Harnessing Renewable Energy Sources in Molokai, Hawaii: Achieving a Clean Energy Future

Harnessing renewable energy sources is essential to meeting Hawaii's clean energy objectives. The Hawaiian Islands are abundant in natural resources such as geothermal energy, wind, sun, running water, bioenergy, and geothermal energy that can be used to generate power. In response to pressure from the state government, Hawaiian Electric began tackling Moloka'i's technical issues and restarting its renewable energy growth. Bob and Kelly King's Maui farm, Pacific Biodiesel, is a model of sustainable agriculture, renewable fuels, and food that is helping Hawaii reach its clean energy goals.

The debate over the development of offshore wind energy has mainly focused on projects related to Oahu due to its large population and high electricity consumption. Hawaiian Electric, based in Honolulu, must comply with the state legislature's mandate to convert the five island grids it operates to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. Batteries that store excess renewable energy and are discharged when that energy is unavailable extend utility and improve the predictable availability of renewable sources. The concept of turning the island into a renewable energy source has deep roots that date back before Hawaiian Electric's involvement. Renewable natural gas (RNG), also known as biogas, is a form of gaseous energy created from the decay of organic matter such as biosolids from wastewater, food waste, or animal manure under anaerobic conditions or in conditions without oxygen.

As the world faces the possibility of warming of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next 15 to 30 years, there is a race underway here and around the world to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Gil Riviere, a Democrat, is concerned that the state's push for renewable energy could jeopardize that promise. The lessons of Moloka'i could have a global application as continental grids face similar challenges related to renewable energy. Across the islands, various marginal renewable energy projects are at different stages of development which could ultimately contribute to Hawaii's green portfolio. The network's new IT system will help minimize fuel consumption by automatically coordinating all of the island's electrical equipment including the large battery, diesel generators, and new renewable energy sources. While using renewable energy will reduce the use of oil in Hawaii to produce electricity, it will not eliminate the need to import crude oil or refined products to Hawaii as long as fuel is needed for land and air transportation.

According to Gregg Kresge, Maui Electric's renewable energy manager, Molokai's sustainability efforts have also contributed to the problem.

Catherine Geml
Catherine Geml

Extreme bacon specialist. Proud food specialist. Freelance travel nerd. Lifelong web practitioner. Hipster-friendly food advocate. Freelance social media scholar.

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