Paradise finding ways to be more green

I recently spent some time on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. It is a beautiful island of diverse landscapes, very friendly people, and laid-back attitudes.

However, when it comes to energy and efficiency innovation, Hawaii is moving rather quickly to create and commercialize clean energy sources. The island already leverages high levels of solar and wind energy in addition to being an early proving ground for innovative grid technologies.

“Our island environment is not only the basis for our quality of life, it is also the lifeblood of our economy.” Says Gov. Neil Abercrombie. “We look at environmental issues with future generations in mind, and as we explore Hawaii’s boundless, clean energy potential, we trust they will benefit from our stewardship.”

Many here in the public and private sector are focused on innovating and deploying clean technology to reduce greenhouse emissions, diversify income streams away from agriculture, and create jobs opportunities. The ability to export technologies and import substitutions is considered key in search to provide energy security in Hawaii.

I was impressed with the diversity of the energy initiatives on the islands, from energy storage, demand response technologies, to advanced materials and increased efficiency next-generation biofuels.

On the islands, energy use is highly variable in non-metered homes, where is not monitored. A local company called Concentris Systems is demonstrating a smart metering technology for the military housing community where energy use is tracked and controlled remotely through the web and through mobile devices. Using networked devices that resemble traditional wall sockets or power strips, the goal is to provide a “Smart Grid” that will react to changes in power demand and route power as needed without the need for new metering, special appliances, or costly rewiring.

Another interesting example of local energy innovation is the work of an organization called Better Place. Better place is a provider of electric car networks that are focused on making electric cars more convenient. Better Place is working with hotels and businesses throughout the islands to install an infrastructure for what will be the largest electric vehicle-charging network in Hawaii.

Using this network, drivers will be allowed to charge their cars free at more than 130 charge points throughout the islands. Once complete, Hawaii have more public charge points per capita than any other state.

Beyond charging stations, Better Place is leading the way to have battery “switch stations.” Battery switch stations provide a novel innovative model for electric cars where the ownership of the car is separated from the ownership of the battery. When the battery funs low, just pull in to a switch station, replace the depleted battery with a fully charged one and immediately be on your way. Denmark, Israel and Australia are to be among the first with Better Place switch stations this year.

These are just some examples where collaboration and risk taking are accelerating the deployment of new technologies on the island.

“Hawaiian time” is often spoken of jokingly as casual and carefree. In Hawaii, energy innovation certainly isn’t being done on Hawaiian time.

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