5 Islands Leading the Charge Toward 100% Renewable Energy
Hawaii made waves earlier this year with the announcement that it plans to transition its electric grid to 100 percent renewables by 2045. This is the most aggressive target in the U.S. and it means that the state will serve as a testbed for bringing large amounts of variable renewables onto the grid. It should be watched closely by grid managers everywhere.
It’s no coincidence that Hawaii leads the nation in its renewable ambitions. As a group of islands, Hawaii faces unique energy challenges and it has worked closely with the U.S. Department of Energy to analyze the potential of solar energy and examine the challenges of integrating a variety of renewables into its energy mix.
Solar panels in an ancient quarry of the ancient Romans, Elba Island, Italy. Photo credit: Shutterstock
From one perspective, an island seems like a hard place to use variable renewable energy like wind and solar. Island grids are usually isolated, so they can’t rely on power from the mainland grid when there’s no sun or wind. There are some exceptions, like the Danish island of Samso. Island grids generally have to pay more attention to backup generation and energy storage than mainland grids, raising the overall costs of renewables.
On the other hand, most islands rely on fuel imports to run their grid. These shipments of diesel, oil or natural gas are very expensive and anything that can reduce or eliminate them can mean big savings. It also means less reliance on imports, increasing energy security. So shifting to fuel-free renewables like solar and wind saves money on this side of the ledger.
How do these two factors balance out in practice? The answer is clear in the growing number of island communities around the world that are moving quickly to adopt renewables.
The Growth of Renewable Islands
Hybrid renewable energy technologies can provide stable power for islands. For example, El Hierro, one of the Spanish Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, operates a stand-alone electric grid to serve its population of 11,000 and run power-hungry desalination plants. Last summer, the island inaugurated a hybrid wind-hydro power plant that combines wind energy when it’s available with pumped hydroelectric storage that runs when the wind drops. This has allowed it to almost completely stop using expensive, shipped-in fuel oil. The plant has just completed one year of successful operation.
Grid management and storage solutions are also being developed and used on islands. Kodiak Island in Alaska has just shifted to fully running its grid with wind and hydro power. To make this work, the utility had to deal with the challenge of smoothly transitioning between wind and hydro generation without the power flickering. Managers handle this by using a battery-storage system that can provide a brief (90 second) amount of power to bridge the gap. With the full system in operation, Kodiak is able to almost completely eliminate imports of close to 3 million gallons of diesel per year.
Many other islands are expanding how much of their electricity can feasibly come from renewables, as IRENA and the Carbon War Room have both addressed. These islands range from extremely small—such as the tiny Pacific nation of Tokelau, which moved to entirely solar power several years ago—to relatively large—Iceland relies almost entirely on hydropower and geothermal power, although these are less variable than wind and solar.
Learning from Hawaii
With its new target in place, Hawaii becomes the largest island to aim for a full-renewables grid strategy. The lessons from balancing variable renewable generation on smaller islands will help the state as it works to handle the challenges of large amounts of renewables. And while some of these lessons will remain island-specific, many will be relevant to mainland grids.
One particular example that many utilities around the world are grappling with is the question of how much distributed renewable energy can be safely installed on the grid. Hawaii has the highest percentage of rooftop solar in the U.S.—one household in eight has it—which has raised some technical concerns about grid stability. In 2013, the local utility (HECO) capped the allowed amount of rooftop solar, freezing thousands of permit applications for new installations.
After research by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) resolved those concerns, HECO doubled the cap and allowed new installations to go ahead. Now it is charting new territory, including learning how to work with distributed solar companies to better use data from rooftop solar installations to improve awareness of how these systems are performing and their impact on grid stability.
As the Hawaiian grid continues to gather real-world experience in incorporating large amounts of renewables, it will serve as both a practical demonstration and a tremendously valuable testbed for how other states could follow a similar path.
Colin McCormick is a research fellow looking at energy technology innovation for World Resources Institute's Charge project.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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