Hawaii's renewable energy brain trust takes stock

Hawaii’s renewable energy brain trust gathered at the Hawaii state capitol early in January (1/8/10) for an update on advances across the alternative energy spectrum—wind, water, solar and earth.  Puna Geothermal Venture plant manager Michael Kaleikini was among the experts on hand to talk story and update lawmakers on clean energy initiatives as we head into the 2010 legislative session.

High tech energy champion Jay Fidell moderated the annual Hawaii Energy Policy Forum, which he dubbed “the state of energy in the energy state.”

(Fidell also taunted us with news of the European Union’s recently announced plans for a massive multi-national North Sea electrical grid for integrating renewable energy, from wind mills in Scandinavia to solar panels in Spain, enabling countries with a surplus of power to pass it along to countries with greater needs.  Interesting for Hawaii–new cable technology is part of the plan.)

Hawaii energy czar Ted Peck of the Dept. of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, warned of the economic  tsunami—pain at the pump (gas), the plug (electricity) and the palate (agriculture)—that would result from inaction.

Still, Hawaii’s progress is worth noting—petroleum-based power for the first time is below 85 percent.

Given tough economic times and the state’s fiscal constraints, the hurdles are worth noting, too. The message to legislators: while industry drives the transformation to clean energy, government’s role is critical in terms of regulatory standards—and staff.

Despite realities, renewable energy participants at the forum enjoyed a sense of camaraderie from their collaborative effort— because Hawaii is truly a perfect place to test, evaluate and roll out new energy initiatives.

We learned that change has begun. Right here in Hawaii, jet fuel has been made from algae.  Solar’s rooftop potential is exploding. The undersea cable is back in play. On the Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the state’s top visitor attraction, is planning a fleet of plug-in hydrid electric shuttle buses using hydrogen fuel cells. Electrical power from Puna Geothermal Venture, available 24/7, is a possible resource.

For more information about Hawaii’s renewable energy future, here’s a link to moderator Jay Fidell’s blog: http://thinktech.honadvblogs.com/

Kayleen Polichetti


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