Not two months have passed and here I am again on the Hawaiian Island of Lana’i. I returned to the island because I wanted to know more about the methodologies and technologies to be implemented in creating a sustainable island community. In July Lanai Resorts was renamed Pulama Lana’i, which means to cherish or treasure. The recent launch of the Pulama Lana’i website unveils owner Larry Ellison’s bold vision for a sustainable Lanai. What are the technologies and methodologies behind the vision? How does Mr. Ellison plan to create this fantasy Island?
Following are a few of the sustainable practices currently planned for the island:
This is the process of producing usable water from salt water. They plan to build a desalinization plant powered by renewable energy. Currently there are 4 million usable gallons of fresh water available daily on the island and the goal is to increase it to 10 million. Although the detailed plans have not been released, early talks indicate that there will be a land-based plant on Manele side of the island where there is an abundance of sun and a dry climate.
Hydro Electric/Pumped Hydro
Although there are several forms of hydroelectric power, the plans for Lana’i include pumped storage, which means sending water to an elevated location or reservoir and then releasing the water back downhill to generate electricity. This could potentially be tied to the other renewable energy sites such as the desalination plant to provide the water and the solar fields for the pumping. Pumped storage hydroelectric power could help relieve the grid during the night when the solar grid is down or peak usage hours or tourist seasons.
There is an abundance of usable land for solar power on the island. The existing La Ola Solar Facility currently provides 10 percent of the island’s total power needs. There are plans to expand the 1.5 megawatt/7,400 panel solar array to provide additional power to the residents and the new renewable energy facilities. There will also be the expansion of solar power systems on buildings and homes as the island expands.
Relying on a variety of renewable energy technologies will require a state-of-the-art electric distribution. Byron Washom, who is overseeing the development, plans to create a microgrid to automate and manage the technologies that provide renewable energy to the island. Solar power, hydroelectric, pumped storage, desalination, and possibly wind power, all tied to one managed microgrid. Micro grids are more efficient and reliable so the new grid will save money for the residents of Lana’i while reducing the carbon footprint of the island.
The green technologies and practices are also being implemented in the human element. Ellison sees himself as a steward of the island, as are all who work with him to realize his vision. Involving the community has been a keystone of keeping Lana’i authentic, while making it example of sustainability. A sustainable island requires a sustainable community. There are plans to enhance the island’s infrastructure including the airport, the harbor, and the roads but also plans for:
There are big plans to create a sustainable food supply that includes starting a network of organic farms utilizing 21st-century ecology and sustainable technology. Combined with drip irrigation, potentially pumped by hydroelectric and supplied by the desalination plant, Mr. Ellison intends to commercialize and export the excess food to the Hawaiian Islands and Japan. Developing the culture of sustainability on a firm foundation is as important as farming the land. Cultivating and irrigating the island is a massive undertaking that requires a community effort and a compressive understanding about organic farming.
One idea is populating the island with electric vehicles and starting a car-sharing program for locals and tourists. Transportation sharing is a sustainable trend already in use with bikes in cities like Seattle and Denver. In addition, there will be a series of charging stations throughout the island powered by renewable energy. Currently most of the roads outside the main harbor and Lana’i City require four-wheel-drives. Therefore, the electric vehicles will be limited to current technology of the car and the development of Lana’i’s infrastructure.
Sustainable Education & Research
There are also plans to build education and research facilities to study sustainability. This would make the island a living laboratory where green technologies can be tested in a variety of climates, conditions, and population densities. Creating an eco-laboratory will help build and maintain a sustainable community. It will also make Lanai a global example and research facility.
This trip allowed more time to explore Lanai’s isolated spots. At the Garden of the Gods, I followed the tracks of the mouflon. On the deserted Polihua Beach, I hiked for miles and then cut up a pineapple on lava rock. At Shipwreck Beach I hung with the turtles and watched deer run through the forest. As I drive around the island, there is already a visible difference in development in certain places. Most of the work has yet to begin but there is a lot of chatter. After spending a day exploring the rugged side of Lana’i, I ended up at the Four Seasons Lana’i Lodge at Koele. I chose a great night because they were in the middle of the Ukulele Festival, so the hotel was full of locals—I think the entire town—and tourists.
Inside the English-style lodge there was a lot of discussion revolving around the island’s development, the potential for jobs, and the purchase of the airlines. The locals I spoke with were excited about Lana’i being in the global media, especially for a good purpose. There is a sense of stewardship on Lana’i that is demonstrated by a sense of community and a culture of sustainability, due to Hawaii’s natural isolation. It will be interesting to see how the island is changed and enhanced as Ellison’s vision for a Sustainable Lana’i is realized.