In 2006, Henk Rodgers had a near-death experience. With a second chance and a fresh outlook on life, he decided to make the most of it. He then committed to making his home state of Hawaii, the state with some of the highest energy costs in the nation, energy independent. It was all a matter of putting the pieces together.
Rodgers started with his own home. And then his ranch. Needless to say, he is one of the wealthier residents of the Big Island. You may have heard of the video game called Tetris? Me neither, but apparently he and programmer Alexey Pajitnov partnered up some time ago and made quite a lot of money.
His Honolulu estate is completely solar powered and he hopes other residents decide to use the same technology. Partially because it’s his newest business venture.
Blue Planet Energy Systems will sell and install battery systems in homes and businesses that use solar power. The Blue Ion system uses Sony lithium-iron phosphate batteries, lasting up to 20 years, to store the sun’s energy. The batteries do not require cooling and Rodgers believes them to be the solution to storing solar energy and lowering energy costs in Hawaii.
The Hawaiian government seems to support this initiative. Rodgers published and distributed a book, with the work of children, to prominent government officials that proclaimed a desire for an energy-independent Hawaii. After all, this is why we’re saving the world, right? The kids’ letters and drawings may have had an effect. The Governor of Hawaii David Ige recently announced the intention for energy independence in his state with a deadline of 2045.
Is there a large enough demand for this expensive battery system? Rodgers himself passed on the opportunity to divulge the cost of his systems and admitted it will take 5–7 years for buyers to see a return on their investment. While Blue Planet’s battery storage will allow solar users to remain off grid at night, many users already take advantage of the extra energy they collect during the day by feeding it back into the grid in a practice called “net metering.” The utility companies already provide cost and incentive programs that promote this practice. So why invest in costly batteries and systems that will need to be replaced 13–15 years after they pay themselves off?
To residents and businesses that hold a particular affinity for being completely self-sustaining and off grid, it is usually a point of pride. The progressive and individualistic nature of this ideal often comes with the desire to share knowledge and the esteem that comes with it. But there’s also the matter of utilities increasingly fighting rooftop solar power, and even refusing to connect them to the grid.
Rodgers doesn’t intend to stop with an energy independent Hawaii, he plans to pass his technology on to the rest of the world. But one step at a time.