Archive for September, 2013

Solar voices

September 30th, 2013

Solar panels installed by Waterhouse Solar. Courtesy photo.

Solar panels installed by Waterhouse Solar. Courtesy photo.

In an effort to keep Hawaii's current "net metering" program in place, the Sierra Club, along with several partners, have launched

Solar power creates good jobs, says the Sierra Club, and gives Hawaii residents a chance to save money while protecting the aina. While distributing power over a stable grid is complex, solar is still the right direction for the state of Hawaii.

The website is meant to help the public understand the Hawaiian Electric Co.'s recent policy changes on solar interconnection as well as to gather voices from Hawaii residents who support solar energy. If you have a personal photo, story or video to share with others about how solar power has changed your life, you can submit it here. If you support Hawaii solar and want the Public Utilities Commission to stand strong for solar rights, click here.

A recent story in the Star-Advertiser touched on some of the changes. Solar PV installation has doubled nearly every year since 2005 in Hawaii. Solar provides energy for a total of 54 circuits out of 416 on Oahu.


Solar helps provide jobs. Solar worker with his son at solar rally at Hawaii State Capitol. Photo by Nina Wu.

The solar industry has created thousands of new jobs. It's not just for those who work directly as installers for solar companies.

There's also a trickle-down effect for others, including support staff, tax preparers (who have extra forms to process), electricians, tree trimmers, marketing and advertising. There's at least one company that offers to clean solar panels.

HECO says the saturation of solar power means upgrades are necessary to the Oahu grid.

Thus, HECO is no longer guaranteeing interconnection for residential systems with a capacity less than 10 kW. Now net energy metered (NEM) systems need to be reviewed by the utility prior to interconnection.

Before the new policy, if you had a solar PV system installed, you could have it connected to HECO's grid as long as you had a closed permit and the proper paperwork. Eventually, someone from HECO would come and swap out your old meter for a net meter. Now HECO is going to decide whether it can reserve a place on the grid for each PV system ahead of time. That means delays.

I remember when our solar PV system was installed, and when the meter was swapped out — an exciting and empowering feeling. It was neat to watch others in my neighborhood, one by one, install solar panels, too.

When we see the sun, we're all excited about producing power. It was a conscious investment (which we expect a return on) for the future and for our families.

And we should rightfully be credited by HECO when we produce more power than we consume. If HECO asks consumers to pay for the electricity that they use, then doesn't it make sense for us to get credit for power that we produce? We still pay a monthly fee just to be hooked up to the grid. HECO, being a utility provider, should ultimately be responsible for footing the cost of upgrades without passing that cost on to consumers. It's time to change the game.

Hawaii has gained great momentum in reaching its clean energy goals – 70 percent by the year 2030. Let's keep it going. Let your solar voice be heard.

Posted in solar | Comments Off on Solar voices

Disney cares about monk seals

September 25th, 2013

Our Hawaiian Monk Seals are capturing the hearts of people from around the world, including Disney. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Our Hawaiian Monk Seals are capturing the hearts of people from around the world, including Disney. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Well, it looks like our Hawaiian monk seals are getting more attention (and funding) from abroad.

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has awarded a $25,000 grant to The Marine Mammal Center in its rescue and rehabilitation efforts, along with ongoing scientific research and community education efforts.

The Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito, Calif. (north of San Francisco, on the other side of Golden Gate Bridge), is in the midst of building a brand-new Hawaiian monk seal health care and education center in Kona. The facility will alo offer marine science training and an education and outreach program.

Construction started last year and is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

"With only 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals left in the world, and a population declining at a rate of 4 percent each year, we must do everything we can to save this species," said Jeff Boehm, executive director of The Marine Mammal Center in a press release. "Building a dedicated rehabilitation hospital in Hawaii and working closely with the local community to inspire monk seal conservation, is a vital part of that effort. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund provides essential funds at a critical tim and we are incredibly grateful for their generous support."

The Marine Mammal Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, in Sausalito since 1975, has rescued and treated more than 18,000 marine mammals including seals, sea lions and whales.

I'm glad the plight of the Hawaiian monk seal (which remained in obscurity for many years) has captured the heart of a California-based non-profit and a global giant like Disney. Even the New York Times (a long way away from any sighting of a monk seal) published a lengthy story May 12 this year titled "Who Would Kill a Monk Seal?"

Then in late May, Jeff Corwin from Animal Planet came to visit Ho‘ailona (formerly known as KP2) our own resident monk seal at Waikiki Aquarium, who has a story of his own to tell.

In August, National Geographic wrote a story about lead scientist Charles Littnan's crittercam project funded by its Conservation Trust. Littnan is engaging middle and high school students on Molokai to help analyze the hours of video.

Debates continue to broil at home, meanwhile, over whether the monk seals should be transferred to the main Hawaiian islands. Many are migrating to the main isles on their own, but fishermen aren't thrilled about it because of competition for the same fish.

Will all these new attention and funding result in better survival rates for our Hawaiian monk seals? It remains to be seen.

