Aloha to Sustainability
LOOKING TO LESSEN its economically crippling dependence on fossil fuels, Hawaii is transforming itself into a living lab for renewable
energy. The string of U.S. islands is tapping into
everything from the once-ubiquitous sugarcane
on Maui for biofuel to the abundant breezes on
Lanai and Molokai for wind power.
Working with the U.S. Department of Energy
(DOE), the state has launched a sustainability
project blitz aimed at transitioning to 70 percent
clean energy in the electricity and transportation
sectors by 2030. To reach that goal, Hawaii will
require up to $20 billion in capital investment.
The bold plan goes well beyond the renewable
energy goals of most other U.S. states or even
countries—and understandably so. Strewn across
the Pacific Ocean, the isolated islands are dependent on oil for 90 percent of their energy needs, and
spend $5 billion to $7 billion a year to bring it in.
That heavy reliance on oil has left the state
extremely vulnerable to price fluctuations and supply disruptions, says Colton Ching, manager of corporate planning at Hawaii Electric Co. Inc. (HEC).
The Honolulu-based company provides energy to
95 percent of the state’s 1. 2 million residents.
And so begins the massive energy experiment.
First Wind launched a 30-megawatt project on Oahu.
SUNSHINE AND SUGAR
Hawaii’s array of plentiful wind and sunshine, as
well as geothermal, biofuel and hydroelectric
resources, offer ample opportunities for a diverse
portfolio of renewable energy projects.
On the “Big Island” of Hawaii, where lava
flows from the Kilauea volcano, project teams are
drawing on the area’s geothermal capacity to generate electricity.
Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning LLC is
taking a different tack. In Honolulu, an ambitious
project is in the works to implement a seawater air-
conditioning system to cool 45 downtown build-
ings. Seawater from 1,700 feet ( 2,736 kilometers)
below the surface is pumped into cooling stations,
where it mixes with freshwater. After circulating in
a closed loop, the warmer seawater is returned to
the ocean, while the cooled freshwater is carried to
air-conditioning units. There, it cools the air pro-
pelled by fans, saving a structure from using an
energy-draining compressor to chill the coils and
cooling towers. The company estimates its cus-
tomers will save about 20 percent in cooling costs
once the buildings go online in 2012.