Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Solar
Sep 13

Jeff's blog on Huffington Post:

"If the development of our indigenous energy resources proceeds expeditiously, the potential exists for Hawai'i to become self-sufficient in terms of our electrical energy and highway transportation fuel needs in the next 20 to 30 years..."

These words accompanied a 1977 plan for Hawai'i's energy independence by the year 2010. The plan--developed for the state senate by more than 100 Hawai'i experts--reminds us how elusive the goal of weaning Hawai'i from imported oil has been.

Not anymore. With a combination of smart policy, committed residents, and breakthrough technologies, Hawai'i is beginning to realize its potential for energy independence. The Hawaiian Electric Companies recently announced that they achieved almost 18% renewable energy for O'ahu, Maui, and Hawai'i Island in the first half of 2013--exceeding the 2015 requirement two years ahead of schedule. That's exciting progress.

Here are four current bright spots helping to drive Hawai'i's clean energy transformation:

You've seen the ads (BJ Penn?), you've heard from the neighbors, or maybe you've already bought--solar is everywhere. Tens of thousands of Hawai'i households have taken control of their energy costs by putting a personal power plant on their roof. The growth is staggering, with as much solar photovoltaic installed in 2012 as nearly all of the previous years combined. Growth has leveled somewhat due to unfortunate changes in how the state tax credit is administered, but competition, decreases in equipment costs, and new financing tools make solar more affordable than ever. Hawai'i also continues to lead the nation in solar water heaters per capita. What's more, thousands of residents work in the solar industry. Putting the sun to work means we exchange purchases of imported fossil fuel for local paychecks.

What's next? Community-based renewable energy, such as shared "solar gardens," to allow more residents (especially renters and apartment dwellers) to pa

rticipate in the benefits of solar.


Energy efficiency--the yin to solar's yang--is the cleanest, cheapest, largest, and fastest new energy source in Hawai'i. New energy source? Yes, energy savings from efficiency improvements (think LED bulbs, ENERGY STAR appliances, behavior changes) actually eclipsed the amount of new renewable energy installed in Hawai'i last year. Hawaii Energy--the efficiency "utility" for the Hawaiian Electric territory--offers sizable rebates for solar water, lighting, and high efficiency appliances. They also have aggressive programs to help commercial ratepayers cut their energy bills.

What's next? Demand response, or the ability to use communication technology to better manage power demand, can decrease energy use while enabling more clean energy. Non-essential uses of electricity can be momentarily dialed back by the utility, helping to match renewable energy supply with demand.

On-Bill Financing
Solar and efficiency are great, but both usually require upfront investment before the savings pile up. On-bill financing changes that. This new program will allow residences and businesses--including renters--to install energy efficiency improvements such as solar water heaters and pay for them using their energy bill savings. What's more, the governor enacted an innovative policy this year to secure low-cost capital from the private sector to help kick-start on-bill financing. Called "green energy market securitization (GEMS)," the program can provide attractive financing options to renters and low-income households that otherwise can't afford energy improvements.

What's next? Implementation of on-bill financing. The Public Utilities Commission established a working group that is currently hashing out program details for a scheduled start date in 2014. We need to make sure that the program lives up to its big potential, and is not whittled down to a "pilot."

Electric Vehicles
More than one-third of the oil we use in Hawai'i powers our cars and trucks--nearly half a billion gallons of gasoline and diesel annually. Fortunately, the rapid adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) promises to reduce this amount. Like solar, we are seeing a near doubling of the purchase of EVs annually. While we're not leading the globe in EV uptake (that badge likely goes to Norway, where over 3% of vehicles sold this year are electric), Hawai'i will have more than 2,000 registered EVs by the end of September. This number will continue to increase with a dozen new models hitting the market over the next year, expanding the range of options in price, size, and style. And that dreaded "range anxiety?" It's disappearing as battery capacity and performance rapidly improves, and Hawai'i leads the nation in the number of available charge spots per person. While most of the grid energy currently charging Hawai'i's EVs is fossil-based, EVs go further on a gallon of oil than the typical gasoline car. That's because they are more efficient, they capture the braking energy, and they don't waste gas idling. Plus, they become increasingly clean as more renewable energy is added to the grid.

What's next? Putting EVs to work as part of the larger clean energy ecosystem, storing energy and regulating fluctuations in variable renewable energy resources. This requires a smart grid, two-way inverters in the vehicles (to both charge and discharge batteries), and an intelligent networked system that seamlessly interacts with thousands of vehicles plugged into the grid.

These bright spots--the growth in solar, efficiency, and EVs, and the availability of new financing programs--are clearing our path to energy independence, and are drawing attention from communities elsewhere that are also transitioning to clean energy. As long as we don't fall into the same trap that slowed us down in 1977, we will continue to get closer to the day we no longer refer to it as alternative energy, and just call it energy.

