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Clean Power Wind farm on the windward hills of Maui

Published on May 7th, 2013 | by Scott Cooney

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Solar, Wind, & Geothermal Help Hawaii Reach Renewable Goals Ahead Of Schedule



America’s most fossil fuel dependent state has made great strides since laying out a statewide sustainability plan known as Hawaii 2050. The state acknowledged its challenges: 90% of food imported, greater than 90% of energy derived from burning imported oil in large scale generators, and a solid waste challenge highlighted by extremely limited landfill space and a tourism-based economy that thrives on throwaway goods. To address the energy challenge, the state and its citizens have implemented a number of initiatives encouraging more renewables, including feed-in tariffs and strong incentives for solar hot water, solar PV, and electric vehicles.

Wind farm on the windward hills of Maui

Wind farm on the windward hills of Maui
Image Credit: Wind turbines above the coastline in Maui, Hawaii via Shutterstock

All good initiatives, but arguably the strongest factor is the cost of electricity. Hawaii has already passed grid parity for rooftop solar installations, and even small energy efficiency gains can help businesses and homeowners save thousands on utility costs. The investment landscape is strong enough to attract energy accelerators, and Hawaii has ranked in the top 2 or 3 states in solar for each of the last few years.

Signs of progress are clear: Hawaii has increased its geothermal capacity to 38 MW, and new wind power developments on Maui have brought that island’s total wind capacity to 72 MW. Oahu has a new wind farm on the north shore at Kawailoa (69 MW), and despite a bit of a stumble, the nearby 30 MW Kahuku wind farm is on schedule to be back at full capacity by year’s end.

Oahu has also increased the size of its waste-to-energy plant from 46 to 72 MW (I know what you’re thinking…but what else are we going to do with all that plastic trash that tourists use? This one’s admittedly a mixed bag at best, but I’m choosing to focus on the positive).

With a few utility-scale solar installations in the works and a new biofuel power plant in operation on Oahu, it’s clear here on the ground that it is full speed ahead on renewables.

We’ll achieve our 15% renewable energy goal by the end of 2013, two years ahead of schedule.

Want to learn more about island economies and sustainability? Learn by playing the sustainability game GBO Hawaii, invented and developed by yours truly, who lives and breathes sustainability in Hawaii (see bio below). :)

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About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on



  • Otis11

    Good news – and very well written.

  • Derek Bolton

    Hawaii 2050, pronounced Hawaii-twenty-five-oh, perhaps?

  • JustSaying

    Once you reach the cost tipping point, and you remove so exist road blocks, installation of PV bloom like wild yellow flowers on a untreated lawn.

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