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.
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). 🙂