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Solar PV + EV

January 15th, 2015
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Wes Wada of Honolulu just installed a solar photovoltaic system on his home, which will help power the two electric vehiciles he and his wife drive around town. Courtesy Wes Wada.

Wes Wada of Honolulu just installed a solar photovoltaic system on his home, which will help power the two electric vehicles he and his wife drive around town. Courtesy Wes Wada.

Wes Wada of Honolulu is not your typical tree-hugger or environmentalist, but alternative energy has become part of his daily lifestyle.

Wada adopted alternative energy times three. He just hired Eco Solar to install a solar photovoltaic system (32 panels in all) on his rooftop in Honolulu last year to help power his home and his two electric vehicles. He's had the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV for three years, already.

So he's living the "Solar PV + EV" equation.

SOLAR PV + EV

Solar PV + EV means living on sunshine as your main generator of electricity, but of course, there are many factors to consider before making this investment. (Read "Living the EV/PV Dream" by GreenTech Media).

For Wada, it's worked out well, as part of the Hawaii lifestyle.

"That's really the way to go, in my opinion," said Wada. "The key thing, No. 1, is you need to know what the daily commute is going to be."

On an island like Oahu, chances are your distance is going to be pretty short compared to what it might be on the U.S. mainland. The investment in the electric vehicles which he and his wife use have worked out, when rebates were factored in. If he were to do it all over again, Wada says he would lease the Nissan Leaf  instead of purchasing it. That way, he says, you don't have to worry about the battery two years later.

Consider us lucky, too, given that we have sunshine, lots of it, through most of the year.

For Wada, once named an "Energy Hero" by Hawaii Energycost savings and convenience were the main motivation for going green.

"Imagine never having to line up at Costco again for gas," he said. "In five to six years, the solar PV system will be paid off, then you get free electricity for the home and the cars. The convenience factor is really big."

PERKS OF AN EV

The other perks – use of the HOV lane regardless of the number of passengers, free parking at meters and  the airport (there's a 30-day limit, according to the Hawaii Department of Transportation, but it's free of charge if you have an EV license plate), and dedicated parking stalls all add up.

The energy climate in Hawaii, today, is more uncertain, with NextEra's pending acquisition of HECO, plus the state utility's plan to raise fees for all electricity users, with extra fees for owners of solar PV.  Connecting the solar PV system to the grid is also a big uncertainty, with folks that have waited up to a year. If you've already got solar PV in place, the next natural step would be to consider an EV. At the same time, HECO is also offering a discounted time-of-use rate for owners of electric vehicles who charge up at non-peak hours.

Wada said he opted not to go with the time-of-use option, but he's definitely glad he opted for Solar PV + EV.

If you can't get approval for photovoltaic panels, Wada says there are still a lot of things you can do to cut back your electricity bill — LED light bulbs, a solar water heater, energy efficient appliances.

ON THE HORIZON

Most people worry about running out of electricity while on the road, but more charging stations are in the works, plus a start-up company is working on a mobile charging service for electric cars, according to Dave Rolf, executive director of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association. That sounds like a great idea.

"I would do it again, knowing what I know now," said Wada. "If people are really concerned about surviving in Hawaii and doing more with less, I think PV + EV is kind of a no-brainer."

What about you? Have you thought about investing in an electric vehicle in Hawaii? Are you more comfortable with a hybrid (with 19,256 in Hawaii, they make up about 1.7 percent of total passenger vehicles)?

EXCITING NEWS

The Toyota Mirai, Toyota's first fuel cell vehicle, is scheduled to be launched in Hawaii in November this year. A prototype will be available at the First Hawaiian Auto Show in March.

Bikeshare heading this way

January 8th, 2015
By



Two bikes, "Jen" from Seattle's bikeshare program, and "Mike" from New York's Citibike bikeshare program, will visit Oahu in January to help raise awareness about a bikeshare program in the works here. Courtesy photo.

Two bikes, "Jen" from Seattle's bikeshare program, and "Mike" from New York's Citibike bikeshare program, will visit Oahu in January to help raise awareness about a bikeshare program in the works here. Courtesy photo.

Get ready for Jen and Mike.

Jen is the name of a bicycle from Seattle, and Mike is a bike from New York.  Both are part of established bikeshare programs in their respective cities. They'll be visiting Honolulu, starting Monday, to help raise awareness about the program in the works here.

