High Tech and Koa Trees on Mauna Kea

I sometimes come across new companies that spark my interest and make me want to learn more about them.  My latest discovery is Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods and it’s subsidiaries Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative and Legacy Tours.

HLH Logo

You might have guessed from the company names that their business focus is reforestation and sustainable deforestation.  So, what makes this company so special?

Let’s first take a look at the Koa tree itself.  It is a fast growing tree that is nitrogen fixing which means that it can grow in soil that is too poor to support other species.

Koa Tree

It’s wood is of exceptional beauty.  In the past, it was used to provide the Royal Family with canoes and furniture.  Today, it is used for high end furniture and musical instruments.

Koa Tree Wood

Now, let’s come back to the company itself.  As I mentioned above, the company is split into three subsidiaries.

  1. Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative
    This subsidiary is a non-profit organization.  As such, it is focused on educating people about Koa trees.  At the same time, it also allows visitors to the Big Island to plant their own Koa tree.  Maybe I am somewhat old-fashioned, but I do believe that a tree is a great gift for children or a partner in life.  Regardless if you plant a tree to commemorate an event (e.g. wedding, anniversary, birth), memorialize a loved one or any other reason, it is something substantial that will be there for a long period of time.  Your purchase provides you with a unique certificate identifying the location of your tree including a personalized inscription.  Furthermore, each tree purchase includes a $20 donation to a non-profit of your choice.  But it gets even better.  Obviously, we live in the internet age and so each tree includes an RFID tag and a Geo location that allows you to locate your tree on Google Earth.  They even print their own RFID tags using a 3D printer.  Cool stuff!You Koa Tree
  2. Legacy Tours
    This subsidiary is complementary to the one above.  It basically allows people to plant their own tree while taking a tour through the plantation on the slopes of Mauna Kea.  I hope you can trust me when I tell you that this area is beautiful.
  3. Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods
    This is the “for profit” subsidiary and I have kept this for last because I wanted to first show the amount of energy this company is putting into planting the trees.  This is certainly not your average run of the mill sustainable wood company.  They are on a mission to bring back Koa tree forests!  Obviously, bringing back a whole forest of Koa trees requires funding and so this subsidiary is focused on providing just that.  Essentially, it sells Koa trees as an investment opportunity in lots of 100 trees for around $11k.  Their web page shows three projection tables with the least optimistic one (see chart below) showing a return of $217k within 25 years.  That’s a fairly substantial return in my book!
    Now, I am certainly not an expert on Koa trees and so you need to do your own research, but the location seems ideal for Koa trees and the area itself has a lava flow risk of 8 (with 9 being the lowest risk).  That said, I am sure that there are risks in form of diseases and fire.  So, please do your homework and only invest money that you can afford to loose!
    Koa Tree Investment Projection

What’s my takeaway here?

I am really excited by the focus of this company.  They are doing everything possible to make their vision of a Koa tree forest become a reality.  And, what a great dream it is.  I mean my family and I are frequent visitors of the Big Island.  We have been to many different places on the island, but the slopes of Mauna Kea and the mountain itself are a unique environment without comparison on earth.  Needless to say that we will definitely take a tour and plant some trees on our next visit.  I am sure it will be a unique experience for the whole family which we can’t get anywhere else.

At the same time, the company is embracing new technologies like RFID and 3d printing to reach younger generations and their need to be connected at all times.  The result is a great example of nature and technology complementing each other!

I also admit that I am thinking about making an investment as well.  I mean it looks ideal to provide my son with some funding for college and/or a good start into life.  What else can one ask for?  Sunset?  Mai Tai?  I hear you!

Kona Sunset & Mai Tai

 

Sources
Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods

http://www.hlh.co

Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative
http://www.legacytrees.org

Legacy Tours
http://www.hawaiianlegacytours.com

Renewable Energy in the United States

Well, another Earth Day went by and even though California claims to be the global leader when it comes to Renewable Energy, we all don’t see much change and our energy bills keep going up and up.  So, I have been wondering:  What do other states do?  Who is the world leader when it comes to Renewable Energy?

Who are the leaders in the Renewable Energy market in the United States?

