Choosing a Bright Future: Kauai, Hawaii

In March, 2017, residents of the Hawaiian island of Kauai connected a 54,978-panel solar farm to giant battery packs provided by Tesla, creating the world’s largest photovoltaic-battery combination power plant. The batteries store electricity generated when the sun is up for use at night, enabling the 13 megawatt solar array to provide power around the clock.

This power plant has reduced Kauai’s fossil fuel consumption by 1.6 million gallons per year and brought the proportion of its power from renewables higher than 40%, well on the way to the island’s goals of 70% by 2030 and 100% by 2045.

Tesla has contracted with the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative to operate the solar plant, providing electricity to island residents at a guaranteed flat rate of 13.9 cents per kilowatt-hour for the next 20 years. This is well below the current Hawaiian average electricity rate of 28.3 cents per kW-h and competitive with the U.S. overall average rate of 12.2 cents per kW-h (source: U.S. Energy Information Administration).

Watch this short news report to learn more:

Video credit: CNNMoney. News report about the Kauai’s new 13 megawatt photovoltaic-battery combination power plant, the largest in the world, which came online in March, 2017.

Read more here.

This is the nature of renewable energy in 2017. It’s here now. It’s available. In many cases, it’s competitive in cost with fossil sources. (The installed price of solar photovoltaic systems has been falling year on year for decades.) It can provide complete, local-scale energy independence and insulation from the market forces that cause fossil fuel prices to vary. It has no greenhouse gas emissions. Its provision requires no miners to get black lung. With continued investment, it will only get better and better.

While many of us appreciate the seriousness of global climate change, I think many people may under-appreciate the rampant availability of the solutions.

When we are talking about choices between future scenarios, we are really talking about just that: choices. We have everything we need to make dramatic steps toward solving this problem and ensuring a livable future Earth for generations to come.

In fact, last month a group of scientists published in the prestigious journal, Science, a very readable, technical roadmap for meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. It’s a short but sobering read. We definitely don’t have much time left to engage in idiotic arguments about whether global warming is even happening.

On the other hand, our President has vowed “massive infrastructure spending” to get Americans “off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country.” I think that’s great. I can’t imagine a more impressive, job creating, value creating national infrastructure project than this one.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.