Archive for December, 2012

Sun, sun, sun, here we come

December 31st, 2012
By



Solar1

The year 2012 was a good time to install solar photovoltaic panels, with generous tax credits still in place and a larger number of contractors to choose from. The total number of systems doubled that of last year.

As the year comes to a close, there's no question that 2012 was a good year to go solar — many homeowners took the step of investing in a solar photovoltaic (PV) system to harness Hawaii's sun for electricity. As I drive around Oahu, I notice all of the new solar PV arrays on rooftops, from 12 simple panels covering aging cottages to large, 30-plus panels on newer, two-story homes.

Solar PV systems are still a pretty hefty price, upfront, at between $15,000 to $40,000 (before tax credits).

Even with new limits looming  on the horizon next year (which significantly reduce the amount of state credits homeowners can apply for, with only one per system and a $5,000 cap), the 30 percent federal and 35 percent state tax credits are not going away.

There will still be a return on your investment, though it may take longer. The costs of fossil fuel electricity are still bound to go up, even if they were down for a month or two at the close of 2012.

Don't forget that solar water heaters still qualify for both federal (30 percent) and state tax (35 percent) credits and a $750 rebate from Hawaii Energy, with no changes on the horizon for next year.

More local banks in Hawaii are offering "solar loans" which help you finance a solar PV system.

If you aren't ready to make that kind of investments, you can also opt for a power purchase agreement. Some solar contractors will install, own and maintain your solar PV system and sell you back the electricity it produces (likely less than your HECO bill). Or you could look into SunRun, which also offers you a power purchase agreement, allowing you to lease a solar system installed on your home.

The following local banks offer solar loans:

>> American Savings Bank offers a "clean energy loan" for single-family homes and condos in Hawaii. The catch is that they only offer the loans if you are using one of their pre-approved list of participating contractors, although that list of contractors is growing.

>> First Hawaiian Bank offers an EnergySmart Financing Program for both solar water and solar PV systems from a list of approved contractors.

>> Bank of Hawaii doesn't have a labeled "solar loan," per se, but offers financing options like a home equity line for solar investments as well.

>> University of Hawaii Federal Credit Union was one of the first lenders to offer a "green loan" for solar water heaters and a home equity green loan which you can also use for a hybrid car.

>> Hawaii Central Federal Credit Union. Offers both a solar water heater  in partnership with Hawaii Energy and solar photovoltaic loan.

If it's solar water heating you're interested in, Hawaii Energy has partnered with a number of lenders on the isles to offer financing.

Other options include Enerbank, which offers a short-term, no-interest loan that can be paid in full with an existing line of credit.

It's important to read the fine print and know the terms of the loan before signing on the dotted line. There was an interesting article in Forbes that claimed the average price of a solar PV system would be half the cost if there was less paperwork, according to studies by the National Renewable Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley. Maybe that's something we could work on.

Good luck! May 2013 be your solar year.

Posted in solar | No Comments »

Top green events of the year

December 28th, 2012
By



Seagull Schools installed solar PV on three of its campuses. Photo courtesy RevoluSun.

Seagull Schools installed solar PV on three of its campuses this year. Photo courtesy RevoluSun.

Can you believe another year is about to come to a close?

I think the year 2012 heralded some significant green events for Hawaii. It was definitely a good year to go solar (install solar photovoltaic on your home or business). In addition, Honolulu City Council this year passed landmark legislation to ban plastic checkout bags in Honolulu.

A network of electric car charging stations are now available across Oahu and public awareness of marine debris grew with the arrival of the first tsunami debris from Japan. As an honorable mention, seawater air conditioning looks like it might become a reality one day. Let's hope that 2013 will also be a "green" year.

Here’s my list of Honolulu's top 10 green events of the year.

