Surf and Sun Power on Maui

March 5, 2013
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On the most remote island chain on planet earth, sustainability emerges out of isolation. The island of Maui is 2,400 miles from the nearest landmass on a dormant volcano, and fossil fuels are hard to come by. For years solar power has played a role in subsidizing the energy needs of the Hawaiian Islands. Since 1983, Hawaiian Island Surf and Sport in Maui has set an example for sustainability. Founded by Len Cappe and now owned and operated by Dennis O’Donnell, Hawaiian Island Surf and Sport is powered by over 240 solar panels.

Hawaiian Island Surf and Sport in Maui sports over 240 solar panels that offset $1,500 to $2,000 a month.

Hawaiian Island Surf and Sport in Maui sports over 240 solar panels that offset $1,500 to $2,000 a month.

The shop, located in Kahului, Maui’s main city, is at the crossroads of every town on the island. I first noticed Hawaiian Island Surf and Sport when driving through Kahului from the airport. The store’s immense amount of solar panels catches your eye immediately. Hawaiian Island Surf and Sport not only sets a standard in sustainability, but is helping shift the paradigm of perception. On the mainland people are still getting used to solar power. Will it look good?  Is it worth it?  A surf shop in Maui makes a statement that anyone can be sustainable.  Not only does it reduce energy costs and help the environment, but it looks aesthetically pleasing and building integrated.

Go Pro Solar Charger

Even the Go Pro HD Hero 3 camera display is centered around a solar power recharging pack.

The system was designed and installed by Rising Sun Solar of Maui, the islands leading provider of photovoltaic since 1986. It offsets $1,500 to $2,000 a month and to date has reduced carbon emissions by 404,969 lbs. The rear of the facility houses a Sunny Boy Tower with five SB7000 Watt SMA Sunny Boy Inverters. Owner Dennis O’Donnell, who has been with the company since 1986, says that sustainability is a way of life in and out of the office. “Solar power provides the electricity in our store but also power our sports.”  Surfing, wind surfing, and kite surfing are all powered by the sun and the wind it creates.  When the wind dies down, the new and fast-growing sport of stand-up paddle boarding takes over—and all of it revolves around the sun.

The Sunny Boy inverter tower features five Sunny Boy 7000-watt inverters

The Sunny Boy inverter tower features five Sunny Boy 7000-watt inverters

In addition to solar panels on the roof, there is also a Go Pro HD Hero 3 camera display centered around a solar power recharging pack.  The Go Pro camera is now attached to almost every surfboard and scuba diver in Maui and the surrounding islands. The footage taken in and around Maui brings attention to the coral reefs and the reemergence of the sea turtle and humpback whales.   Even the furniture is sustainable. Outside the north shore, where the best surfing is found, sits a bench made from old kite surfing boards. As I sit on the bench I am taking pictures of the solar panels. I look out at the main road coming from the airport and realize that thousands of people visiting from around the world see this building every day. Hawaiian Island Surf and Sport may be thousands of miles away in the most isolated island chain on earth, but it revolves around sustainable technology. They set an example for other business’ large and small: that anyone can reduce their carbon footprint and also save money doing it. Dennis O’Donnell and his staff believe in their work and sustainability. This year they are celebrating their 30th anniversary, and soon half a million pounds of carbon offset,  thanks to the 240 solar panels on the roof.

Tommy Kissell is the owner/president sustainable electronics integrator Eco High Fidelity of Carrollton, Texas, and a regular contributor to GreenTech Advocates. See some of his company’s cool installs in the links below.

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