Isle businesses taking steps to aid in state’s energy goals
We keep close tabs on our utility, the solar industry and prices at the pump, but there are many other things happening in energy in Hawaii.
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We keep close tabs on our utility, the solar industry and prices at the pump, but there are many other things happening in energy in Hawaii. They may seem relatively small, but all too often, the sum of our smallest changes makes a big impact. How are a florist, plant nursery and commercial building contributing to our renewable energy goals?
If you live on Oahu, you know Watanabe Floral. I’m standing in the parking lot looking at a pink warehouse with a large Watanabe Floral sign, cars whizzing behind me on Nimitz Highway. I walk in and it smells as it should, like a floral shop preparing for the holiday season. Nothing glamorous, nothing fancy, but the energy that powers it is innovative.
Watanabe Floral sports a 113.9-kilowatt solar system from Sunetric, a 36-kW energy storage system from Millbrae, Calif.-based Stem, and energy-efficient lights and equipment. The person leading this initiative is Chief Financial Officer Leon Dodson, who has been with the company since 1988.
One piece of our conversation stood out to me: I asked him why he wasn’t afraid to deploy new technologies when the number of unknowns is infinitely higher than sticking to the status quo. He started out talking about how taking advantage of opportunities for savings and reliability is important for Watanabe, whose annual energy bill consumes almost 1 percent of revenue. It isn’t a secret to any CFO that a lower electricity bill equals a higher profit margin. But Dodson ended with a holistic thought: “Without people willing to try, how can we move forward?”
Alluvion Inc. is a plant nursery and floral shop on the North Shore that is playing a part in Hawaii’s sprint toward 100 percent clean energy. Alluvion is home to the seedlings and young trees of TerViva, a company developing and growing a non-GMO biofuel crop called pongamia. Before their trees are ready for the orchard, they must be given some tender loving care at a nursery. The trees are eventually planted in an orchard, where they grow to produce seed pods that can be pressed for biofuel. They produce eight times more biofuel per acre than soy, and the excess is used for cattle feed.
Energy crops are also creating additional revenue streams for farmers. The market for some crops is seasonal, such as poinsettias, which Alluvion supplies to local grocery stores during the holiday season. Pongamia, a legume, can be grown year-round. Because of this, Alluvion was able to hire an additional employee and start to stabilize a seasonal business.
1000 Bishop, a commercial office building, is home to the Cades-Schutte law firm, Energy Excelerator, Starbucks, 24 Hour Fitness and many other businesses. One of its newest pieces of hardware is something you won’t see from the outside: a Stem battery system. The system stores excess renewable energy during the day and provides clean, reliable power to tenants.
Although commercial buildings aren’t low-hanging fruit when it comes to renewable energy and energy efficiency, if Hawaii is to reach its energy goals, everyone must contribute.