Monday, March 31, 2014

Hawaii's Electric Company Suffers National Humiliation (Forbes)

On September 6, 2013 Hawaiian Electric Company or HECO changed the rules for connecting solar systems. Based on DBEDT data, the number of residential permits in December 2012 were 2,452.  With the new rules in effect, the number of residential permits in December 2013 were 1,218, a 50.3% reduction.

FORBES:  A Hawaiian utility has tried to slow the growth of solar. In December, Hawaiian Electric Company shut down rooftop solar installations, citing “grid stability.”

“That’s another bullshit argument,” said Chu, a Nobel Prize winning physicist who served as energy secretary from 2009 to April, 2013. Solar installations don’t threaten grid stability until they approach 20% of the customer base, Chu said. In Hawaii solar is at 2%.

(Hawaiian Electric disputes Chu’s 2% figure, and spokeswoman Lynn Unemori says the company has not halted solar installations, but has adopted “a more cautious approach to applications for new PV systems on circuits with a large amount of PV already installed, solely for reasons of safety and reliability.” ) END QUOTE

But Roy Skaggs of Alternate Energy, Inc. won't let Lynn's "word-smithed" response stand:


To quote Mr. Chu above, that’s a bullshit response. The only thing I agree with you on, is that rooftop solar has exceeded 2%. The rest of your canned response is the same vomit regurgitated by Scott Seu and sadly what we have been sometimes even seeing from the PUC. HECO has blocked many people, including ones who you were supposed to grandfather. This “approving new installations daily” statement is so exaggerated that you would have to work for HECO to believe it. But hey, I guess if you approve 1 installation a day and block 20, then you can get away with that line!

How can you say HECO “strongly supports” PV? Since September, the entire industry has been cast away by HECO. How many hundreds of lost jobs and millions of dollars does it take before HECO admits they do not support anything but their own profit margins? You have hundreds of customers stuck in limbo for months who signed contracts and committed to PV before Sept 6th, and HECO has still not resolved those poor families troubles. Many are paying bank loans AND HECO!

And let’s talk for a second about this “grid saturation” that HECO holds onto and tries to pass off as truth. Scott Seu admitted in front of Senators and Representatives in October that there are grids over 200% DML. Where are the voltage spikes of record? Surely, with such “unsafe” levels, HECO would have examples to provide, right? The newest delay HECO is pushing is something already in place. The inverters being used by most, if not every single company, have protection in place from the bogus claims of “voltage spikes” that HECO has been spewing. These fast trip invereters are there and have been there. So why are solar companies just now getting word to provide proof that the inverters do indeed have this in place? We have been telling you they do for months.

What is HECO’s next delay tactic? The jig is up. More and more news outlets and industry professionals, like Mr. Chu, are calling you on your bullshit. If HECO doesn’t work with solar and the customers who want it, you will soon go the way of the land line.

How can a monopoly tell hard working Americans that they cannot capture the free sun on their own rooftops? You can’t. This is a losing battle for HECO. Innovate or go extinct.

Roy Skaggs

PS--Also recall that HEI president Connie Lau lead Move Oahu Forward... the big bucks lobby that is inflicting heavy rail on Oahu.

Monday, March 24, 2014

HECO's Renewable Watch

Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) has launched a website which displays in near real time the generation of electric power on each Hawaiian island by solar (photovoltaic or PV) and wind renewable energy: Renewable Watch.

Shown below is the image for the Island of Oahu caught at the time of this post...

At this instance at 11:54 AM, solar PV is making 142 MW whereas wind is making 58 MW.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bicycling Safety Through the Eyes of TOP GEAR

TOP GEAR is an internationally syndicated car show of the BBC.  They specialize in both admiring and mocking all forms of transportation, with an emphasis on (super)cars.

In March 2014 they aired their "serious" TV adverts, as they call them, in response to calls by the City of London to improve bicycle safety.

You can search the web for the "outrage" the TOP GEAR TV ads caused.  Here is a sample from The Oregonian.

