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Looking for green jobs in Hawaii? Don’t look to the sun! Solar power doesn’t even rank in the top three renewable resources in The Aloha State. Instead, look for jobs in biomass, which produces a full 4 percent of Hawaii’s green energy, followed by wind and geothermal. PV comes in fourth.
With the steady sunshine it sees all year, there’s been a lot of attention around Hawaii’s vast potential for solar installations. A particularly big motivation for Hawaii to go solar is that it’s very expensive to import energy into the state. In order for them to meet their renewable portfolio standard of 70 percent by 2030 (an ambitious goal, compared to every other state in the Union), they’re expecting to increase solar production in the near future. They aim to derive 40 percent of their energy from renewables, and 30 percent from conservation efforts.
For the time being, Hawaii’s green jobs in clean energy are in biomass.
Green jobs in wind provide 3.6 percent of the state’s renewable energy, and geothermal provides 2.4 percent. Solar provides about 1 percent.
The state got something of a head start in biomass energy thanks to its sugar cane production. After sugar is extracted, a fibrous residue called bagasse is left over. For decades, plantation owners burned bagasse as a way to generate their own fuel, and even sold their excess to utilities. Now, however, the sugar cane business has declined. There’s only one working sugar plantation on Maui, and it provides about 16 MW of energy.
Other green jobs in Hawaii’s biomass industry center on construction materials, eucalyptus forests, farming and forestry waste, and other renewable plant materials. Industry leaders have high hopes for the future, as new biomass technology generates more green jobs in research, development and even agribusiness.
By Leslie Hedrick
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