  1. It was a solar year: 2012 was the year to go solar if you were thinking about it, especially while generous state tax credits were still available (and will hopefully still be available next year but we'll see). Solar was the star of the year, from the completion of the Pearl City Peninsula project (with more than 4,300 panels, enough to power 150 to 250 homes) to the Hawaii Department of Education’s announcement of its plan to install solar at all public schools over the next five years. The number of homes that installed solar PV this year doubled the number last year. Just pay attention as you drive around the island and you'll notice, more solar PV panels on rooftops — on simple little cottages as well as large, two-story homes. With the highest electricity rates in the nation, generous tax credits and sunshine year-round, solar makes sense in Hawaii.
  2. Reducing plastic. Oahu became the last county in Hawaii to pass a plastic takeout bag ban, effective 2015. While some environmental groups were pushing for a fee as a more effective way to curb plastic in the landfills, Honolulu City Council voted to ban the bags –  but not for a few more years.
  3. Electric Vroom. More than 200 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations are now available at more than 80 locations throughout Oahu, courtesy of Volta Industries and Aloha Petroleum and others. From Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina to the Halekulani in Waikiki, you'll find public EV charging stations in the parking garage. Chances are when you visit your favorite mall or shopping center, you’ll see these stalls reserved for electric cars near the front. For a full list, go to electricvehicle.hawaii.gov.model-s-signature-red_960x640_b
  4. Tesla S. It's here. The first Tesla Model S electric sedan arrived in Hawaii. Prices start at $49,000 (with federal tax incentives up to $7,500).
  5. Tsunami Debris. Arrival of the first tsunami debris from Japan made it to the shores of Hawaii. Several items have been confirmed, the latest of which was a boat hauled to shore by Punaluu residents covered with barnacles. In addition to the tsunami debris, Hawaii's shores have long been the depository for plastic marine debris washed up from the ocean.
    KP2 turned 4 this year at his new home at the Waikiki Aquarium. Courtesy photo.

    KP2 turned 4 this year at his new home at the Waikiki Aquarium. Courtesy photo.

  6. Monk seal tragedies. Hawaiian monk seals, Hawaii's endemic and endangered species, were in the media spotlight after we started off the year with a monk seal killing on Kauai, followed by another one in April. KP2, meanwhile, settled into his new home at the Waikiki Aquarium (he arrived there Dec. 15, 2011). In November, R5AY or Honey Girl, a female monk seal was found with a hook in her mouth on Oahu's North Shore. Apparently, she had been injured and in the same place for 24 years before it was reported to NOAA. Luckily, she was rescued, treated and released back into the wild in late November. State and federal officials responded to 14 Hawaiian monk seal hooking incidents this year (with three that ended in death). The Marine Conservation Institute is trying to develop creative solutions to reducing harm to the seals. NOAA reminds the public to report sightings to the Hawaiian Monk Seal Sightings Hotline on Oahu at 808-220-7802. Report stranded or entangled marine mammals at 1-888-256-9840.
    Albatross counts are up at Kaena Point, indicating the fence is making a difference. Photo courtesy Deborah Ward, DLNR.

    Albatross counts are up at Kaena Point, indicating the fence is making a difference. Photo of albatross pair courtesy Deborah Ward, DLNR.

  7. Bird counts up. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources reports that bird counts of the Laysan albatross and shearwaters are up at Kaena Point. It appears that the fence is working.
  8. Wind farm currents. One of First Wind's wind farms went down after a fire broke out at its battery-energy storage facility, while another one went up on Oahu's North Shore. Maui, meanwhile, leads the way. Sempra U.S. Gas & Power and BP Wind Energy 's 21-megawatt Auwahi Wind plant at Ulupalakua Ranch just went into full operation (with the ability to power about 10,000 homes). It remains to be seen whether the public will further embrace wind power as an additional source of alternative energy.
  9. Recycling options expanded. White and colored office paper can now go in blue bins for curbside. Goodwill partnered with Dell to provide more electronic recycling in addition to options that already exist, including year-round events by Pacific Corporate Solutions.
  10. Butts off the beach. Honolulu City Council considered a bill to ban smoking at five of Oahu’s beach parks. Second only to plastic debris, volunteers pick up more cigarette butts than any other litter on our beaches. Hawaii County already has a ban in place. We'll find out next year whether it passes.