Bikeshare Hawaii, a non-profit run by Lori McCarney, a former senior vice president at Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties and Ben Trevino, a founder of Interisland Terminal, is planning to roll out a program here, with the first phase set to begin in Honolulu in early 2016. The goal is to offer about 2,000 bikes at 200 stations from Waikiki to Chinatown. Similar bikesharing programs are established in numerous U.S. cities.

"The vacationing bikes will get to enjoy some of the experiences our wonderful island home offers, just like other visitors do," said McCarney, Bikeshare Hawaii CEO. "We will bring the Jen and Mike bikes to a variety of events and locales and you'll be able to follow their adventures and learn about opportunities to meet them in social media."

The bikesharing program allows customers to make short trips between a network of unattended bike docking stations. The idea is to offer customers a transportation system without the hassles of ownership, including storage, maintenance or parking. At the same time, the goal is to encourage more people to ride bikes to cut down on pollution for short trips.

A pilot program offering short-term bike rentals, called B-cycle, was launched in Kailua in 2010.

Jen and Mike are hoping to visit the Pow Wow Murals on Cooke Street; the Kuhio Beach torch lighting and hula show; the King Street Cycle Track and the Sony Open while they are in town. Follow Bikeshare Hawaii on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, with hashtags #MikeTheCitiBike and #JenTheProtoCycle to see where they are during the visit here.

Mike is part of a bikesharing program in New York sponsored by CitiBank. Courtesy photo.

Mike is part of a bikesharing program in New York sponsored by CitiBank. Courtesy photo.

 

Posted in Biking | 1 Comment »

Young humpback whale disentangled

December 30th, 2014
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Humpback whale with entanglement. Courtesy of J. Moore, NOAA Hawaiian Whale National Marine Sanctuary MMHSRP Permit #932-1905.

Humpback whale with entanglement. Courtesy of J. Moore, NOAA Hawaiian Whale National Marine Sanctuary. MMHSRP Permit #932-1905.

The Hawaiian islands humpback whale season is here, and with it, the first disentanglement of a juvenile off the shores of Kihei, Maui on Dec. 10, the first of the 2014-2015 season.

NOAA's Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program team was able to free the young, entangled whale earlier this month using knives on a long pole and a cutting grapple. The whale had multiple wraps of heavy gauge, red monofilament longline wrapped around its tail, which caused wounds, and trailing gear.

Most of the gear was successfully removed — not an easy task at all when dealing with a 30-foot whale.

The disentanglement was the result of teamwork — Maui County Ocean Safety Life Guards made the initial report after the whale was sighted by a stand-up boarder. They monitored the 30-foot whale until the authorized response team (made up of HIHWNMS, NOAA Corps, NOAA Fisheries, Hawaii Wildlife Fund) arrived aboard the Kohola.

Whale season stretches from November to May (although the first humpback whale this year was spotted in mid-September off of west Kauai). As many as 10,000 humpback whales make the annual 3,000-mile trek from Alaska to Hawaii every winter to mate and nurse their calves.

The 2013-2014 humpback whale season (Nov. 1, 2013 to May 15, 2014) had the highest number of confirmed large whale entanglement reports of any season since 2002, with 21 reports received, representing at least 13 different animals. It could be the result of more reporting, according to response coordinator Ed Lyman.

"Everyone is pitching in," he said. "We have a great, cohesive network with tour boat operators, fishermen, everyone's helping out and calling in."

If you see an entangled or distressed whale, please call the NOAA Fisheries Hotline at 888-256-9840 or radio the U.S. Coast Guard on channel 16. Federal regulations require maintaining 100 yards of distance in or on the water, and 1,000 feet from an aircraft.

Year 2014 in eco-retrospective

December 26th, 2014
By



 

Illustration courtesy of Surfrider.

Illustration courtesy of Surfrider.

It was a year of highs, and a year of lows for the environment. There were several milestones, and there remain many unknowns for the upcoming year of 2015. Below is a summary of the markers for the year 2014, as I saw it.

1. Plastic overload. The year 2014 was the year of plastic, as has been the case in previous years. This year, the alarm is at an all-time high. A new study published in December by the scientific journal, PLOS ONE, reported that an estimated 270,000 tons of plastic (enough to fill more than 38,500 garbage trucks) is floating in the world's ocean, and that's only the plastic that's on the surface, not the ocean floor. Not only that, but the plastic breaks down into more than 5 trillion pieces. The impacts of all this plastic in our oceans as well as the food chain (including the fish and seafood we eat) are still unknown. Read the AP story posted Dec. 13, 2014 at staradvertiser.com.