They are funny and they do have a bit of a point as well.  Enjoy the TOP GEAR YouTube threesome:
  1. Green, Red: Learn the Bloody Difference
  2. Act Your Age
  3. Work Harder. Get a Car.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Driverless Cars? Yes, GoogleCar, iCar, etc. are Closer than they Appear

No need for a driver's license?

Will the blind drive? 

Is this the end of accidents and insurance payments?

Will a multilingual automated car replace the taxi and handi-van?

Well, not so fast. Driverless cars are a Pandora's box of opportunities and challenges. One thing is for certain: They are coming.  First in simple versions; later on, in completely automated versions.

For example, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Nissan and VW plan to offer 2016 model year cars that do at least half of these: braking and  throttle control (e.g., Delphi adaptive cruise control), self driving in stop-and-go traffic (e.g., BMW's traffic jam assistant), lane keeping (e.g., Toyota's lane keeping assist), gear shifting, and, if legal, unoccupied self-parking after all occupants and the driver exit the car (e.g., Audi's parking demonstration.)

Goggle has developed ten Google Driverless Cars (see sample photo) that have clocked well over 300,000 miles on California roads with only two reported accidents: One when the car was read-ended at a stop light and another near Google headquarters while driven by a person.  Google has produced a short video that shows a man driving around, picking up some food at a drive through store and arriving at home, opening his door and then extending his blind person cane to find his way to his house! Google expects sales of regular cars modified by Goggle to be drivereless in 2018. (Take a look at this CNN infographic.)

These developments cannot come soon enough because US, European, Chinese and other developing world cities are chocking in traffic.  Driverless cars will be a large part of the solution. They can follow each other at a distance of 0.5 seconds (engineers call this “headway”) instead of the average human headway of 1.5 seconds. This difference from 1.5 to 0.5 seconds of headway triples the capacity of a freeway lane from 2,200 vehicles per hour to over 6,000 vehicles per hour.

Sometime between 2030 and 2040, drivereless cars will become prevalent with more than one third of them in traffic. Then selected highways and arterial streets can be converted to driverless car highways with 8 ft. wide instead of 12 ft. wide lanes because driverless cars can adhere to a tight lane discipline.

The combination of tight lanes and close headways will have huge impacts to roadway capacity. Today two lanes on the Pali Highway have a capacity of roughly 4,500 cars per hour.  With only driverless cars on them the capacity of the same exact roadbed would be about 20,000 cars per hour. More than four times improvement; this will result in continuous 50 mph traffic flow. No congestion.

The driverless car technological innovation cannot come soon enough. For all but four U.S. cities (Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.) city transportation is done in private cars, vans and trucks 85% of the time or more. Telecommuting has already surpassed the share of trips by transit. Car-sharing, and intelligent, drivereless zero emission vehicles will maintain the car’s dominance here and abroad.

But before completely driverless car become ubiquitous, self parking cars will arrive.This will have a huge impact for complete parking lots because now a couple feet of clearance is required between cars for driver access.  The self-park cars will only need a couple of inches of clearance between their folded exterior mirrors. So the large parking structure at the University of Hawaii holding about 5,000 can easily store 6,000 much to the improved convenience of students and a few hundred thousand more dollars of revenue for the UH.

Recently there were rumors that a Tesla Cars-Apple Computer "affair" may be about a future (autonomous) iCar.

I have little doubt that thirty years from now my kindergartener son and his friends will be commuting in driverless electric sports cars that can reach 0-60 mph in 5 seconds, follow at a headway of under 0.5 seconds on narrow high capacity lanes, be a full office away from home or work, and still deliver an exciting drive in off-drivereless mode outside the city.  The future of transportation in the U.S. will be great as long as it does not invest on modes of the past millennium such bicycles and ordinary trains, except for limited applications where they may be both practical and cost-effective.

A shorter version of this article was originally published on February 15, 2014 in Hawaii's Filipino Chronicle.