Jul 23

DBEDT recently updated their "Top 40" list of renewable energy projects that are currently underway or online. The largest is Kawailoa Wind, a 69 MW wind farm on the North Shore of O‘ahu that will produce enough energy to power 14,500 homes. On the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative website, you can also find Hawai‘i renewable energy projects mapped by island.

Apr 19
aquino.jpgToday we released the results of study that analyzes the economic impact of the state's renewable energy tax credit. This issue has been the subject of much debate this legislative session. We wanted to better understand the exact economic costs and benefits of the credit to the state as a whole, so we asked former University of Hawai‘i economist Dr. Thomas Loudat (who did a similar analysis in 2002 that was reported to the state legislature) to analyze the economic impact.

What we found was remarkable. The existing tax credit yields a clear, significant net fiscal benefit to the state. For every PV tax credit dollar the state invests, the payoff includes:

-- $13.37 stays in Hawai‘i (what we would have sent out of state to import oil)
-- $44.70 in additional sales (from the oil savings circulated into the local economy)
-- $3.17 in new tax revenues (generated from those added sales)

Loudat's findings show that each PV installation also produces new jobs and additional local labor income. A typical 118 kW commercial PV installation, for example, yields 2.8 local jobs each year over the 30-year lifetime of the system.

Blue Planet believes that the tax credit stimulates private investment in renewable power, and these investments provide a community benefit. We also recognize that renewable projects draw federal dollars into Hawai‘i's economy that otherwise wouldn't be here. Dr. Loudat's study allows us to assess what these benefits are worth.

While Blue Planet supports the existing tax credit, we are backing a measure to reduce the tax credit from 35% to 20% over the next three years. This and other changes to the law are currently contemplated in the Senate Draft of House Bill 2417. Acknowledging that the price of PV systems has dropped dramatically, Blue Planet's position is that the state's share in incentivizing the systems can and should decrease. But it is also essential that we maintain the right tax credit "nudge" to help more and more families and businesses put solar to work for them—with long-term benefits for everyone.
Unlike other tax credits, the investment in renewable energy is not a one-shot deal. The state continues to reap economic benefits over the 30-year lifetime of the system--consider the oil costs offset, year after year. It makes sense in the big picture, too, when you look at all the other reasons we need to move beyond oil. The dividends pay off in more than just dollars--there's value in energy security and reducing CO2 emissions, too, and these are benefits that other tax credits don't provide.

As Van Jones wrote in Rebuilding the Dream, "As we think about a new economy, perhaps we can begin to apply some new math — and begin to count what really counts. The earth counts; our kids count; the future counts. Where economic and energy policy meet, we should calculate not only what we spend, but also what we save. And we should consider the payoffs from the investments we make in human and natural capital."

Read more:

"Often-overlooked benefit of solar is how it benefits the economy"
Editorial by Jeff Mikulina and Dr. Tom Loudat, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
"Study: Hawai‘i solar tax credits pay off" by Duane Shimogawa, Pacific Business News
"Blue Planet: Renewable energy tax credit boosts local economy" by Sophie Cocke, Honolulu Civil Beat
"Sun, Shine" by Derrick DePledge, Honolulu Star Advertiser  (Clever headline!)
Mar 02

Posted on in Blue Planet Updates
We get this question a lot: "Why don't we just put solar panels on all the rooftops in Hawai‘i? Wouldn't that provide enough electricity for everyone?" Someone just asked again yesterday, so I thought I'd share our answer:

It's a good question. Let's do the first order approximation.

First, how much electricity to we use? According to the DBEDT energy trends, we use about 10 terawatt-hours (TWhs) of electricity annually. In fact, 10125.94 gigawatt-hours (GWhs) in 2009, 10013.10 GWhs in 2010, and about 9985.55 GWhs in 2011. So that's our (hopefully shrinking) target.

Second, how many roofs do we have to cover? Let's just look at residential. According to the 2011 US Census, Hawaii has 519,508 housing units, 39.2% of which are multi-family. So let's just look at the single family units (we'll be more conservative here and more generous elsewhere). So that gives us 315,861 single-family home rooftops. Now let's say for each rooftop we can fit a 4 kilowatt (kW) system. This is probably being a bit generous, given the size and possible shading issues. With all those rooftops tiled with 4 kW of PV each, we have 1,263,443 kWs, or 1263 MWs of PV (which, BTW, approaches the total system capacity on Oahu).

Of course, the sun isn't always shining. In fact, for PV, the "capacity factor" is between 15% and 20%--meaning that at any given moment you will have able to produce between about 15% and 20% of the rated PV capacity. Let's use the generous 20%. For our rooftops this means (20% X 1263) 253 MW of PV capacity. Now we can look at the total production over one year (at the already "de-rated" PV installation). So 253 MW X 8760 hours in a year = 2,213,553 MWhs, or 2,214 GWhs, or 2.2 TWhs. This would provide about 22% of our overall electricity use.

