AN ENERGY ODYSSEY AROUND THE ISLANDS

June 1st, 2010
By

Books need to be written about the relationship of the Neighbor Islands with Oahu and each other. One thing is clear - everyone in Hawaii needs to visit a Neighbor Island on a regular basis. And it’s different to visit them on energy business than for pleasure. I had the good fortune of making three trips over three weeks – to the Big Island, to Maui and to Kauai. These trips were to shoot footage for a movie the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum asked me to make for Clean Energy Day on Friday June 4th.

The progenitor of all this is the HEPF Executive Director Sharon Miyashiro. She put the trips together, called ahead, made the arrangements, handled the issues, and came with me on the three trips to the Neighbor Islands as well as the on-location shoots in Oahu. Sharon has been great – this whole project could not have gotten off the ground without her. She is a symbol and complete mover-shaker for energy.

The interviews we filmed on these trips were all of energy entrepreneurs, person for person some of the most interesting people you will ever find. At the core, they are energy-tech people, with great technical and people skills. They are thoughtful and motivated and fully understand the fossil fuel and clean energy issues, along with other sustainability issues of increasing concern in these times. Including Oahu, we filmed some 20 people. Let me tell you about some of those that come to mind.

Dennis Rose runs the Wailuku Power Plant up the hill east of Hilo. He’s a mechanic by background. The plant is a man’s toy – big noisy steel powerhouse equipment, in beautiful shape, in harmony with the environment there, sluicing off power from the river and delivering it to HELCO. The whole thing is done by remote control. What’s interesting is it’s not new. The facility is 20 years old, updated for computer controls, but evidence is that we were thinking about and acting on these issues 20 plus years ago.

Adam Esquith runs Kauai Farm Fuels, an oil recycling plant in Hanapepe. He’s a Ph.D. in biology and brilliant. He’s so full of energy he can hardly contain himself. He calls the place Sanford and Sons, but in the same moment eloquently explains its role in the development and protection of the community and in alternative energy going forward. Adam is a hands-on visionary.

Bob King runs Pacific Biodiesel with his wife Kelly in Maui. Together they will rule the world, and nicely. Bob is quiet, but what a discussion that was. He knows how to answer questions – a great interview. They’re building another biodiesel processing plant in Hilo. They have a dozen or more around the islands and on the Mainland. They have things worked out on every level, especially on the point that they are doing this largely to improve Hawaii. Stay tuned for great things from both of them.

Darren Kimura has developed a field of Sopogy solar collectors at NELHA. There are more than 1,000 units in the lava. It’s a large industrial generation project, one which I’m sure will be duplicated many times in many places. Darren is the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur - enterprising, uncompromising and articulate both one-to-one and with a crowd. He is active in state energy policy and regulation, and is also involved in national energy policy and regulation. Watch this space for an international name.

Bill Cowern of Hawaiian Mahogany had the idea of growing trees in Kauai 15 years ago. He has 3,500 acres of cane land he brought from MacBride and plants trees on 2,000 of them. He believes in sustainability in the fullest sense, and wants to start his sustainable “ring” of production now, not later. His trees, growing in every direction, yield lumber, energy and feed, and his land is completely self-sustaining. The grass under the trees fertilizes them so Bill doesn’t have to provide anything else to make the ring work – one thing feeds the other, and at the end of the day he can make money selling the products of the ring. Talk about enterprising! With a new kind of plantation that can sustain itself in such creative ways, Bill if ready for anything.

Tom Quinn has been running hydrogen cars and buses at HCATT, which is part of HTDC, for decades. Times have never been better. With help from the military, and especially Dan Inouye, Tom has a facility on Cooke Street and a proving ground at Hickam AFB. Most recently, he built a large PV solar array to power a plant that makes hydrogen for hydrogen vehicles there. He’s also installing some low altitude wind turbines to supplement the PV. This shows you the dedication of the military to testing and building clean energy in Hawaii. It also shows you Tom’s dedication.

Tom’s military connection segways to the Grow Farm algae farm in Kapaia, right next to the power plant there. Grow Farm owns 40,000 acres and is a principal of Hawaii BioEnergy, which is in a partnership with General Atomic to manufacture JP8 jet fuel from algae. It’s an impressive facility, and so are the Grow Farm and General Atomic people there. We interviewed Mike Tressler from Grow Farm and others from General Atomic. In Phase Two they’ll add 1,200 acres of algae. We also interviewed Algae Kuehnle of Kuehnle AgroSystems in Honolulu, from whom they get their algae. This is critical to the military and to all of us. It’s great to have them scaling it up in Kauai.

This is just a sampling of the energy people we filmed, the ones that randomly come to mind. There were several others, all of whom were great. We have lots of footage and we’re putting more organized snippets of it in the video we’ll show at Clean Energy Day this Friday, June 4th. If you can come, you’ll see footage of all of them, and you’ll also meet some of them and participate in the discussion that connects them, and us.

Clean Energy Day is at the Laniakea YMCA on Richards Street downtown, 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The $25 admission includes pupus and drinks. Come and add your two cents in the discussion on what we need to do to achieve our clean energy goals.

1:00 – 2:00 p.m. - 2010 Legislature and Beyond

Selected legislators and administrators will discuss the outcomes of the 2010 Legislature and next steps to achieve Hawaii’s clean energy initiatives
Sen. Mike Gabbard, Hawaii State Legislature
Rep. Hermina Morita, Hawaii State Legislature

2:00 – 3:00 p.m. -- State of the Industry

Video presentation on local energy companies and commentary on the challenges that need to be addressed to grow and sustain the energy industry
Video: Energy Industry Pacesetters featuring companies advancing the industry

3:00 – 4:00 p.m. -- Community Leaders on Realizing Our Energy Initiatives

Local political and military leaders will comment on what they would do to address challenges and to realize Hawaii’s clean energy initiatives
Lt. Governor James "Duke" Aiona
Fmr. Congressman Neil Abercrombie

4:00 – 6:00 -- Pau Hana Power Party

Sponsors include the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum, Hawaii State Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. If you want to know what’s going on in Clean Energy in Hawaii, check it out.

Posted in 1 | 1 Comment »

One Response to “AN ENERGY ODYSSEY AROUND THE ISLANDS”

  1. zzzzzz:

    That should be segue, not segway.

    Pehaps you're a bit too focused on technology?