2. Plastic-bag free. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed Bill 38 in September, officially banning retailers from distributing plastic carryout bags, including biodegradable bags. But the law doesn't go into effect until July 1, 2015. With that in place, Oahu joins Maui, Kauai and the Big Island in banning plastic bags at checkout. Apparently, the reaction among our readers was to start hoarding plastic bags (49 percent of our readers, based on our Big Q poll). In September, California was the first to implement a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores.

3. Monk seal hospital. Ke Kai Ola, the new Hawaiian monk seal hospital in Kona, held its grand opening and blessing on Sept. 2. The Marine Mammal Center's $3.2 million facility is dedicated to giving sick and injured Hawaiian monk seals a second chance. Four young, malnourished monk seals, Kulia, Ikaika, Hala‘i and Maka‘ala, were admitted on July 9 after being rescued from the northwestern Hawaiian islands.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

4. Monk seal death. This year also marked a sad occurrence, with the suspicious death of a monk seal pup on the north shore of Kauai in November. Monk seal pup RF58 died from apparent blunt force trauma to the head. She was only about 4 to 5 months old, the daughter of Rocky, or RH58. An initial reward offer of $5,000 doubled to $10,000. In an unprecedented move, The Garden Island newspaper also decided to offer a $10,000 reward.

5. Expanded protection. President Barack Obama in September, through presidential proclamation, extended the protection zone around the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument by about 50 nautical miles. It was heralded as a victory by many conservation organizations in Hawaii who testified in favor of it.

6. HECO roller coaster. The Hawaii Electric Cos., the utility for the islands of Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, touched a major public nerve when its Aug. 26 plan was received by the Public Utilties Commission, proposing that the basic connection fees for customers in Honolulu be raised to a minimum of $55. On top of that, HECO attempted to drive a wedge between solar and non-solar customers, blamed its aging grid problems on solar PV customers and asked that new solar customers pay additional fees to connect. This came at a time when more than 3,500 solar PV customers were still waiting, from 9 months to a year, to get connected. Even DBEDT criticized the utility for putting its own profits above public interest while continuing to adhere to an outdated business model. Then in December HEI announced Florida-based NextEra would acquire the company for $4.3 billion, pending approval by the PUC. It's unknown how NextEra will treat individual solar PV customers. Let's just hope that battery storage systems become more affordable in coming years so that customers who want to get solar PV can do so, without worrying about the utility's grid.

7. Solar. It was not a good year for the solar industry in Hawaii. As reported in the Star-Advertiser business section, roof solar permits issued in Honolulu fell by 50 percent. Only 520 permits were issued by the city last month compared to 1,040 in November 2013 despite the availability of both state and federal tax credits (the federal tax credit is set to expire Dec. 31, 2016). Looking at the overall picture, though, the Hawaii State Energy Office noted that distributed renewable energy system installations increased significantly from 12,560 in 2012 to 18,316  in 2013. At the end of the year, the cumulative number of systems statewide totaled 40,717 with a total capacity of 253.5 Megawatt (MW). The state also ranked first in energy performance contracting in the nation with an investment of $235.74 per capita, and earned a third, consecutive Race to the Top award from the Energy Services Coalition in 2014.

8. Bronze for bikes. Honolulu earned its first bronze as a bicycle-friendly city from the League of American Bicyclists. Honolulu is the first municipality in Hawaii to achieve the bronze. Bicycle activists say Honolulu made strides in five areas, including engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation. They also laud the new King St. Cycle Track as a big step forward.

9.  Invasive species. From downed albizia trees on the Big Island to little fire ants and coconut rhinoceros beetles, the year 2014 was a year to monitor potentially destructive invasive species. The state department of agriculture does the best that it can on a meager budget. The albizia trees got plenty of attention during tropical storm Iselle, when they fell like a row of matchsticks and downed power lines. The little fire ants made their way to Mililani Mauka. The latest coconut rhino beetle, previously discovered around Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam,  was found in a trap at Kakaako Waterfront Park. Add to the list, a coconut crab in Salt Lake, and an emu on the Big Island.

