Panos Prevedouros doubts solar at Kalaeloa

Jamie Winpenny

KALAELOA — It may seem silly to oppose the development of a renewable energy source such as solar,  but the Solar One project in Kalaeloa is meeting resistance. University of Hawaii professor of civil engineering Panos Prevedouros, who ran and lost for Honolulu mayor in 2010 on an anti-rail platform, has pointed to inefficiencies in the concentrated solar power (CSP) station planned at Kalaeloa.

Prevedouros is critical of a similar, smaller facility on the Big Island operated by Sopogy, who is slated to build the Kalaeloa plant. According to Hawaii Electric Industries’ 2010 annual report, its Big Island CSP facility is not listed as a source of purchased power. The facility cost $20 million to build, a cost subsidized by tax breaks.

Certainly, Prevedouros is not opposed to the development of solar power. He states, however, that photovoltaic (PV) is more cost effective than the CSP technology that will generate power that will be sold to utility customers. He says that CSP costs twice as much per watt. Indeed, a U.S. Department of Energy study ranks CSP as the most expensive of all alternative energy options.

While Panos Prevedouros has been dismissed by his critics as a rail gadfly and a crank (as have all who oppose rail in its current form), his statistics are sound and his concern for Hawaii taxpayers appear genuine. He’s begun a public campaign about his concern over the Sopogy Kalaeloa project, and the potential impact on electricity rates, which are already three times the national average.

His argument is much the same as his case against current rail plans, which is: Get the best value for Hawaii taxpayers’ money.