How to Get Hawaii’s Solar Energy to Your Home
Hawaii’s solar energy industry is booming, but its growing pains are forcing some to adjust.
The state has some of the most stringent laws in the country on how energy can be produced and sold, but a lot of the energy comes from a combination of solar panels and wind turbines.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) says that of the nearly 1.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity produced last year, Hawaii’s wind energy generated the second-most, after California.
And the state has one of the highest renewable energy standards in the nation.
While Hawaii is an island in the Pacific, the state gets its energy from the Pacific Ocean.
That means Hawaii can generate its electricity from virtually anywhere in the world.
And with more than 1,500 hydroelectric dams, the Hawaiian Islands are well positioned to produce enough electricity to power Hawaii’s entire population for the next three years.
That’s because the islands are located in the heart of a rapidly expanding wind power industry.
“Hawaii is the fourth-largest wind power state in the U.C. Berkeley, California is one of those big energy centers,” said Steve Ellington, the director of energy policy at the Pacific Institute.
“If you think of wind as a high-speed rail system, Hawaii has been on the cutting edge of it for years.”
Hawaii’s electricity is generated by two types of power plants: the “power plants” located on the islands, and the more specialized “wind turbines” located in Hawaii’s central mountains.
The power plants produce electricity from the wind turbines, but the electricity from a wind turbine is also used to power the islands’ large and very expensive nuclear power plants.
Both types of electricity are generated using natural gas, but Hawaii’s natural gas plants are much more efficient.
Wind turbines have been the industry leader for decades in Hawaii.
But the state is slowly catching up.
In 2017, Hawaii surpassed California in terms of wind power generation.
In 2020, Hawaii had over 3.5 gigawatts of capacity, or the equivalent of generating nearly 1 million megawatts of electricity.
This is a big increase from 2010, when the island generated about 300 gigawatts.
But it is only a small jump from 2005, when Hawaii had about 400 gigawatts, or about one-quarter of the island’s total electricity needs.
That number has since dropped to less than 50 gigawatts today.
The new capacity has also meant that the island has become more energy efficient, Ellingons says.
“Now we’re moving toward the point where we’re generating about 30 percent more electricity with natural gas than we did 10 years ago,” he said.
Ellingtons expects the wind power boom to continue as the islands grow and the state continues to increase its renewable energy.
The islands also have some of Hawaii’s best solar power resources.
The country’s largest power producer, Hawaii Electric Power Company (HEP), is building a large solar thermal power plant on Oahu.
The project will be able to produce the majority of Hawaiis electricity from solar.
Hawaii has also seen a surge in wind energy.
More than 700 wind turbines have popped up across the island since the mid-2020s.
These wind turbines can produce enough power for nearly 500,000 homes.
However, the wind energy on Oahau is not enough to meet Hawaii’s needs.
The island’s population has grown and demand has also increased.
“Our generation capacity is very limited by our population, and we’re trying to increase our generation capacity by 25 percent,” said Hawaii Electric’s Ellingon.
“We want to be able for the entire state of Hawaii to have a large enough wind energy generation capacity.”
As the island grows, more and more people will want to live on the island.
With the power plant, the island will also become a renewable energy powerhouse.
“As the population grows, we will need to get that wind power from somewhere else, because the wind is not abundant,” Ellingson said.
In 2019, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) announced plans to purchase 100 megawatts (MW) of solar power from the state.
This will help bring the island up to the 30 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources.
The plan is also part of an effort to reduce the islands carbon footprint by as much as 50 percent by 2020.
“The island is currently experiencing very severe weather events that have made it very difficult for us to generate electricity,” Elledson said, “so this is an important step in helping the island grow and provide a stable source of energy.”
In 2020 the state plans to invest $1 billion in new wind projects, and by 2020 the amount of solar energy that can be generated in the state will have increased to the point that it will become more competitive with other sources of electricity, Elledons said.