Maui Real Estate Blog

Maui Altenative Energy News

Maui made it into the pages of the New York Times today as Hitachi, Hewlett-Packard and Sharp announced plans for a new smart grid project on Maui. The smart grid project is scheduled to have a pilot study completed by September with implementation coming by 2015. Maui currently relies on renewable energies for 15% of its energy demands. While Maui’s abundant sunshine and wind make it an ideal locale for alternative energy, smart grid technologies and improved energy storage technology are necessary for adaptation of alternative energy to the 70% renewable level targeted by 2030. Alternative energy has some challenges when power output fluctuates due to lack of wind or sun. Smart grids and storage advancements are viewed as a key component to overcoming the fluctuation associated with soft power. The implementation of smart grid technologies will also aid in the growth of electric car use on Maui. Maui and the rest of the Hawaiian Islands have been cited as good locales for electric vehicles due to shorter travel distances. Check out the press release from Hitachi for more information on the forthcoming smart grid project.

This announcement comes on the heels of last month’s good news on a new Maui Wind Farm. Plans appear to be going forward for a new wind farm on the back side of Haleakala on Ulupalakua Ranch Land. This project will bring 15 turbines to an area between Makena and Kaupo. Community meetings in both South Maui and Upcountry generated mostly positive feedback on the projects. While some concerns were expressed about traffic during the construction of the wind farm, there appeared to have been a larger consensus that inconveniences during construction would be outweighed by the long term benefits of the project. We will continue to monitor alternative energy and other green building new on The Maui Real Estate Blog.

Pete Jalbert

Maui Real Estate Blog

Maui Sustainability Notes

Sustainability is an issue of critical importance for Maui and the rest of the Hawaiian Islands. Our island paradise is heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels and imported food stuffs. There have been quite a few efforts of late to start making Maui and other islands more self sufficient. I thought I would share a few articles that I came across in the last week related to the island’s sustainability efforts.

With its warm climate and year long growing season, Maui in many ways is an ideal locale for growing fruits and vegetables. That being said, much of our produce is imported from off island. Recently, we have seen a few more small scale farming operations emerging on island. It is more and more common to see Maui produce on the shelves of local grocery stores. I think that trend will continue over the next couple of years. One reason I believe that is because of the efforts of the Ulupono Initiative. Friday’s Honolulu Advertiser had an article on the Ulupono Initiative taking over the lease for Kapalua Farms. Kapalua Farms is currently a small scale organic operation that specialized in free range eggs, vegetables and herbs. It was operating on 8 acres. The Ulupono Initiative plans to expand the operation to 158 acres. It will take a few years to scale the operation and improve the health of the soil, but they have already doubled the number of employees working on the farm.

It is worth commenting on the Ulupono Initiative in and of itself. The initiative was started by Pierre and Pam Omidyar. Pierre is the founder and chairman of E-bay. He has been giving extensively to Hawaii non-profits including a recent 50 million gift to the Hawaii Community Foundation. He is also channeling a significant amount of money to for profit and non-profit entities focused on sustainability through the Ulupono Initiative. Specifically, they are supporting island efforts on waste reduction, alternative energy and local food production. The Ulupono Initiative looks like it will be an important presence in the growth of Hawaii sustainability efforts.

While browsing the web the other day, I stumbled across another Maui Company in the sustainability industry. Maui Eco Built offers power audits, photovoltaic power buildings, photovoltaic mounting structures and eco modular construction. The Maui Eco Built products and services that I thought were particularly interesting were the power buildings. If you are going to mount photovoltaic panels on your home, you typically need a good south facing roof line that is not shaded by trees. Of course, not all homes are going to have that ideal orientation. Home owners may also have concerns about mounting a PV system on an existing roof. If your roof is halfway through its shelf life, you may find yourself having to mount your solar system twice. Once when it is initially mounted and again when you need to replace the roof on your home. Maui Eco Built offers solutions to these challenges via photovoltaic car ports and smaller “power buildings. ” These structures offer you opportunities to mount PV in areas with good sun exposure without worrying about your existing roof.

