Solar makes sense for business, why not for government?
Costco is the latest company to take advantage of Hawaii's abundant sunshine to cut electricity costs.
WHEN big business embraces renewable energy, it's often to green its public image, but more and more, the practice counts to the bottom line.
Costco Wholesale Corp.'s installation of photovoltaic systems on two of its Hawaii warehouses follows the growing effort by major companies seeking to cut their utility costs while adding an environmental point to their catalogs.
Together with its two California photovoltaics, Costco's systems on its Kauai and Kona facilities will produce 2.5 megawatts total for the company. In Kona, it expects to fit a 680-kilowatt solar electric system, enough to power about 111 island homes, the Star-Bulletin's Nina Wu reported this week.
Costco's partnership with REC Solar Inc. of San Luis Obispo, Calif., expects to cut the company's Kona power bill by about a third, a strong incentive for any business and one that makes perfect sense in a location where electricity expenses are among the highest in the nation and sunshine is abundant.
If significant cost savings are to be had -- as Costco, Wal-Mart Stores, hotel resorts, KTA Super Stores and scores of other businesses, large and small, recognize -- state and county governments should be looking to adopt similar projects.
Though it encourages businesses and private individuals to install solar and photovoltaics by offering tax credits, the state doesn't much practice what it preaches. It has just dipped its toes into renewable energy, such as running solar pilot programs at schools, but does not incorporate solar or photovoltaics into new buildings or attempt to retrofit existing structures. The city continues to plan facilities, like the traffic management center on Alapai Street, that do not take into account the wealth of renewable resources on its doorstep.
Solar and photovoltaics would be a good fit for public buildings where high power usage peaks during daylight hours. In recent years, the Department of Education's electricity bill has required special budget considerations and the current effort to air condition classrooms will surely add to the expense.
With the cost of oil climbing to record levels, with the state so rich in renewable energy sources while heavily reliant on imported oil, it is puzzling why Hawaii does not lead the nation in solar production. Taxpayers should be asking why.