This 22% is probably conservative--we ignored all of the commercial rooftops. Plus we are seeing more and more large ground-mounted PV arrays (usually in 5 MW blocks because that is the largest size before the utility needs to competitively bid). Nonetheless, it reminds us that we need a mix of renewable energy sources. And yes, we hope to shave our 10 TWhs of usage by 30% come 2030 (the HCEI target), but we're also adding a bunch of electric vehicles to the grid (which could just cancel out that efficiency gain--which is fine for the big picture).

By the way, any guess of how much all of that PV would cost? About $10 billion. It would pay for itself in about 13 years.
Feb 14

Posted on in Energy Policy
Hearing schedule for Tuesday, Feb. 14
Put a little love in your heart!

Feb. 14 | 9:35a | House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, House Committee on Housing, Room 325
HB 2799
Reduces ability of condo owners to install EV charging stations on their property

Feb. 14 | 2:55p | Senate Committee on Energy and Environment, Room 225
SB 2038 Makes clarifying amendments and improvements to Solar Roofs Act

Read more about our legislative priorities for 2012. Click the links to see our testimony.
Dec 22

Funny comment on facebook! Want to learn more about the PUC's ruling on 14H? Here's the news release we sent out. Also here's Alan Yonan, Jr.'s story in the Star-Advertiser, and Sophie Cocke's article in Civil Beat. These interconnection-related issues are among the regulations that govern the addition of new renewable systems to the grid.
Dec 13

Posted on in Blue Planet Updates
Here's a group pic of the Santa Goes Solar elves who helped put together our display. (Observation: Look, it's the non-shades versus the shades!) Thanks to Sunetric, LEAHI, UH Team Hawaii, Hawaii Energy, and Wal-Mart Hawaii stores for being part of this fun collaboration. Nina Wu from the Star-Advertiser wrote a sweet article about it. Thanks, Nina! Did you like our display? Text HOHOHO to 877877 to receive mobile alerts about upcoming Blue Planet projects.
Nov 21

Posted on in Blue Planet Updates

Lego SantaHere are a few photos for a sneak peek at the progress of our Santa Goes Solar display! A giant mahalo to Hawaii Energy and the Hawai‘i Wal-Mart stores for their generous support to help us build the display. It's not too late to donate!

To show Honolulu the power of clean energy, we're joining forces with the Lego Enthusiasts Association of Hawaii (LEAHI), Sunetric, and members of the UH Solar Decathlon team to build a brilliant holiday exhibit--entirely solar-powered--that will be on display at the 2011 Honolulu City Lights.

The LEAHI (Lego Enthusiasts Association of Hawaii) team will construct a workshop where Santa's elves can assemble their toys without using a drop of oil. Our Christmas trees will be lit with a dazzling array of high-tech LED lights engineered by members of UH's Solar Decathlon Team Hawaii and decorated with recycled incandescent bulb ornaments made by students from local schools. Sunetric's PV panels will harness the energy of the sun to power the display.

You'll have a chance to check it out on the lawn adjacent to Honolulu Hale from Dec. 2 through Dec. 31 at the 2011 Honolulu City Lights display.


Oct 28
SOLAR FOR SANTA? To show Honolulu the power of clean energy, we're joining forces with the Lego Enthusiasts Association of Hawaii (LEAHI) and members of the UH Solar Decathlon team to build a sparkling and innovative holiday exhibit—entirely solar-powered—that will be on display at the 2011 Honolulu City Lights.

The LEAHI team will construct a workshop where Santa's elves can assemble their toys without using a drop of oil. The workshop, village, and Santa's zero-emissions sleigh will be lit with a dazzling array of UH-engineered LED lights.

You'll have a chance to check it out on the lawn adjacent to Honolulu Hale throughout the 2011 Honolulu City Lights display beginning Saturday, Dec. 3.

To make this a reality, we need to raise about $4,000. Think about how good Santa's been to you over the years... Would you consider giving a donation to help bring solar power and energy security to the North Pole?

We'll be sure Santa keeps your name on the "NICE," not the "NAUGHTY" list. (For real, email us and we'll add your name or a NICE person of your choice to the list that will be part of our display!) Thanks for supporting Blue Planet in our efforts to end Hawaii's dependency on imported oil.

Aug 16

Posted on in Energy News

Nokero... That's "no kerosene." Pretty cool ~

Bob Tedeshi also offered an entertaining overview of light bulbs on the market in the New York Times' Home and Garden section last week. You can read it here.



Clearing the Path for Clean Energy