Oahu...That's A lot of Renewables!

Oahu and the Hawaiian islands are true paradise with lush green hills for miles upon miles. But, during my latest trip to the island of Oahu I noticed something dramatically different creeping up through those lush hills. Can you spot it?

No don't try to look for Waldo, but a wind turbine! Sure, I have read all of the articles on the renewable energy being used/produced on the island, but not until I was able to witness it firsthand did it really sink in. Oahu has a lot of renewable energy! It was hard not to miss the towering white pillars coming out of the green tropical landscape and how every apartment or home had at least one solar panel. As I sat in the rented Jeep Wrangler, yes we had to ride in island style I couldn't help to think...can the island’s small population really get the benefits of the energy produced?

The Hawaiian islands have a perfect storm of great weather and high utility rates for renewables. The island of Oahu alone has roughly 12% of customers with rooftop solar whereas a normal US City has roughly 0.5%.[ii] That number alone is pretty staggering. How can such a small island have so much solar? Well when solar became main stream in Hawaii residents enthusiastically jumped on board. They jumped on board at an alarming rate to the utilities to where HECO, Hawaii Electric Light Company, had to start limiting the permits for solar. The utility is now hoping to come out with a new set of credits that would be more complete. The current net-metering tariff system would be replaced by credits that would be half as much as current rates.

An article from GreenTech Media stated that the Hawaiian Islands are actually facing a very tough debacle when it comes to renewable's. HECO completed a study that showed midday solar is exceeding demand and then drops off leaving them with a steep ramp up in demand once families return home for the evening. That in turn creates what is referred to as a "Nessie curve", pictured to the right.[i] With the electrical grid becoming overwhelmed it in turn can create grid instability.

Don’t get me wrong I think renewable are a great thing for the US, but they also come with a cautionary tale. As the Hawaiian islands continue to battle the renewable debacle the rest of the US will be watching to learn from their practices.

[i] “Charting Hawaii’s Spectacular Solar Growth”, Jan., 29, 2015, http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Charting-Hawaiis-Spectacular-Solar-Growth

[ii] EIA: Wind, Solar Seen As Attractive Alternatives For Hawaii”, Jan., 28, 2015, http://www.nawindpower.com/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.13883