Energy

The issue of energy in regard to energy conservation and sustainability has come to the forefront as part of a drive to promote greater self-sufficiency.

Energy concerns

This fits in with an overall greater awareness of the need to conserve or switch to alternative forms of energy in the light of concerns about depleted energy sources. These include fossils fuels such as oil and gas, climate change and population growth.

Other equally valid concerns include fears about instability in various parts of the world such as the Middle East which has a dramatic impact on oil prices: terrorism: and increasing demands from countries with rapidly advancing economies such as China and India.

Another common concern is reliance upon foreign sources of oil and energy.

The worst case scenario is a series of conflicts caused by competing demands for dwindling resources. As populations continue to rise, this increase combined with greater demands for fewer resources, particularly from poorer countries may lead to a repeat of mistakes from the past.

Alternative forms of energy

This has led to an interest in renewables and other alternative energy sources which are viewed as a means of weaning us off our dependence on fossils fuels.

Hawaiian sustainability

Hawaii has developed the following energy alternatives which are designed to reduce dependence upon imported oil as well as promoting sustainable technologies.

These include:

  • Solar energy, e.g. photovoltaic units
  • Wave energy
  • Wind energy
  • Biomass
  • Geothermal

Solar energy

This means harnessing the power of the sun to be used for heating and electricity thereby reducing the need for fossil fuels and the risk of pollutants such as greenhouse gases.

This energy is utilised in two ways: to heat water via a solar water heater which works by the application of the sun's rays to heat up fluid.

Another use is that of photovoltaic panels on a building or a solar power system which converts sunlight into electricity.

Wave energy

Hawaii is located in the Pacific Ocean and as a result of this is able to call upon this large scale resource as well as other coastal areas as energy sources.

The aim is to harness the energy within ocean currents and waves into electricity. One way of doing this is to use wave turbines which extract energy directly from the waves or under the surface which is then used to power large numbers of homes on the island.

Wind energy

Wind turbines are already in use on the main island and have been producing electricity for several years. These and other projects have resulted in the development of several wind farms which produce electricity for local utility providers.

Biomass

This form of alternative energy is less well known than many other types of renewables but is no less important. It involves the use of readily available materials from plant and animal sources such as paper, woodchips, manure, sewage and even the contents of a dustbin/trashcan.

This is used to produce heat, electricity, fuel for vehicles and refrigeration.

The advantage of this is that these materials are widely available and can be re-grown or easily replaced as and when necessary.

Geothermal

This is another alternative energy source which can provide a continuous source of electricity and heat for many homes on the island. This is a natural form of heat which originates from the centre of the Earth and radiates out towards the surface.

It appears on the surface of the earth, usually near areas where there has been volcanic activity.