Hawaii is known for sun, surf and the "aloha" spirit — and in the energy world, as a progressive place that has set landmark goals of 100 percent renewable energy for the state and other clean transportation goals for its counties. In the era of climate change, the success of clean energy will depend on whether the grid architecture is resilient.
As an island state, Hawaii knows all too well the destructive force of our planet, based on past experiences with Hurricanes Iwa (1982) and Iniki (1992) that affected multiple islands. Just this year alone, our state has endured a string of bad weather conditions — from heavy rain-induced flooding on Kauai and Oahu in April, to back-to-back major storms in August (Hurricane Lane) and September (Tropical Storm Olivia).
Lane showed us that a major hurricane could occur at any time, becoming one of only two recorded Category 5 hurricanes to pass within 350 miles of the state. Although the storm weakened as it drew along the Islands and was, for the most part, considered a near miss, Lane left lasting effects: heavy downpours caused widespread flooding, evacuations and thoroughfare closures on Hawaii Island, and many blame the storm winds with helping fan the flames of the large brush fire in West Maui that damaged homes and scorched thousands of acres.
Hawaii isn’t alone — at the time of writing this article, we are witnessing the shattering impacts of Hurricane Florence on the Carolinas and Typhoon Mangkhut on the Philippines and China. We also remember the devastation Hurricane Maria had on Puerto Rico a year ago. What happened in Puerto Rico was a stark reminder of Hawaii’s own vulnerability and made us question how well we would recover after the next natural disaster. Can we do better?
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