10. Electric Vehicles. The number of people driving electric vehicles in Hawaii continues to grow. As of October 2014, DBEDT estimated the number of passenger electric vehicles in the state was 3,026, up 54.5 percent, from 1,068 from the same month a year ago. More charging stations are also popping up around the isles. Volta just announced two free charging stations outside of Whole Foods Market in Kahului, Maui.

Green gift guide

December 8th, 2014
By



Foundwood cutting boards are handmade locally from reclaimed woods by Jen Homcy in the backyard of her Haleiwa home. Star-Advertiser photo.

Foundwood cutting boards are handmade locally from reclaimed woods by Jen Homcy in the backyard of her Haleiwa home. Star-Advertiser photo.

It's that time of year again. Time for gift-giving, which results in the busiest shopping season of the year. It's also a time of high consumption and too-much-stuff-we-don't-really-need-itis. The volume of household waste in the United States generally increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

Instead of participating in the Black Friday frenzy (thank goodness, it's over), think of how you can 1) reduce packaging 2) reduce shipping by buying local or 3) give a gift that supports the earth or the concept of reusing and recycling. The Center for a New American Dream also offers tips on how to simplify the holidays. Or check out these 12 tips from the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation.

Below is a list of eco-friendly, Hawaii gift ideas for your loved ones this holiday season.

FOUNDWOOD CUTTING BOARDS

When searching for a one-of-a-kind item, look no farther than an heirloom cutting or serving board from Foundwood, a small woodworking shop created by Haleiwa resident Jen Homcy. Each of the beautiful boards is unique in shape and grain, personally shaped by Homcy, who carries on the legacy of her late father through the business. All are made exclusively from salvaged woods in Hawaii, including mango, monkeypod, koa and milo. What struck me about them is their organic, natural forms, which follow the flow of the grain, highlighting the raw beauty of the wood. These boards are smooth and very solid (you can tell by the weight when you hold them). Choose from a small, heart-shaped board made from monkeypod or an oblong rectangle made from beautiful, dark milo wood. Prices range from about $46 to $95. Find Homcy’s boards at the Kailua Town Farmers Market (she’s there on the first and third Sundays, 8:30 a.m. to noon), Nohea Gallery at Ward Warehouse and Owens & Co. in Chinatown. You can also find her at www.etsy.com/shop/FOUNDWOODworking.

GIFT OF FOOD, CSA SUBSCRIPTION

Gifts of candies, cookies and food are always nice, but how about a CSA? A Community Supported Agriculture subscription that will deliver locally grown produce on a monthly basis. There are several to choose from in Hawaii, now — from Honolulu Farms to MA‘O Farms, Just Add Water, Oahu Fresh and Waihuena Farm on the North Shore, all offer CSAs.

THE GREEN HOUSE HOLIDAY GIFTS

Craft fairs abound during this time of year in Hawaii and are a great place to support local artisans and artists. More specifically, The Green House's holiday gift extragavanza from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13 this year offers plenty of handmade goods that are also green, including natural cleaning products, decoupaged bottles, herbal vinegars, bath salts from herbs harvested from the garden and hard-to-find plants. Visit www.thegreenhousehawaii.com to find directions. Call 524-8427 for more information.

ADOPT A WILD ANIMAL, SIERRA CLUB

The Sierra Club's Adopt a Wild Animal program gives you the opportunity to help some of America's most vulnerable wildlife while offering a cuddly gift to a family member. Choose from a plush Polar Bear, Harbor Seal, Sea Turtle, Black Bear, Grey Wolf,  Mountain Lion or more. New this year are a Sea Otter and Manatee. For $39, you get a plush animal, sticker, plus booklet that offers information about the animal, an adoption certificate, fun animal facts, map of American wildlife and letter of recognition. For $79, you also get an 1892-style Sierra Club knapsack. For $129, you get a plush puppet and the rest. Shipping is free. Visit sierraclub.org to learn more.

SierraWildAnimal

but offers you the satisfaction of knowing you are helping America's vulnerable wildlife long after the gift has been opened, according to the Sierra Club.

THE MARINE MAMMAL CENTER

The Marine Mammal Center, which  just opened the new monk seal hospital in Kona, also offers an amazingly diverse selection of gifts for him, for her and for kids online. You can adopt a seal or purchase books, cards, DVDs, jewelry, handcrafted soaps and organic T-shirts to support their work. The center is based in Sausalito, Calif., north of San Francisco.