Monday, March 10, 2014

"Get People Out of Cars" vs. Drivereless Cars

My opinion printed on pages 10 of the March 2014 issue of the ITE Journal.

Mr. Schwartz’s call for making the transportation engineer relevant is important. Sharing this realization, I ran twice for Mayor of Honolulu on an infrastructure preservation and traffic congestion relief platform and I garnered almost 20% in both 2008 and 2010.  Mr. Schwartz' advise to transportation engineers is good except for his instruction to “get people out of cars.” New York City may boast that 70% of commutes occur on non-auto modes, but it’s an exception. The next U.S. city with a low auto-mode share barely has 30% of commutes occurring on non-auto modes. Telecommuting is surpassing transit. Car-sharing, and intelligent and autonomous zero emission vehicles will maintain the auto mode’s dominance.

In 30 years or so, my kindergartener son and his cohorts will be commuting in driverless electric cars that can reach 0-60 mph in 5 seconds, follow at a headway of under 0.5 seconds on narrow high capacity lanes (some four lane urban highways will convert to automated guideways with six 8 ft. lanes), be a full office away from home or work, and still be exciting to drive in off-drivereless mode outside the city.  The future of transportation engineering in the U.S. will be great as long as we do not expend substantial resources on modes of the past millennium such bicycles and ordinary trains, except for limited applications where they may be both practical and cost-effective.

Panos D. Prevedouros, PhD
Professor of Transportation Engineering
University of Hawaii at Manoa
President of Hawaii Highway Users Alliance
Chair of Freeway Operations Simulation Subcom. (TRB AHB20)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Ken Orski: A 21st Century Approach to Transportation Funding

As states acquire more familiarity with credit transactions and develop more capacity to pursue public-private partnerships, and as federal budgetary constraints continue, long term financing of new transportation facilities and of multi-year reconstruction programs could become the states’ primary method of expanding and modernizing aging infrastructure. At the same time, states' growing fiscal independence points to a new approach to funding the nation's transportation needs in the 21st century. 

In this prospective new model, routine highway maintenance and system preservation would continue to be funded on a pay-as-you-go basis with current state and local tax revenue as supplemented with federal-aid highway dollars from the Highway Trust Fund . However, capital-intensive multi-year reconstruction programs and new capacity expansion projects ---investments that are beyond the states' fiscal capacity to fund out of current revenue --- would be financed largely through public-private partnerships employing long-term credit and availability payments. 
Provision of credit would remain a shared responsibility of the public and private sectors. Private Activity Bonds, the TIFIA program and State Infrastructure Banks would continue to serve as the main public sources of credit assistance while additional public credit facilities could be created, if need be, to handle a growing backlog of reconstruction needs. Potential candidates include Sen. Mark Warner's National Infrastructure Financing Authority (IFA) and Rep.John Delaney's $50 billion American Infrastructure Fund (AIF). The latter proposal would capitalize the AIF by selling bonds to U.S. companies. In exchange for purchasing the bonds, companies would be able to repatriate a portion of their overseas earnings tax-free. (A somewhat similar approach forms part of Rep.Camp's tax reform proposal).

The Highway Trust Fund--- freed from the obligation to fund new infrastructure and large  reconstruction programs on a cash basis---would be placed on a more stable financial footing, while an ample supply of long-term credit ---both public and private---would reduce the need for contract authority and multi-year transportation authorizations. Meanwhile, states and localities would gain more independence to plan and fund infrastructure improvements on their own terms, free of excessive federal regulatory oversight.
It's a highly plausible answer in our judgment to the nation's search for a long-term solution to the infrastructure funding problem.  

Earlier versions of this commentary were presented at the Transportation Research Board workshop,  "States are leading the charge on transportation revenue initiatives," January 12 2014; at the Conservative Policy Summit of the Heritage Foundation on February 10, 2014; and in a Governing magazine interview dated February 27, 2014.

Kenneth Orski
Innovation NewsBriefs (celebrating our 25th year of publication)