That’s a difficult question to answer, but I found that California claims to be the global leader when it comes to Renewable Energy.  But is that really true or is it just marketing?  I am not sure.  So, I did some research and found that Hawaii is having a very progressive approach when it comes to Renewable Energy.  The Hawaiian state has been pushing for 15% of Renewable Energy by 2015 which is in alignment with many other states.  However, the current numbers show them at 21% which is impressive and way ahead of schedule.  Furthermore, the Hawaiian Electric Companies are aiming for 65% by 2030 while reducing customer bills by 20% which is even more impressive.  Especially, if one knows that Hawaii is also one of the most fuel-dependent states in the nation.  So, what is their plan?  Are they doing anything different than other states?  I am not sure on that, but I do see the state government, corporations and the general public aligned in their interest to reduce the import of energy to Hawaii.

Here are some examples of the Hawaiian plan in motion:

  1. Wind & Solar Power Plants
    Hawaii currently sees wind and solar power as it’s primary Renewable Energy providers.  Here is some good information from GE with some impressive numbers for a small state like Hawaii.GE-HAWAII-HORIZONTAL_B
  2. Geothermal Energy Plants
    It seems that Hawaii would be an ideal place for Geothermal Plants, but I could only locate one geothermal plant located in Puna (south of Hilo) on the Big Island.  It should be noted that the plant is facing some local resistance (see sources) who is concerned about the underlying technology and its safety.Puna-Geothermal-Venture-30-MW-Plant
  3. Ultra-Efficient Home Design
    The current offerings include solar water heating and solar electricity.  This is offered in other states as well, but it seems that Hawaii’s climate makes it more effective for home owners.  I also found some new solutions that offer home owners to locally store their overage electricity for night time usage.
    Other features include the ability to use solar power to recharge an electric car which is a smart move because it is safe to assume that electric cars will sell well in Hawaii.  Obviously, the main issue of having a limited range doesn’t really apply to Hawaii.ultraefficient_20154

What is California doing wrong?

On a first look Hawaii isn’t doing much else than other states.  However, there are some small details that might jive better with customers.  For example, Hawaiian Electric Companies is touting a 20% reduction of customer bills by 2030 although that doesn’t mean much because Hawaiian customers pay 2 – 3 times more than customers in other states.  Hawaiian customers are also offered to locally store and combine energy sources as they seem fit.  In fact, Hawaii has plenty of homes that are completely off the grid and it appears that this is a growing trend.

So, it seems that Hawaii has managed to create a program that is not only effective, but also well received by customers.  What is California doing wrong?  Well, for starters there used to be a strong resistance against customers storing solar power in batteries.  When I asked a local representative of PG&E California about this a few years ago, I was outright told that all extra energy has to be returned to the grid without reimbursement for the home owner.  However, I have been reading that this somewhat changed with some lawsuits in 2014 (see sources below).  Another big factor is that I don’t see California energy providers making any statements on reducing customer bills.  Is there no interest to see customers switch to Renewable Energy?

I think the state of California really has to do some work in this sector and needs to send a clear message to energy providers and customers.

How do other states do?

Besides California and Hawaii, I found that Washington is the actual leader when it comes to pure numbers for Renewable Energy.  An amazing 70% of their electricity is generated by hydroelectric power plants.

Infographic_1V4a
But is this chart really fair?  Oddly enough it doesn’t tells us the percentage of Renewable Energy for each state.  Luckily, I was able to located another chart showing that.

State-RES-Map-Full-Size
Suddenly, we see small states like Hawaii taking leadership roles when it comes to Renewable Energy, but I cannot explain the discrepancy of Washington showing a meager 20%.

How is the US doing globally?

First, we need to understand who the players in each sector are.  The following chart gives us a good idea on that.

global renewables
No big surprises here.  But who is really putting money into Renewable Energy?

china-leads-energy-investment
Well, I have to admit that I am surprised to see China on top of this list.  But let’s take a closer look on how this chart is broken down.  Why did they break down Europe into Germany, Italy, UK and Rest of EU?  Not sure why, but it is obvious that a corrected chart would show Europe as being number one in the Renewable Energy market which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  I believe it is a well known fact that most Europeans strongly support alternative energies even if they come at a higher cost for the consumer.  Especially, in Germany and Italy, people have become very mindful and supportive when it comes to the environment.