GIFTS OF NATURE, THE NATURE CONSERVANCY

The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii, unfortunately, no longer offers logo items online, but it does offer you the opportunity to give a "gift of nature" this holiday season. You can adopt an acre on someone's behalf, make a tribute gift, give the gift of membership (specifically for Hawaii) ranging from a minimum of $25 to $500 or more, with a special e-card sent to the recipient. Visit www.nature.org.

REUSABLE BAGS

Wrap your gift in a reusable shopping bag or tote which itself is a gift — and can be used throughout the year. It may come in handy when Honolulu's new law banning single-use takeout plastic bags goes into effect in July 2015. Some brands with beautiful designs include envirosax, ecolicious (based in Hawaii) and chicobags.

This canvas tote from Ecolicious Hawaii comes with an eco-friendly saying. The mission of Ecolicious is to reduce the use of plastic bags in Hawaii. Photo from ecolicious.com.

This canvas tote from Ecolicious Hawaii comes with an eco-friendly saying. The mission of Ecolicious is to reduce the use of plastic bags in Hawaii. Photo from ecolicious.com.

Hallelujah! Solar-powered church

December 6th, 2014
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Newly installed solar photovoltaic system at Central  Union Church in Honolulu. Unveiling and celebration will take place after the 9 a.m. service on Sunday, Dec. 7. Photo courtesy Central Union Church.

Newly installed solar photovoltaic system at Central Union Church in Honolulu. Unveiling and celebration will take place after the 9 a.m. service on Sunday, Dec. 7. Photo courtesy Central Union Church.

Central Union Church in Honolulu is unveiling its solar photovoltaic system at a celebration at 10:15 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7.

The church, through Distributed Energy Partners, installed 336 Sun Power 345-watt panels on to the Women's Building and Parrish Hall on its campus. The panels are expected to produce 179,318 kilowatt hours of electricity each year, saving the church about a third of its electricity costs.

That translates to a reduction of 254,273 pounds of carbon emissions, 445 barrels of oil and 14,590 pounds of nitrous oxide pollution.

There will be a ribbon cutting, followed by a short presentation and tour of how the solar panels work.

In case you didn't know it, there is actually a certification for cool congregations, awarded by a group called Interfaith Power & Light, which says its mission is to be "faithful stewards of Creation by responding to global warming through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy."

Central Union Church became one of 20 churches nationwide to be recognized as a Certified Cool Congregation in the summer. It's cool to see churches taking an active role in sustainability.

Posted in solar | No Comments »

Monk seal pup RF58

December 4th, 2014
By



 

Rocky (RH58) and her pup (RF58) at Waipake Beach, Kauai. The pup was found dead by officials, with apparent blunt force trauma to its head last week. Photo by Jamie Thornton/NOAA.

Rocky (RH58) and her pup (RF58) at Waipake Beach, Kauai. The pup was found dead, with blunt trauma to its head last Sunday. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

It's with great sadness that we mark the end of 2014 with the suspicious death of a Hawaiian monk seal pup on the northeast coast of Kauai.

Female pup seal RF58, died from apparent blunt force trauma to the head at a beach in Anahola on Sunday, Nov. 30. She was only an estimated 4 to 5 months old. The pup was  the daughter of Rocky (RH58) who spends most of her time on Oahu. Both had recently survived a dog attack on the north shore of Kauai in July — RF58 was one of two pups that recovered from that attack.

"What a sad day for all our volunteers who worked so hard in keeping track of all the seals out there on Kauai," said Barbara Billand, a volunteer for the Monk Seal Foundation on Oahu, in an e-mail. "I don't know why anyone would harm these poor pups. They are defenseless...vulnerable. All they are trying to do is survive."

Billand recalls having the opportunity to see RF58 as a newborn pup on Kauai back in June, when she was still with Rocky. She considers that day as a gift, as she witnessed RF58 struggle with some waves and then catch up to Rocky.

"What a great feeling of joy," she said.

"She was a beautiful, healthy little girl," said Billand. "May she rest in peace."

The news of the seal pup's death, announced Tuesday by NOAA and DLNR, is the first one due to suspicious circumstances this year. The last suspicious death of a Hawaiian monk seal was in April 2012, also on Kauai. From November 2011 to April 2012, four seals were found dead under suspicious circumstances on Kauai and Molokai.

An initial reward of $5,000 has been doubled to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for this latest monk seal death. The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai is also offering a $10,000 reward, which was announced Friday.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries to her head, and internal bleeding, a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

I can't imagine why anyone would want to hurt a Hawaiian monk seal pup — out of viciousness or just for sport. It shows a real lack of respect for nature, and for life.