Last but not least, I saw a Maui Time weekly article that captured some of the challenges that we are facing as Maui tries to implement alternative energies on a wider scale. Maui has seen significant growth in the number of homes and businesses that utilize photovoltaic power but are still connected to the grid. The appeal of these systems are obvious. Most systems will be sufficient to account for the majority of a home or businesses power needs. That can be a huge reduction in utility bills. The time to pay off the initial outlay for the system is shrinking as PV system costs decrease and utility costs increase. That being said, these systems can pose challenges to the grid. Demand for electricity from the grid from PV users can fluctuate based on time of day and cloud cover. Too much fluctuation in demand can cause stability issues with the grid. As a result, the Public Utilities Commission has set caps on the amount of PV users “per circuit” on the grid. There are parts of Maui that are rapidly approaching these limits. The PUC and the local utility are going to need to collaborate to see if there is room for additional capacity in these areas that are saturated. It also points to the need to improve the overall grid to accommodate more “soft power” electrical generation.

We will continue to keep an eye on green building and sustainability issues on the Maui Real Estate Blog. Contact us for assistance if you are looking for green properties on Maui.

Pete Jalbert

Maui Real Estate Blog

Fourth Annual House of the Sun Solar Tour

Saturday, July 11th is the Fourth Annual House of the Sun Solar Tour. The event offers people interested in renewable technologies an opportunity to tour Maui homes and businesses that utilize solar hot water heaters, solar electric and other green technologies. In addition to learning about the technologies, the tour explains how renewable energy may provide cost savings and tax benefits. Interested parties may sign up online at the Hawaii PV Coalition website. The deadline to sign up is tomorrow. The House of the Sun Solar Tour is a free event.

Pete Jalbert

Maui Real Estate Blog

Maui Business Starts Harvesting its Own Structural Bamboo

Bamboo has been important part of the implementation of green building practices on Maui. We have written a couple of posts on Local company Bamboo Technologies of Maui. They offer a variety of pre-fabricated bamboo home models that are green, priced competitively and aesthetically pleasing. The green nature of bamboo stems from its rapid growth and harvest techniques. Bamboo grows far more rapidly then soft and hardwoods. Bamboo can be harvested within 3-5 years. The fact that it is a clumping plant that sprouts new shoots means that multiple harvests can come from a single clump. That also means no clear cutting and no erosion. Bamboo also grows in greater density resulting in higher yields from a smaller area.

The bamboo that Bamboo Technologies uses in their homes is harvested in Asia. Another local company is trying to establish a Maui based source for construction grade bamboo. The Maui News ran an article today on Whispering Winds Bamboo. Whispering Winds has a large 180 acre farm in the beautiful Kipahulu area of East Maui. Part of the farm is a general bamboo nursery. About twenty acres of the property is dedicated to growing larger structural grade bamboo. The company has recently begun harvesting its first crop of structural bamboo timbers. The timbers are in the process of being treated to preserve the wood and prevent insect damage. Samples of the bamboo will then be tested on the mainland to see if it meets construction and safety standards.

The prospect of a local source of construction materials is exciting. The relative seclusion of Hawaii makes us depend on imported materials for almost of our construction. While we are a long way from ending our dependence on imported lumber, local construction materials like Bamboo will only continue to enhance the prospect of more sustainable building practices in Maui. Just as bamboo has been an important part of the start of sustainable building practices on Maui, it appears as if this amazing plant will play a critical role in the future of sustainable building on Maui.

Pete Jalbert

Maui Real Estate Blog

Interested in Installing Solar on Your Maui Home?

Are you interested in installing a solar electric or solar hot water heater on your Maui Home? If so, next weekend could be a great educational opportunity. Next Saturday is the third annual House of the Sun Solar Tour. The tour visits Maui homes and businesses that utilize photovoltaic electric systems and solar hot water heaters. It explains how the technologies work, what they cost and why renewable energy makes sense.

The tour is sponsored by the Hawaii PV Coalition. Check out their website to sign up and for additional details on the House of the Sun Solar tour.

Pete Jalbert

Maui Real Estate Blog

Maui Green Notes

I thought I would post a couple of notes on green living in Maui. Maui’s county council has passed the first reading of a new bill that would ban plastic bags from the point of sale of island retailers. The bill would go into effect on January 1, 2011 to give local merchants time to adapt to the new legislation. Some retailers are already making the shift. Merchants in Paia worked in conjuntion with to make the North Shore community Hawaii’s first plastic bag free town. The Plastic bag ban bill still needs to go through a second reading in front of council before it goes in front of the mayor for approval.

For those that are interested in Maui’s green future, there is a great event scheduled this weekend. The Sustainable Living Institute of Maui at Maui Community College is hosting its first annual Maui Sustainable Living Expo. The event runs Saturday and Sunday and features exhibits, discussions, demonstrations, food, music and more. Key themes are food and energy security for Maui, sustainability in a Native Hawaiian Cultural Context and more. Check out the event’s press release for additional information on tickets and events.

Pete Jalbert