Maui’s reliance on imported fuels and beautiful natural environment has made island residents pretty conscious of alternative energies. At a government and an individual level, there are efforts being made to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels. Maui already uses bagasse a by product of sugar cane production for fuel and we have a new wind farm that has reduced our dependence on coal. There are plans to expand the existing wind farm and Shell Energy is looking at another windfarm/hydroelectric project on the slopes of Haleakala. Maui is home to Pacific Biodiesel a small but successful biodiesel company that fuels a number of the island’s vehicles with recycled vegetable oil. Maui Electric Company is partnering with another biodiesel company to build a larger biodiesel refinery relying on plant oils. This biodiesel would be used to help power Maui’s power plants. Solar energy is also growing. Maui has long been an area for off the grid solar in its rural locations and more and more people are using solar where electric is available. Some of the solar is as simple as solar hot water heaters while others are using more sophisticated net metered photovoltaic systems. This allows people to sell surplus energy from their solar system back to the electric company.
While Maui is making strides toward greener energy, the Hawaii Photovoltaic Coalition and other concerned citizens are holding a rally at Baldwin Beach Park outside of Paia tomorrow at 8:30 AM as part of a national awareness day for alternative energies. The goal is to send a message to congress to cut carbon based fuel emissions by 2050. A helicopter fly over at 10:00 will photograph the event for distribution to media.