Hawaiian monk seals are a critically endangered species protected under both state and federal laws. Only an estimated 1,100 remain in the wild. Most reside in the Northwestern Hawaiian islands, but a growing number, about 200, live in and around the main Hawaiian islands. They have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years.

Many, like Rocky, also travel back and forth. Rocky travels to Kauai to give birth to monk seal pups — when the pups wean, mom leaves. The loss of a female monk seal is a blow to the survival of the species, since they are the ones that produce new pups.

Killing a Hawaiian monk seal is considered a Class C felony, with violators facing fines up to $50,000 and five years in prison.

RF58 was observed near her birthplace less than 24 hours before she was found dead, in good health and behaving normally.

A confidential hotline is available at 1-855-DLNR-TIP or 643-DLNR.

Rest in peace, RF58. You will not be forgotten.

RF58 on day of birth taken by Gary Langley

Photo of RF58 on day of birth taken by Gary Langley.

Sand sifter challenge winners

November 20th, 2014
By



Winners

Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks took first place in Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Rise's first Ultimate Sand Sifter contest last Saturday. Photos by Nina Wu.

It was a beautiful, sunny morning at Kalama Beach Park in Kailua.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, along with RISE, a core program of KUPU, organized the First Annual Ultimate Sand Sifter Challenge, and invited 20 finalists out of dozens of submissions to demonstrate their models on Saturday, Nov. 15.

The winner was a two-level screen sifter designed by Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks that offered an educational message while separating out microplastics from the sand. Second place went to photographer Ken G. Kosada and third place to surfer and beach cleanup volunteer Harrison Piho. Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks plans to use the $2,500 cash prize (presented by solar company Revolusun) to enhance their educational facility and fund their island restoration projects. And, they decided to give $300 to Kosada and $200 to Piho.

As for the winner, they get another $2,500 to replicate several of their sand sifters for use by volunteer organizations.

There was creativity, ingenuity and enthusiasm, but most of all, there was one goal in common — to figure out how to get these microplastics, pieces of plastics broken down by ultraviolet rays, out of the sand and out of the ocean.

Kailua, a five-mile stretch of fine, white sand, is often named as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It's the one that President Barack Obama once jogged on in his bare feet (before he was elected president). And yet, look closely near the high tide waterline, and you will see microplastic debris in that fine, white sand.

Saturday's event was an all-family affair, with plenty of enthusiastic students. Several teams from Punahou School (aspiring engineers from 7th to 10th grade), as well as a team of fifth and sixth-graders from Ho‘ala School in Wahiawa and a student from Kamakau Charter School who created a sand sifter for extra credit, were out demonstrating with their designs.

Ho‘ala School science, math and service teacher Maggie Pulver was able to teach several lessons at once while her students — Ian Shelton, Storey Welch and Christian Ward — designed and put their sand sifter to the test.

Ken Kosada, 2nd place winner, Ultimate Sand Shifter contest, created a spinning device out of recycled items.

Ken Kosada, 2nd place winner, Ultimate Sand Sifter contest, created a spinning device out of recycled items.

The designs were as simple as reused tubes, bucket and jars to more elaborate, spinning bins made from recycled bicycle rims and refurbished wood pallets. They had to be human-powered, without the use of fossil fuels, and designed and built for no more than $300.

Second-place winner Ken Kosada is already tweaking his design in preparation for the 10th annual Da Hui North Shore Clean-Up this Saturday (Nov. 22) at Turtle Bay Resort.

Piho, a regular beach cleanup volunteer and avid surfer from Wahiawa, had one of my favorite designs — a double baby stroller frame plus shoe rack that he found on the sidewalk left out for bulky curbside pickup. He said his design was mobile, and that you could push it across the beach, sifting debris out of the sand. He used simple twist-ties to assemble his sand sifter together.

Strollersandshifter

 

Third-place finalist Harrison Piho with his mobile, repurposed double stroller sandshifter design.

Third-place finalist Harrison Piho with his mobile, repurposed double stroller sand sifter design.

 

Solar-powered Rainbow

November 10th, 2014
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Rainbow Drive-In installed a solar PV system that should shave 60 percent off its electricity bill once it's up and running. The solar array extends over beams that create shaded parking. Photo by Nina Wu.