Learn more:

Here's a video about the Marine Mammal Center by Wild Lens (narrated by someone with a very British accent):

Posted in Conservation, Marine Life | Comments Off on Disney cares about monk seals

National Plug In EV contest

September 23rd, 2013

Volta is holding a social media contest highlighting EVs in Hawaii for National Plug-In Day. Courtesy photo.

Volta is holding a social media contest highlighting EVs in Hawaii for National Plug-In Day. Courtesy photo.

Volta Industries is holding a social media contest to celebrate National Plug In Day Sept. 28 and 29.

To enter, snap and share a photo of Hawaii's EV scene, whether it's a Tesla cruising down H1 or a Nissan Leaf charing outside of Whole Foods Market at Kahala Mall. Post it on to Facebook ( with the hashtag #NationalPlugInDay. Participants will be entered in a drawing for dozens of prizes.

The  grand prize is a premium auto detailing worth $200 for your car (EV or not).

Arden Penton, director of operations for Volta, which operates the Volta Network (offering free-to-use EV charging stations) says there are 1,783 EVs in Hawaii – more per capita than anywhere else in the U.S. On Oahu, a total of 1, 371 electric cars were sold on Oahu as of August 2013.

"We're thrilled Hawaii is charging ahead on the course to clean energy, and hope this contest highilights how Hawaii has embraced EVs."

On the Big Island, the Big Island EV Association is hosting EV talkstory sessions from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28 at the Hilo Home Depot (corner of Makaala and Roalroad Ave.) and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29 at Kona Commons near Sports Authority. Email to learn more.

Posted in Contests, electric cars | Comments Off on National Plug In EV contest

Energy Efficiency for Educators

September 23rd, 2013

Teachers on Molokai at an energy conservation and efficiency workshop for educators. The workshops are free. Courtesy photo.

Teachers on Molokai at an energy conservation and efficiency workshop for educators. The workshops are free. Courtesy photo.

Attention, hard-working teachers.

Hawaii Energy is offering free energy conservation workshops to K-12 educators through the NEED (National Energy Education Development) project. Two types of workshops are available: Basic Energy Education Workshops and Building Science Workshops. They will be held from Oct. 22 to Nov. 21 on Lanai, Maui, Oahu and the Big Island.

Teachers who attend one of the workshops are also eligible to apply for an energy education grant of up to $2,500. Hawaii Energy will award a total sum of up to $25,000 this year. The grants can be used to purchase materials and equipment to promote energy efficiency education in the classroom and community, whether it be posters, signs, stickers, videos or participation in a video workshop. The deadline to apply is Oct. 15.

Laura Cummings, a teacher at Sunset Beach Elementary School on Oahu's North Shore, said: "It made a significant impact on how I taught energy concepts and allowed students to make more meaningful gains in their understanding of energy and conservation."

The schedule is below:

  • Basic Energy Education Workshop

October 22, 2013 - Kahului, Maui

  • Basic Energy Education Workshop

October 26, 2013 - Lanai City, Lanai

  • Basic Energy Education Workshop

November 13, 2013 - Waipahu, Oahu

  • Building Science for Educators

November 15, 2013 - Kaneohe, Oahu

  • Basic Energy Education Workshop

November 19, 2013 - Honoka'a , Hawaii

  • Basic Energy Education Workshop

November 21, 2013 - Kona, Hawaii

Posted in Energy | Comments Off on Energy Efficiency for Educators

Enphase offering solar PV to one non-profit

September 19th, 2013

Enphase in Hawaii is offering one Hawaii-based non-profit a $25,000 solar PV system as part of its "Mahalo Hawaii Giveaway" contest this month. You have until Sept. 30 to vote for the non-profit you believe is the most deserving of winning.

Non-profits and schools were nominated via video online until Sunday, Sep. 15. The winner will be determined by popular vote.

Many of Hawaii's solar companies are using Enphase microinverters, which claims to generate power in low-light conditions and reduce the impact of module mismatch or shade. Among the solar companies that use Enphase or AlternateEnergy, American Electric, Haleakala Solar, Hawaii Island Solar , KumuKit and Vivint Solar.

Among the top contenders, so far (as of Wednesday, Sept. 18), are a local family (with daughter Eva, who has a spinal disorder) with 6,417 votes, La‘a Kea Farm , an organic farm on Maui for adults with special needs with 6,089 votes and Central Union Church, with 1,757 votes.

Other worthy contenders include The Maui Farm (help individuals become self-sufficient),  Hawaii Food Bank, Honolulu Zoo Society (which uses Leon the talking Jackson chameleon as its ambassador)and Hawaiian Humane Society. In Puna, a group called Kalani believes solar PV will help it further its educational and recreational opportunities.

Vote for your favorite non-profit today (you can vote for more than one group, by the way). There are so many worthy organizations -  maybe some solar companies will be inspired to offer a PV system for those that don't win? It's such a no-brainer for any non-profit on the isles for energy savings (not to mention clean energy).

Posted in Contests, solar | Comments Off on Enphase offering solar PV to one non-profit

Coastal Cleanup Day

September 18th, 2013

Help keep our coastlines debris and litter free on International Coastal Cleanup Day.

