Harnessing Renewable Energy Sources in Hawaii: Achieving Clean Energy Goals

The Hawaiian Islands are blessed with an abundance of natural resources that can be used to generate clean and sustainable energy. To this end, the state has taken concrete steps to support renewable energy in the 21st century. In 2003, HB 3179 was passed to make it easier for biofuel producers to lease state land. Acts SB 3190 and HB 2168 authorized special-purpose income bonds to finance a solar energy installation on Oahu and hydrogen generation and conversion facilities at the Hawaii Authority's Natural Energy Laboratory on the island of Hawaii.

SB 988 allowed the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to establish a reimbursement for photovoltaic systems, while HB 2550 encouraged net metering for residential and small commercial customers. The Hawaii Authority's Natural Energy Laboratory is a test site for experimental renewable energy. It was originally built to test ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) and later became a commercial industrial park. This park included desalination of drinking water for export, aquaculture, biofuel from algae, solar thermal solar energy, and concentrated wind energy. Cellana produces oil from algae at a 2.5-hectare (6.2-acre) research site in Kailua-Kona on the island of Hawaii. Partnerships between the United States Department of Energy (EERE), the State of Hawaii, Hawaiian Electric Company, and Phoenix Motorcars have been formed to help achieve Hawaii's clean energy goals.

To generate 100 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2045, the state is aggressively pursuing renewable energy projects in bioenergy, geothermal, hydroelectric and hydrokinetic energy, in addition to continuing its large investments in solar and wind energy. Hawaii requires solar water heaters for new homes, except for those in areas with scarce solar energy resources or homes that use other renewable energy sources or gas water heaters on demand. The debate over the development of offshore wind energy has focused on projects related to Oahu due to its large population and high electricity use. The 180 MW capacity gap left by the plant's closure cannot be immediately filled with renewable energy due to delays in the construction of new renewable energy projects. In many cases, including the Western Kauaʻi energy project being carried out in Kauaʻi, solar energy is used to pump water “upstream” from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir, making these facilities 100% renewable. The Hawaii Navy and National Marine Renewable Energy Center (HNMREC) was created to improve the viability of wave energy as a renewable alternative.

In partnership with HNMREC, wave buoy manufacturers can test their designs at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and University of Hawaii. The founders of Pacific Biodiesel have demonstrated a community model of sustainable agriculture, renewable fuels, and food that is helping Hawaii achieve a future with clean energy. Batteries that store excess renewable energy and are discharged when that energy is unavailable extend utility and improve the predictable availability of renewable sources. In response to these metrics, the State of Hawaii has required that by 2045 100 percent of electricity sold by utility companies come from renewable energy sources. Scott Glenn, Hawaii's energy director defended this decision by arguing that an increasingly volatile global market only underscores the need to make the transition to renewable energy. Hawaii has created several incentives for consumers to install renewable energy systems and energy efficient appliances including solar and wind energy tax credits, residential energy efficiency tax credits, and residential energy efficiency reimbursement programs. Hydrogen production can be programmed to take advantage of excess renewable energy that would otherwise be wasted (reduced); likewise, hydrogen can be used to produce electricity when peak demands arise. The Hawaiian Islands have abundant natural resources that can be used to produce clean and sustainable energy.

With initiatives such as HB 3179, SB 3190/HB 2168, SB 988/HB 2550, HNMREC partnerships with wave buoy manufacturers, Pacific Biodiesel's community model of sustainable agriculture/renewable fuels/food production, battery storage systems for excess renewable energy production, tax credits/reimbursement programs for residential customers installing renewable systems/energy efficient appliances - all combined with a goal of 100 percent electricity from renewable sources by 2045 - Hawaii is well on its way towards achieving its clean energy goals.

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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