I am hoping that we will all see more of this soon.  I mean I would really like to have a house that is somewhat independent of the grid.  I also believe that we live in an age where we all need to be more mindful on our impact on the environment.  There are so many new technologies that allow us to save energy that doing something for the environment has become an easier task than it used to be.  For example, it already makes a difference to switch light bulbs (especially halogen light bulbs) against LED ones.

 

Sources
Hawaiian Electric Companies
http://www.hawaiianelectric.com/heco/About-Us/Our-Vision/Our-Goals

energy.gov
http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/ultra-efficient-home-design

MIT – Technology Review
http://www.technologyreview.com/news/534266/hawaiis-solar-push-strains-the-grid/

Hawaii Business
http://www.hawaiibusiness.com/geothermal-is-a-red-hot-topic/

greentechmedia
http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/California-Tells-Utilities-Connect-Battery-Solar-Systems-to-the-Grid

Internet of People

IoPI believe we have all heard about the Internet of Things (IoT) and its promises to connect any device to the internet.  It appears that the Smart Home is a focus area and it sounds promising to have control over our home while we are away.  I have read some exciting articles on Nest and other topics, but beyond the initial coolness factor things aren’t quite there yet.

Don’t get me wrong.  It sounds cool to answer my doorbell for a delivery using a mobile device or, to control my AC from the office before heading home on a hot summer day.  However, a closer look shows functional limitations or even issues.  All these devices appear to be a first step on a journey to something bigger.  It kind of feels like the beginning of the PC era when the market evolved from B&W text to true color graphics in just a few years.

So, what is the next step for the Internet of Things?  What will elevate the user experience?  In my opinion, the answer is simple.  We need a common framework with a built-in layer of automation.  Something that would learn from our daily routines and make smart decisions for us.  For example, it would be much better if my phone (or Google car) would notify my home that I am on my way home.  This information would allow my home to adjust the temperature in time for my arrival.  Ideally, the home would even consider traffic and other factors (e.g. stop at the grocery store) that might delay my arrival.  If it is night time, it would also be nice if it would turn on the lights upon my arrival as well.  That said, I am not sure if I would want it to open the garage or front door.

A quick search on Google shows me that many companies are working on new devices to make this vision become a reality.  However, we are lacking a common framework to even share information between different devices.  A good framework would allow us to connect any devices while being able to capture all the data it receives.  Once we have such a framework, we could extend it to understand simple, configurable rules.  It’s safe to assume that a rule based framework will quickly include analytical processing, which would allow the framework to make decisions based on behavior patterns it could discover in the captured data.  From a technical point of view, this framework could be implemented on SAP Enterprise HANA, which would give it enough performance and analytical capabilities.

Well, I have no doubt that developing this framework will be more challenging than it sounds, because it would have to be highly flexible and adjustable.  Last, but not least, the framework should provide strong security to make us feel comfortable trusting it with our data and access to our devices.

I believe it is certain that we will see more IoT ready devices this year.  At the same time, we will see some frameworks entering the market.  The successful ones will be flexible enough to connect with other frameworks, and I am sure we will see some market leaders in a few years from now.  Once the majority of devices are connected, the focus will shift and the frameworks will focus on becoming smart frameworks that allow automated control of internet devices and the safe exchange of information between different users.  One key area for the success of any framework will be the ability to intelligently reduce data to avoid information tiredness.

Any feature complete framework will include a massive, cloud based framework that will connect people with their devices, the world and each other.  Finally, the Internet of Things will evolve into the Internet of People!

I think it is very clear that the Internet of People (IoP) will drastically change the way we live and work today.  In its best form, it will eliminate many chores we face today while consistently providing us with hopefully useful information, but it will add new challenges and risks to our lives as well.  It would certainly be sad if the Internet of People will also bring the end of personal interaction.

From a business point of view, we are approaching the beginning of a golden age of opportunity.  The Internet of Things will open up countless opportunities to make money for everyone who is ready for the challenge of creating something new.