Exploring Kahoolawe: Energy sustainability

The first completely fossil fuel-free island in the state could come from an unexpected place: Kahoolawe.

When you come to Kahoolawe, you largely leave behind civilization. A small, old base camp is the only sign of modernity — and even so, Korean War-era trucks don’t feel so modern.

But there’s a quiet revolution happening here, at least where energy is concerned.

“We’re trying to teach people about sustainability and island life. One of the biggest things we’re trying to be sustainable about is energy,” says Mike Nahoopii, executive director of the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC).

Right now, the boat brings in all the island’s diesel fuel, which is converted to electricity.

Solar energy supplements a small portion of the power, but it could be 100 percent one day soon. The state appropriated $2.5 million for KIRC to create an alternative energy infrastructure.

“Our short-term goal is to be completely self-sustaining in energy and no fossil fuel,” Nahoopii said. “We hope to be first island in Hawaii to be fossil fuel-free.

“We are doing it because we have to. If we cannot create sustainable systems here, we do not have funding in the long term to continue operations,” he said.

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