Holiday recycling

December 18th, 2012
By



Every year, Americans typically generate 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

Here are some interesting statistics pulled from www.use-less-stuff.com:

* If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

* If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

* If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.

Here's a reminder on what and where you can recycle in Honolulu.

Lowe's is taking your old or damaged Christmas lights for recycling until Jan. 4, 2013..

Lowe's is taking your old or damaged Christmas lights for recycling until Jan. 4, 2013..

* Recycle your non-working, defunct Christmas lights at Lowe's, which will take them at its stores until Jan. 4. Home Depot also takes broken Christmas lights for recycling. Keep in mind for next year that in November, Home Depot offers a promotion where you can get a coupon discount on new LED lights if you bring in your old  incandescent lights.

* Recycle cardboard boxes (corrugated cardboard boxes, i.e. typical UPS packages) in your blue bin for curbside pickup, along with glass, No. 1 and No. 2 plastic, white office paper and newspapers.

* Recycle beverage containers at your holiday parties. Sometimes it's as simple as setting aside a trash bag for recycling. If there isn't one set up already, volunteer to collect glass, plastic and aluminum and take it to a recycling center.

* Reuse ribbons, bags, boxes and bows for presents next year. Why not? Or try reusing lauhala boxes, tin cans or go for furoshiki (Japanese fabric wrap) next year.

* Christmas tree in the green bin: After you've decided it's time to take the Christmas tree down, don't forget to chop it down (tinsel and ornament free) and put it in your green bin or haul it to a city convenience center so it can be composted and return to the earth.

* Recycle old electronics. If you're getting new electronics this holiday season and don't know what to do with your old equipment, recycle them. Pacific Corporate Solutions offers free computer recycling events at the following locations in January:

Jan. 5, 2013: 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. at Pearl City Highlands Elementary School parking lot, 1419 Waimano Home Rd.

Jan. 12, 2013: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday at Kailua Intermediate School parking lot, 147 S. Kainalu Dr. in Kailua.

Jan. 26, 2013: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday at Kaneohe Elementary School parking lot, 45-495 Kamehameha Highway.

Old computers, monitors, printers, fax machines, keyboards, VCR and DVD players are accepted.  No TVs, microwaves or alkaline batteries. Call 488-8872 or visit www.ewastehawaii.com.

For more tips on how to trim your holiday wasteline, visit www.use-less-stuff.com/ULSDAY/42ways.html.

Lowes, by the way, also collects rechargeable batteries and CFLs for recycling.

Recycle CFL bulbs, rechargeable batteries and plastic bags at Lowes.

Recycle CFL bulbs, rechargeable batteries and plastic bags at Lowes.

More green gift ideas

December 18th, 2012
By



Plant a koa tree as a gift that will continue growing and giving. Visit www.legacytrees.org. Photo courtesy of Walczuk Productions.

Plant a koa tree as a gift that will continue growing and giving. Visit www.legacytrees.org. Photo courtesy of Walczuk Productions.

You have seven more days to go until Christmas. Looking for more green gift ideas? Here are some ideas that go beyond the conventional gift — but have an impact that is far-reaching and long-lasting.

Plant a Koa Legacy tree: For $60, you can plant a koa legacy tree on Hawaii island, whether in honor of an individual, event or to memorialize a loved one. The trees are tracked with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag with GPS tracking that provides a unique signature and includes the sponsor's name, honoree, date planted and location of the tree. You may visit the trees you have planted (with 2 weeks of advance notice). Price is $60 (with $20 going to the charity of your choice) Another $1 goes to The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii . Visit www.legacytrees.org.

The Upena Hi/Lo Dress inspired by Hawaiian throw nets from Kealopiko. www.kealopiko.com

The Upena Hi/Lo Dress inspired by Hawaiian throw nets from Kealopiko. www.kealopiko.com

Kealopiko Creations: Ke alopiko translates to "belly of the fish," and offers custom apparel from Hawaii Nei, including shirts, shorts and dresses with unique prints of plants and sea animals. The apparel is made up of 100-percent organic cotton, with eco-friendly dye methods and designed in Hawaii. Visit www.kealopiko.com or find them at Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii or Flowerchild Boutique on Kapahulu.

blueWaterkeeper bracelet: Make a $50 donation to the Waterkeeper Alliance (The Voice of the World's Water) based in New York and receive a handmade Agate Bracelet with a stamped charm. Waterkeeper's mission is to provide a way for communities to stand up for their right to clean water as well as the "wise and equitable use" of water resources, locally and globally.

