Kauai Investing in Green

SUBHEAD: If every household on Kauai invested in these steps, the island’s ecological footprint would decrease by 50 percent.

By Coco Zickos on 26 July 2010 in The Garden Island News -  

Image above: The 2010 International Renewable Energy, Community & Conference Center. Dezhou - Solar City, China. From (http://tropicaldesignwiki.org/tiki-browse_gallery.php?galleryId=4).  

[IB Editor's note: This is only for the rich. It would be great and practical way forward for the rest of us - if we had started the effort 30 years ago. We are likely too broke as a nation to buy enough cheap solar panels from the Chinese. As for "making out like bandits" - Fugget aboud it!]

Kauai cannot continue on its current path of unsustainability, Ken Stokes said Saturday at the Wailua-Kapaa Neighborhood Association meeting.

Rather than merely relaying to the audience the challenges Kauai faces in self-efficiency, The Kauaian Institute executive director offered community-based solutions and promised to “jangle your thinking about how you’re going to spend your money.”

“We can craft a sustainable future for our island simply by being smart about the way we spend money,” Stokes said, by making “green investments.”

It is an especially “daunting challenge to imagine our lives without fossil fuel,” but oil is a “limited available resource” and investing in technologies like photovoltaic systems and energy-efficient refrigerators reduces the island’s addiction to imported products and ultimately saves the consumer money, he said.

Getting a “higher return rate on energy” is one of the four investment strategies linked to Stokes’ sustainability plan.

Making the switch from “cheap, readily available fossil fuels” to renewable energy sources is “smart money,” he said.

While Kauai Island Utility Cooperative rates continue to increase, the cost conversion for solar energy is decreasing, Stokes said.

Photovoltaic prices are “already falling through the floor,” he said. This is linked to the introduction of thin film technology — thinner and more malleable systems — which can be “draped over anything.”

“This is a huge window of opportunity for smart money ... to make out like bandits,” he said.

Storing the sun’s energy for use during peak evening hours is even a possibility via Stokes’ strategy with using electric vehicles.

Plus, converting these cars from combustion engines to housing batteries powered by the sun could add “hundreds of jobs” and present a cheaper and “vastly cleaner” mode of transportation, he said.

“You convert your own car rather than waiting for the big corporations to sell you a new vehicle,” he said. And it would reduce the amount of waste and energy required to construct new ones.

Driving solar-powered, battery-operated electric cars is one way to reduce the amount of fossil fuels being utilized by the island, Stokes said. Another “smart money” solution would be to grow, deliver and process food without imported oil.

“I’m excited as anyone about the way gardening has taken off, but we need farms,” he said.

Towns linked with “food systems” consisting of various crops, water sources and enriched soil “as close as possible to where we live” would eventually help “squeeze out fossil fuels,” he said.

If every household on Kauai invested in these steps leading to sustainability, the island’s ecological footprint would decrease by 50 percent, he said.

Since every household on Kauai already spends about $400 per month on gas and electric — with another $400 per month on imported food — making a long-term investment for the well-being of the community is not just smart money, “it’s genius,” Stokes said.

For example, if the roughly 25,000 households on Kauai made a $40,000 investment over the course of 10-years at about $400 per month, the total amount redirected to building a sustainable island — with infrastructures such as farms that provide food — would be $1 billion, he said.

In comparison, it is the same amount of money KIUC generated since 2003, the same amount which has been spent building Kauai homes since 2005 and the same figure the island’s banks deposited in 2009, he said.

“I’d like to think that if enough of us go one direction” that a self-sustainable island has achievability, he said.

Americans generate an ecological footprint which is “well over 80 percent” of the world’s, so making a change is vital, especially within the food, transportation and energy sectors, Stokes said.

“Kauai can’t afford not to do this soon,” he said.
Visit kauaian.net/blog for more information.
• Coco Zickos, business and environmental writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or czickos@kauaipubco.com


Anonymous said...

Regarding energy, all it takes is a couple of billionaires and maybe a PACE program and we are on our way. We got the billionaires here on the island. All we need is a PACE program to intermediate their investment.

Regarding farming, Atooi is working with the state and county on a plan that will do it.

We could easily be on our way.

Ken Stokes said...

Actually, my presentation showed how to shift the $400/month that average Kauaian households spend on gas and electricity into productive assets that generate our own power...and reap returns that far exceed current rates.

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