Help keep our coastlines debris and litter free on International Coastal Cleanup Day.

This Saturday (Sept. 21) is the Ocean Conservancy's 28th International Cleanup Day.

So it's the perfect time to roll up your sleeves and pitch in at a beach cleanup (scheduled throughout Oahu) that day.

These three cleanups, organized by Kokua Hawaii Foundation's Plastic Free Hawaii, take place from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday (check-in at 8:30 a.m.):

>> James Campbell Wildlife Refuge/Kahuku — Partners include U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Kahuku High and Intermediate School Green Club.

>> Ka‘ena Point, Mokule‘ia route — Partners include Friends of Ka‘ena and U.S. Army Garrison

>> Kailua and Lanikai beaches — Partners include Ocean Devotion Hawaii and Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks

Join Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii for beach cleanups on the Leeward side (much needed)

>>  Ma‘ili Point Beach Park, 9:30-11:30 a.m. (check-in at 9 a.m.) — Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii is hosting this beach cleanup, which includes Nanakuli, Ma‘ili, Pokai Bay and Makaha, to be followed by an after party with live music and more from noon to 3 p.m.

Volunteers should bring sunscreen, refillable water bottles and gloves. Other items that are good to bring include buckets, colanders (to sift out plastic debris) and reusable rubbish bags.

Join the Surfrider Foundaton in cleaning up Sand Island on Saturday.

>> Sand Island Beach Cleanup, 9:30 a.m. to noon — The Surfrider Foundation's Oahu chapter is teaming up with Lyon to host a beach cleanup at Sand Island State Recreation Area. Start with a yoga warmup, sign in and start cleaning at 10 a.m. Please bring your own water bottle, a hat and sunscreen.

Last year, more than 500,000 volunteers picked up 10 million pounds of trash spanning nearly 18,000 miles of coastline during the annual International Coastal Cleanup. Do your part on Saturday.

Posted in Green events, Ocean, Volunteer | Comments Off on Coastal Cleanup Day

A Plastic Free Life

September 17th, 2013

A photo of a dead bird with its belly full of plastic is what convinced Beth Terry of Oakland, Calif. to start living a plastic-free life. in June 2007. She was recovering from surgery when she saw the picture and an article, called "Our Oceans Are Turning Into Plastic....Are We?" (featuring the findings of Capt. Charles Moore).

Plastic-Free-book-photo-front-500-375Terry, the author of "Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too" and (formerly fake plastic fish) blogger, will be speaking at various venues in Honolulu Sept. 20 to 22.

She'll be offering personal anecdotes and statistics on the environment and health problems related to plastic, as well as personal solutions and tips. She is also You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Here's a schedule (the presentations are free):

>> Friday, Sept. 20, 4:15-6:15 p.m. at University Laboratory School, Honolulu

>> Saturday, Sept. 21, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at Ma‘ili Point, following the International Coastal Cleanup

>> Sunday, Sept. 22, 2:30-3:30 p.m. at The Art Explorium, Kaimuki

Visit the Kokua Hawaii Foundation's website or email for more info. Don't forget to bring a reusable water bottle!

Posted in Green events, Lifestyle, Plastic | Comments Off on A Plastic Free Life

'Seeds of Hope' on PBS Hawai‘i

September 12th, 2013

PBS Hawai‘i presents the broadcast premiere of "Na Kupu Mana‘Olana: Seeds of Hope" at 9 p.m. next Thursday, Sept. 19.

If you haven't had the opportunity to see this documentary, then here's the chance to see a 56-minute version from the comfort of your home.

Did you know:

>> Hawaii imports more than 80 percent of its food to the isles? "If we're cut off from the mainland, our food supply, we're in big, big trouble." – Dean Okimoto, Nalo Farms.

>> At least 50 percent of Hawaii's farmland has been destroyed over the past five decades?

>> Access to land and water is one of the biggest challenges to farming in Hawaii?

Catch interviews with Hawaii's food growers, ranchers, farmers and educators including Richard Ha (owner, Hamakua Springs Country Farms), Shin Ho (Ho Farms), Kamuela Enos (MA‘O Farms), Chris Kobayashi (Wai‘oli Farm) and Robert Harris (director, Sierra Club Hawaii),  as they tell their personal stories.

While examining food, water and land issues (as well both sides of the GMO debate) critical to Hawaii, "Seeds of Hope" also gives us hope for the future of the Aloha State's future food security by profiling farmers who are getting creative, going organic and finding answers by returning to local and traditional methods of growing food. The film also finds educators who are cultivating the next generation of farmers.

Its message is that consumers also have power to sway the future.

"It's up to the consumer to say, yes, I'd rather buy produce from Hawaii." Jack Spruance, president, Molokai Livestock Coop.

The film, written and directed by Hawai‘i island filmmaker Danny Miller,  was an official selection (and nominee for the Golden Orchid Award) at the 2012 Hawaii International Film Festival.

Posted in Conservation, eat local | Comments Off on 'Seeds of Hope' on PBS Hawai‘i

Recent Posts

Recent Comments