Roselani's goes green behind the scenes

December 12th, 2012
By



Producers of Roselani Ice Cream have taken steps to reduce waste at its plant in Wailuku, Maui.

Producers of Roselani Ice Cream have taken steps to reduce waste at its plant in Wailuku, Maui.

Maui Soda & Ice Works, best known as the producers of the popular line of Roselani Ice Cream, has taken a few steps to make its Wailuku operations greener. They've been making ice cream from scratch since 1932.

The company — working with University of Hawaii-Maui College students — set up recycling bins for mixed metals, mixed papers and miscellaneous recyclables plus invested in a cardboard and shrink wrap compactor which makes recyclable bales.

Maui Soda has reduced the amount of its trash going to the landfills by about three-quarters and lowered its trash bill.

"I think it is a win, win situation for everyone," said Brian Carvalho, who handles plant maintenance. "Recycling helps our environment and as a plus side you can also make a little bit of  money."

The UH students will also analyze the Wailuku plant's lighting system  to improve Maui Soda's overall energy efficiency.

Let's hope other companies will be inspired to recycle, if they haven't taken a few simple steps to do so yet.

Green gift ideas

December 10th, 2012
By



This holiday season, you won't have to look far for "green" gift ideas. Here are a few suggestions on items that someone can use for the rest of the year — and longer — that help reduce the use of disposable plastics and paper.

* S'well bottles. The S'well reusable beverage bottles have a sleek, elegant design and can be used for both hot and cold beverages (which is great, because I know a lot that can only be used for one or the either). They're double-walled, made of stainless steel and come in seven cool colors. By the way, Oprah loves them, too. $35. Spotted at Lanikai Home + Style. Visit www.swellbottle.com.

These Swell bottles are good for both hot or cold beverages, and fit in most car cupholders.

These S'well bottles are good for both hot or cold beverages, and fit in most car cupholders.

* ChicoBags. This is a great Secret Santa gift for anyone who goes shopping because you know he or she can definitely use it. The ChicoBag is a reusable bag that you can easily tuck back into its drawstring to put in your purse or pocket. This one caught my eye - it's part of the Solstice Collection — with a colorful, custom-designed "flower burst" print on a reusable should-style bag. $12.99. Found it at Down to Earth. Visit www.chicobag.com.

This Chico Bag has a custom-designed print from the "Solstice Collection" and can easily be tucked away in your purse or backpack.

This Chico Bag has a custom-designed print from the "Solstice Collection" and can easily be tucked away in your purse or backpack.

L.I.F.E. jackets. This is the perfect stocking stuffer at just 99 cents, but it goes a long way. These reusable coffee sleeves are handmade in Kenya by a special group of women, providing them the opportunity to provide for their families. Each jacket is screen-printed. Reduce your use of cardboard coffee sleeves — you won't need one with this reusable one. Available at Whole Foods Markets for just 99 cents if you purchase a cup of coffee. Visit www.ctcinternational.org.

The L.I.F.E. jacket helps women in Kenya support their families. You reduce your use of disposable cardboard coffee sleeves.

The L.I.F.E. jacket helps women in Kenya support their families. You reduce your use of disposable cardboard coffee sleeves.

First albatross of the season at Kaena Point

December 6th, 2012
By



The new fence at Kaena Point appears to be helping seabird populations. Laysan Albatross and chick at Kaena, one of the few places they nest in the Hawaiian Islands. Photo by Lindsay Young.

The new fence at Kaena Point appears to be helping seabird populations. Kaena Point is one of the few places where the Laysan albatrosses nest. Photo of Laysan albatross and chick by Lindsay Young.

