Hawaii’s Ambitious Clean Energy Plan

Posted on September 15, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , |

Windmills and Cattle in Hawaii (Marco Garcia for New York Times)

Windmills and Cattle in Hawaii (Marco Garcia for New York Times)

Today’s New York Times has an excellent article (with some great photos) about various alternative energy options being utilized in Hawaii to reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuel. Though it lacks its own oil reserves and currently relies on imported oil for 77% of its power generation, the state has many renewable options to work with and these are beginning to play a more important role.

Hawaii has become a testing ground for new technologies:

“Every island has at least one energy accent: waves in Maui, wind in Lanai and Molokai, solar panels in Oahu and eventually, if all goes well, biomass energy from crops grown on Kauai. Here on the Big Island of Hawaii, seawater is also being converted to electricity.”

Hawaii has also set ambitious targets aiming to have 40% of its electricity generated through renewable sources by 2030. A similar plan was introduced 30 years ago but failed to yield any concrete benefits. However, now many believe that a shift to renewables is no longer an option, but a necessity. According to Robert Alm, a Vice President of the Hawaiian Electric Company:

“Our hedge won’t be buying oil futures, it will be buying wind”

Despite this sense of urgency and political will, there are many challenges Hawaii must overcome to make its plan a reality. For one, the renewable sources are not always near population centers and transmission remains a critical issue. Finding sources to finance these new projects is also an obstacle. Beyond these obvious concerns, there are more complicated questions surrounding the preservation of culture and religious beliefs. For example, some groups believe that harnessing geothermal energy is sacrireligious and desecrates the native goddess of fire and volcanoes, Pele. All these challenges lead the director of state economic development, Ted Liu to conclude that there are no quick fix solutions: “This transformation is going to take a generation”.

Still, Hawaii’s resources and constraints make it a fascinating laboratory and it will be interesting to follow the state’s progress.


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[…] the newer clean technologies mentioned in the New York Times article about Hawaii from the previous post was biofuel from algae. Last week, Clean Techies’ Jonathan Williams blogged about a few major […]

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