Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Everything old is new again


HONOLULU -- The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii rang in the New Year with a new state-of-the-art photovoltaic system that allows the nonprofit to generate clean energy and reduce its carbon emissions.

The powerful 12.6 kilowatt PV system was just installed atop the rooftop of the Conservancy’s downtown Honolulu office. Hawaii Energy Connection engineered and supervised the project in collaboration with Siu’s

Electric, the firm’s commercial installation partner.

“We are thrilled that these panels are helping us to reduce our use of petroleum-based fuel,” Suzanne Case, the Conservancy’s Hawaii executive director, said in a statement. “With our conservation mission, it’s imperative that we do our part and walk the talk.”

The Conservancy’s high-performance photovoltaic system is typically valued at more than $100,000. In a Power Purchase Agreement structured by Hawaii Energy Connection, the cost of the system was capitalized up front by a private investor and will be paid over time by the Conservancy as the user. The group will buy the power generated by the renewable energy system at a reduced rate below current utility pricing. The agreement structures the tax incentive provided by the state and federal governments to encourage users to install photovoltaic systems, to enable the investor to take the tax credit and thereby reduce the cost to the non-profit which otherwise could not use the tax credit.

The Conservancy purchased the Wing Wo Tai Building with its graceful gray stone facade on Nuuanu Avenue in 2005 to house its Honolulu office. Originally built in 1877 and rebuilt in 1916, the wood and stone structure survived the Great Fire of Honolulu in 1900 and now demonstrates how even historic buildings can be adapted to meet 21st century needs.

By late 2009, the Conservancy’s Molokai office will be outfitted with a similar system that will fully power the building — taking it totally off the grid.

“We are just doing what we can to tackle the global climate problem on a local level,” Case said. “By taking steps to shrink our own carbon footprint, we can be part of the solution.”