projects together rather than competing to develop bigger wind farms. This allowed them to forgo a bidding war.
The companies say their collaborative effort may end after the early phase, and then they would start competing for the ability to provide Hawaii's renewable power.
© 2009 - Associated Press