Arthur Seki1 and Patrick Takahashi2

Hawaiian Electric Company, 820 Ward Avenue, Honolulu, Hawaii 96814-2109
2Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, 2540 Dole Street, Holmes Hall 246, Honolulu, Hawaii 98622


From the late 1970s to the early 1980s, a number of solar thermal projects were designed and operated in Hawaii, including a power tower concept designed for Maui, a parabolic trough photovoltaic/thermal system operated on Kauai, and a parabolic dish system designed for Molokai. Descriptions of these projects are provided. A preliminary assessment of potential solar thermal sites in Hawaii has been made, and the solar insolation data used in this assessment are presented. A summary of recent solar thermal energy developments in Hawaii will be made. Among these projects are: (1) the establishment of Hawaii as the solar thermal dish comparative test center, similar in concept to PVUSA; (2) consideration of commercial options, particularly as suggested by Luz Development; and (3) materials experiments.


Solar thermal, photovoltaic, Hawaii.


The State of Hawaii is about 91% dependent on imported petroleum for energy, as compared to the national figure of 42% percent (Table 1). The end-use distribution of energy is shown in Table 2 for Hawaii and the United States. Because of Hawaii’s geographical location in the middle of the Pacific, tourism, and thus transportation, are important factors in the economy. With limited local manufacturing capabilities, most domestic products must be transported to the islands. Almost 57% of all energy goes to transportation (ground, air, and water), of which air transportation consumes a total of 35%. On the mainland United States, the end use is more evenly distributed for electrical production, transportation, and other uses. The primary consumption sectors of petroleum for Hawaii are aviation fuel, electricity generation, ground transportation, the military, and commercial/industrial uses. The military uses kerosene and naphtha for aviation, diesel for electrical generation, and gasoline for ground transportation. Surprisingly, some of the petroleum refined locally in Hawaii is exported to foreign destinations.

As shown in Table 3, nearly all of Oahu’s electrical energy is generated from oil. The neighbor islands, meanwhile, have achieved a larger degree of independence from oil-generated electricity. The Big Island of Hawaii is about 40% self-sufficient while Kauai is roughly 48%.

The State of Hawaii has an abundance of natural energy sources such as geothermal, ocean thermal, wind, biomass, and solar. Hawaii has become the international laboratory for the development of these renewable non-polluting natural energy sources, and has built up a strong case for eventual commercialization.

Updated: August 24, 2015 — 3:20 pm