It appears as if a predator proof fence installed around Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve is helping the ‘ua‘u kani, or wedge-tailed shearwater seabirds that hatch there, according to a press release issued Nov. 30 by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resorces.

The first albatross of the season arrived at Kaena Point on Thanksgiving weekend.

The population of U“au Kani, wedgetailed shearwaters, has gone up since a fence went up around Kaena Point. Photo by Deborah Ward, DLNR.

The population of ‘ua‘u kani (translation: moaning petrel), or wedgetailed shearwaters, has gone up since a fence went up around Kaena Point. Photo by Deborah Ward, DLNR.

Since the fence was installed, Lindsay Young, a biologist with Pacific Rim Conservation, said the hatching ‘ua‘u kani population has more than doubled to 3,274 birds this year compared to a previous high of 1,556 birds in 2007.

Populations of the Moli, or Laysan Albatross, which also nests at Kaena Point, have also increased by 15 percent to about 400 birds.

Seabird life were wiped out at Kaena Point by predators and off-road vehicles on the sand dunes where the birds next. In the early 1990s, vehicles were blocked. Since then, seabirds are slowly returning and attempting to nest.

Kaena Point, which was once thriving with seabird life, is one of only a handful of places in the main Hawaiian islands where the albatrosses nest. If you decide to hike at Kaena Point, remember to stay on pathways to help prevent the trampling of seabirds. Also, no dogs are allowed.

Getting butts off the beach

December 3rd, 2012
By



Volunteers from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii picked up 1,748 cigarette butts at Waikiki Beach within just one hour.  Courtesy image.

Volunteers from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii picked up 1,748 cigarette butts at Waikiki Beach within just one hour. Courtesy image.

Got your attention? I'm talking about cigarette butts.

Cigarette butts are probably the most ubiquitous litter left behind by humans at the beach, along with plastic litter. It's a serious problem.

City councilman Stanley Chang is proposing a bill (Bill 72) that would ban smoking at some of Honolulu's most popular beaches, including Ala Moana, Duke Kahanamoku and Kuhio Beach parks in Waikiki. It's not an entirely novel idea - after all, the Hawaii County Council passed a smoking ban at all its county parks in 2008. But it's about time.

A recent Star-Advertiser online poll showed that 71 percent of 2,092 voters supported the smoking ban.

It may just have to come down to making a law and making sure it's enforced to get butts of the beach. On the other end of it is education, which is what Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii is trying to do to tackle the problem of cigarette butt litter.

The group is seeing whether signs and portable ash trays at beach concession stands will make any difference. On a recent sweep of cigarette butts, the group cleared a total of 1,748 cigarette butts within one hour along part of Waikiki beach in late November.

It's astounding how many people, locals and tourists alike, use the beach as one big ashtray. There's a perception that it's okay, and that the butts will just go away somehow, buried somewhere in the sand. But they don't just decompose and go away — cigarette butts contain both toxins from tobacco as well as slow-to-degrade plastics in their filters.

The cigarette butts can end up swept into the ocean, where it poisons marine animals. They're also a blight for Hawaii's beaches and have a human impact. How much would you enjoy a walk along a shoreline, only to step on a few cigarette butts here and there? How fun is it to have your toddler making sandcastles, only to pick out a few dirty cigarette butts here and there?

Want to help? Here's a list of some upcoming beach cleanups:

Sunset Beach cleanup on Saturday, Dec 8. From 10 a.m. to noon, Surfrider Oahu presents the Sunset Beach Cleanup with Airwalk. Volunteers are asked to bring their own reusable water bottles and sunscreens and encouraged to bring reusable gloves for picking up trash. Lunch will be provided. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to meet Airwalk pro surfer Anastasia Ashley.

North Shore beach cleanup on Saturday, Dec. 29. Adopt a Beach and Save the Sea Turtles International holds its next beach cleanup on Dec. 29 (and every last Saturday of the month). Meet at 10 a.m. a Chun's Reef on the North Shore, t 61-529 Kamehameha Highway in Haleiwa. Call 637-2211 or go to adoptabeachhawaii.com/calendar.html for more information.