Hawaii has been a frontrunner in the renewable energy movement since the start of the 21st century. The state has implemented various initiatives to make it easier for biofuel producers to lease state land, finance solar energy installations, and promote net metering for residential and small commercial customers. Hawaii is also home to the Hawaii Authority's Natural Energy Laboratory, a testing ground for experimental renewable energy sources such as ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), desalination of drinking water for export, aquaculture, biofuel from algae, solar thermal solar energy, and concentrated wind energy. Cellana produces oil from algae at a research site in Kailua-Kona, on the island of Hawaii.
Hawaii has several biomass power plants, including the 10 MW Honolulu International Airport emergency power plant, the 6.7 MW green energy agricultural biomass conversion plant on Kauai, and the 6.6 MW Honua waste power project on Oahu. The state also requires solar water heaters for new homes, except for those in areas with scarce solar energy resources, homes that use other renewable energy sources, and homes that use gas water heaters on demand. Hydroelectricity is a major source of renewable energy in the United States, representing approximately six percent of total electricity production and 63 percent of total energy from renewable resources. Hawaii is currently exploring whether large, reliable energy storage systems will emerge in time to store excess solar and wind energy at reasonable costs.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced that nearly half of the utilities-scale power generation capacity installed in the United States last year involved renewable energy. A report released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory pointed to solutions for feeding large amounts of fluctuating renewable energy to the six power grids that distribute electricity in the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii gets 33 percent of its electricity from rooftop solar energy and has 60 utilities-scale renewable energy projects that supply energy to its grids. Wind energy is predicted to overtake hydroelectric power this year as the country's largest source of renewable energy.
Hawaii offers a “preview” of what states could do as the United States moves faster toward renewable energy than many experts anticipated.