Rainbow Drive-In installed a solar PV system that should shave 60 percent off its electricity bill once it's up and running. The solar array extends over beams — a solar canopy — that also offers shaded parking. Photo by Nina Wu.

Rainbow Drive-In, a longtime favorite in Kapahulu, has gone solar.

You may have actually parked  beneath the solar canopy, which provides shaded parking while supporting photovoltaic panels. While the 56.1-kilowatt system installed by Kama‘aina Solar Solutions hasn't been activated yet, it's expected to save the favorite plate lunch spot about 60 percent on its monthly electricity bill once it is.

And that's no small bill, at an average of $5,500 a month, according to owner and vice president Jim Gusukuma.

So the neon rainbow, fridges and other appliances at Rainbow Drive-In will all be solar-powered. Loco moco and milkshakes powered by sunshine-generated power in sunny Kapahulu – that's pretty cool.

Since there wasn't enough rooftop space for all 184 panels, Kama‘aina created the solar canopy. The canopy created shade for a few additional tables for the drive-in plus covered parking. It's a brilliant design idea, plus it qualifies for the 30 percent federal solar tax credit.

It's a smart move for the small, family-run business founded by Seiji Ifuku in 1961. Back then, you could get 50-cent chili with rice plate, 25-cent hamburgers and 14-cent French fries. Today, Rainbow Drive-In is one of the few places you can still get a hearty plate lunch for under $10.

The Rain Bowls (clockwise, from top, teri pork, boneless Rain Bowls, clockwise, from top, teri pork, boneless fried chicken, chili frank, and teri beef, are photographed inside the Hawaii's Favorite Kitchens store (Sun, Sept. 14 photo, Honolulu Star-Advertiser/Jamm Aquino).

The Rain Bowls (clockwise, from top, teri pork, boneless fried chicken, chili frank, and teri beef, are photographed inside the Hawaii's Favorite Kitchens store (Sun, Sept. 14 photo, Honolulu Star-Advertiser/Jamm Aquino).

When the landlord offered a 25-year lease, Gusukuma said it allowed the small business to make improvements. Solar was at the top of the list.

The drive-in at 3308 Kanaina Ave., which was featured on Guy Fieri's "Drivers, Dine-ins and Dives"  expanded its offerings earlier this year, as detailed in this Honolulu Pulse post . At Hawaii's Favorite Kitchens next door (3111 Castle St.), you can now get Rainbowls (with brown or white rice), the KC waffle dog, a Poke Stop bowl or pick up some huli huli chicken from Hoku BBQ chicken.

In today's Green Leaf column, Gusukuma (who also drives an electric BMW i3) said: "I think, eventually, solar is the cleanest way to go. If you're able to do it, you have that obligation for the future."

Here's to another 50 years for Rainbow Drive-In, open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

View of the solar canopy at Rainbow Drive-In from underneath. Photos by Nina Wu.

View of the solar canopy at Rainbow Drive-In from underneath. Photo by Nina Wu.

WEfficiency again

November 5th, 2014
By



The Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii is using WEfficiency to raise funds for more efficient lighting at its Clubhouses in Waianae, Ewa Beach and McCully. Courtesy photo.

The Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii is using WEfficiency to raise funds for more efficient lighting at its Clubhouses in Waianae, Ewa Beach and McCully. Courtesy photo.

It seems as if crowdfunding is everywhere these days — it's the new approach to fundraising, whether it's for a new documentary film, book, or even to make a potato salad.

WEfficiency is a new online fundraising platform that can make a real impact for local non-profits in Hawaii. You either make a donation or a loan that is repaid using a portion of the energy cost savings. The lender has the option of recycling the loan to another project.

The Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii partnered with the Blue Planet Foundation to launch its energy efficiency campaign seeking $60,000 to install high-efficiency lighting at its Clubhouses in Waianae, Ewa Beach and McCully. If successful, the funds would save about $18,000 a year in energy costs.

The campaign kicked off at the Art + Flea in Kakaako on Thursday, Oct. 30 and lasts until Tuesday, Dec. 30.

"By increasing energy efficiency at our facilities, we reduce energy cost and free up resources to better serve our keiki and provide them with programs that will help them to become responsible citizens of their communities," said BGCH president and CEO Tim Motts.

Hawaii Public Radio, the YWCA of Honolulu and Damien Memorial School have all funded energy efficiency projects successfully through WEfficiency.