Maui Electric Co. and other Hawaii utilities once again were ranked among the top utilities in the country for solar power capacity.
MECO parent Hawaiian Electric Co. again was named one of the nation’s Top 10 electric utilities for the amount of solar power added to its system per customer in the the 2010 Solar Electric Power Association Utility Solar Rankings. MECO was ranked in fifth place for total solar watts per customer.
The amount of grid-connected solar is growing fast, and even a little faster than vendors had promised, if the experience of businessmen Thomas Kafsack and Josh Stone is any indication.
Both installed solar generators since the last round of SEPA solar rankings.
Kafsack, operator of Surfing Goat Dairy, just broke ground for phase two of his 43 kilowatt project, but he is pleased with phase one, which covers half his barn roof and was switched on a couple of weeks ago.
The project, designed and built by Haleakala Solar, cost more than $300,000, but after two tries Kafsack got a Renewable Energy for America grant from the Department of Agriculture to cover 20 percent of the cost.
Without the grant, he said Friday, the investment would not have made a sufficient return, but with it he will recover his costs “in under 10 years.”
We were poking around upcountry Maui and driving its narrow, twisting roads, but by midafternoon we had to turn around. We had an important date at a lower elevation.
Forget meeting friends for mai-tais or heading to Lahaina for the sunset. We were going to herd the animals at Surfing Goat Dairy.
Herding anything may be the last activity one considers for a Maui vacation. But the dairy is one of several island farms that have opened for public tours over the last few years. They offer the chance to explore the island’s back roads, meet the growers and learn something about the exotic fruits, vegetables and cheeses you’ll encounter and enjoy on Maui.
“It’s a growing national trend,” says Maui resident Charlene Kauhane, a board member of the Hawaii Agri-Tourism Association. “Visitors are looking for authentic experiences, for opportunities where they can meet locals and buy local.”
And sometimes, you just want a break from the beach. So let’s go down on the farm on Maui.
Alii Kula Lavender Farm
Even before you arrive, you’ll detect Alii Kula Lavender Farm from the lovely fragrance wafting over Upcountry. It comes from 45 lavender varieties planted over 10 acres in Haleakala’s foothills. You can meander over paths on your own, or join one of the walking tours. You’ll learn about lavender’s culinary uses and healthful benefits, as well as the farm’s dedication to practicing agriculture in a sustainable way.
Alii Lavender also offers workshops in wreath making and container gardens, and other special events.