THE BLOG
09/04/2013 03:15 pm ET | Updated Nov 04, 2013

The Big Island Is Throwing Away Electricity

Here on the Big Island, we throw away at least seven MW of electricity per day. It's geothermal energy tapped at night, when people are sleeping and so the utility requires less electricity.

That's enough to power 4,550 homes or more.

HELCO doesn't say that the 7MW of electricity is "thrown away." They call it "curtailed" -- but "curtailed" means it goes unused. It's wasted. Thrown away.

I am a founding member of the Big Island Community Coalition, a group dedicated to making Big Island electricity rates the lowest in the state. We want to find a way to utilize this "thrown away" resource that is already being tapped, and which could be used to greatly benefit the people of the Big Island.

What if we could "wheel" this geothermal energy out of Puna and use it strategically?

  • We could use it to generate hydrogen, and use it for public transportation.
  • We could explore making ammonia for fertilizer, and as a potential energy carrier between the Hawaiian Islands.
  • We could use it in university research, to engage the minds of our young people.

There are so many potential benefits to relocating and using that wasted electricity:

  • It would remove the excess electricity from Puna, and relocate it to an appropriate location.
  • It would address fear of the industrialization of Puna.
  • We would be making good use of a resource that is currently being wasted.
  • The people of the Big Island would definitely benefit.

We currently use oil here in Hawai'i to produce 70 percent of our electricity, and the price of oil (used to produce that electricity) has quadrupled in the last 10 years. Consequently, we are paying four times more than the average U.S. household for electricity these days.

According to the UH Economic Research Organization:

Households in Hawai'i pay four times more than the average US household and nearly seven times the households in Utah, where the residential energy cost is the cheapest in the nation. While the US average for April 2013 hovered at 12 cents/kwh, Hawai'i paid 37 cents/kwh for electricity in the residential sector.

Read the rest here.

I will be blogging about energy and also agricultural issues regularly. I hope we can open up a dialogue with people outside our own neighborhoods, people who are experts in geothermal energy and biotechnology and other topics; people who can enlighten us -- from a position of knowledge and science -- on the safety and concerns these types of opportunities bring.

On a different topic, Arianna Huffington and Pierre Omidyar, founders of this new HuffPost Hawaii, are coming to our farm this week.

We will give them a tour of the farm, show them our brand-new hydroelectric system and discuss some of the critical issues in Hawai'i today, such as our "curtailed electricity" and more.

It's a pivotal time for both energy and agriculture, and we have so many unique concerns here in Hawai'i, so far removed from the mainland U.S. and so dependent on oil for production of our electricity and to transport our food (85 percent of everything we eat!) into our island state.

I look forward to showing Arianna and Pierre around our farm. Clearly they are both forward-thinking visionaries, and this is exactly what we need more of here on the Big Island.