Friday, February 27, 2009

BIG ISLAND ENERGY SUSTAINABILITY AND THE STRANGE SIDE EFFECT OF SLOW TOURISM

Rumors of the Big Island ’s slow tourist season are rampant. The press is reporting a 26% drop in tourist arrivals to the Big Island in January compared to last January. We have heard that hotels in Waikoloa are at 20% capacity and cruise ships are arriving with very few passengers. On Tuesday night, as the NCL cruise ship left Hilo harbor, we counted only 37 lights of the 150 cabins that were visible; it was a very dark ship for this time of year which is normally high season.

A strange side effect of this year’s dismal tourist season is that it will have a positive impact on the Big Island ’s energy independence. HELCO has reported in years past that about 40% of all power consumption on the island is due to air conditioning in hotel rooms. Over the past year, the Big Island has had an influx of new solar power being generated from huge systems installed on the roofs of hotels, businesses, and schools. The combination of ACs turned off in hotel rooms and the added solar generated power on the grid makes it likely that the Big Island is setting a record for the percentage of renewable energy production. Every barrel of diesel fuel saved is good for the Big Island's economy as it means less money flowing off the island. HELCO does not release electric grid usage daily so it will be a while before we see the numbers.

An abundance of renewable energy added to the Big Island's power grid creates a more sustainable local economy and increases the opportunity for attracting new businesses. Data centers, for example, are prohibitively expensive if diesel fuel is used to generate the power. Abundant energy could bring clean industries interested in the island's unique location between the American and Asian continents. The Big Island has the potential of becoming a net exporter of energy to the more populated islands, like Oahu. Ultimately it may give the Big Island a way to build a sustainable economy and create jobs at a time when many of the world's economies are in jeopardy.

3 comments:

firstofmany said...

I look at your site for inspiration. We moved from the Bay Area to a remote town 2 hours from Seattle two and a half years ago. we kept our Bay Area jobs, working remotely. We've found it tough to change our lifestyle with the same/similar jobs, even though we are working from home. In November our good friend finally made his home in Keau-au and after one visit, we're already dreaming of living in the Hilo area.

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