Friday, July 27, 2012


Imagine: An Aloha Stadium that generates cooling and electricity

by Larry Geller

It’s true: a picture can be worth 1,000 words:

Qatar stadium

Climate change could make Oahu a lot hotter in the future. Sitting in Aloha Stadium could get even more uncomfortable on a sunny day. So check out the slide above from the TEDx talk Wolfgang Kessling: How to air-condition outdoor spaces. Just change “Qatar” to “Honolulu.”

Aloha Stadium just sits out in the hot sun all day every day. If the surfaces that produce shade for spectators could be covered with photovoltaic cells, it would be sitting there making electricity for all of us. We’d get back a bit of our investment.

Then, when electricity is needed for a bit of cooling, it can take back some electricity from the grid if it needs to.


The concept is simple—when you make shade, also make electricity.

Instead of rusting away and remaining an expense for the next 20 years, Aloha Stadium could help reduce our electricity bills.

What’s needed? You’re probably ahead of me. As it is now, if Aloha Stadium replaces HECO burning some fossil fuel, all of our electricity rates would go up because HECO is guaranteed a profit.

This needs to be changed. Hawaii will not become self-sufficient in energy if you and I can no longer afford to power our homes. Not all of us can get off the grid.

I’ve advocated separating the grid from HECO—that is, have it independently operated. HECO would then be a competitor with other energy sources to supply power to the grid and to customers. The state and the county can also supply power by feeding energy from public buildings into the grid—a great use of our tax money. So Aloha Stadium would become a natural resource and an asset.

What will happen to HECO? The sun doesn’t shine all the time, nor is the wind constant. Wave energy, which would be more continuous, is still lurking just around the corner. So HECO’s generators are still needed. Over time, however, we want to get off of fossil fuels.

We don’t know where natural gas is going, or if that could be a “bridge” source of energy, or if it is ecologically sound. If competitors could come in and make a profit, it might be. Gas generators spin up quickly, and would work when the sun doesn’t shine. Energy storage (pumped hydro) is also used, but not here. Yet. Batteries? Flywheels? Who knows.

Here’s where we lived in New York City many years ago [See: Re-thinking Hawaii’s utilities means thinking smaller (1/9/2009)]. In the upper left corner is a little generating plant that was constructed along with the buildings in 1964. It has since been upgraded to a gas turbine generator and not only supplies the buildings, but feeds power back to Con Ed. During the New York blackouts, the residents had power. It can be done. And yes, power sold to the grid makes money.


Not having a workable feed-in tariff and artificially supporting HECO profits is holding back Hawaii’s future. Some may disagree with me, but when electric rates soar towards four times the national average (instead of the present three times) I feel confident I’ll have many allies.

I’ll have no trouble kissing HECO goodbye. Would you?


It's fantasy. Hawaii government agencies can't or won't do even minimal maintenance on the public's property. All that photovoltaic stuff (which would cost a fortune) would be inoperative within one year.

I can't argue with you about that.

Hi Larry,
Just stubled across this webpage and have found some interesting information, but I think you are misinformed on how the grid on Oahu is managed. In the mainland they have a Balancing authority who determines who is going to generate how much power, and these balancing authorities put priority on the cheapest sources of power. On Oahu HECO acts as the balancing authority and puts priority on on the cheapest sources. There is no such thing as "competetion" in generating electricity. The cheapest sources have the highest priority first. HECO has to buy power from anyone wanting to come onto the grid.

Here's some interesting facts:
-AES is the cheapest source of electricity by far. Something like 20% the price of oil.
-The wind and solar farms sell their power for nearly the same price of oil (I think according to SA articles I read). Unfortunately this means our electricity rates won't be giong down anytime soon. Also, companies would not find it feasible to build here if we don't pay them a lot for their electricity (I think).

If the state were to put solar panels on Aloha Stadium under the Net Energy Metering program, that would probably end up in HECO losing a small amount of revenue. On the other hand if the state were to set up their own generation and feed it back into the grid for really cheap, that would decrease our electricity rates.

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