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National Research Council (US) Committee on Competing in the 21st Century: Best Practice in State and Regional Innovation Initiatives. Building Hawaii's Innovation Economy: Summary of a Symposium. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2012.

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Building Hawaii's Innovation Economy: Summary of a Symposium.

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Session IV: University of Hawaii’s Current Research Strengths and Security and Sustainability: Energy and Agriculture Opportunity

Moderator: William Harris, Science Foundation Arizona

Dr. Harris offered a short summary of the previous day’s session to set a tone for the second day. He began with the island welcome of aloha, noting a deep fondness for Hawaii where he had attended the second and third grades. He commented especially on the quality of the new UH Innovation Council, noting the distinguished level of experience in the members. He also said that “it’s a very significant thing to have some members who are from out of the state. I think that ensures that you’ll have a very hard and crisp discussion, and you’ll actually be able to put some new things on the table.” He agreed with the senators and the other leaders of the state that Hawaii had a potential “that may be unmatched, and it is probably a state that is in the right place at the right time.”



School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Mānoa

Dr. Taylor, dean of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Tech nology, said he would introduce an innovative satellite launch program that was triggered in part by a study by the National Reconnaissance Office showing a decline in the state of the U.S. space industry. “We’ve gone in the last decade from putting more than two-thirds of the satellites in a given year into space to less than one-third. And if you take away the military from that number, it’s much worse.”

Lowering the High Cost of Getting to Space

Much of this decrease, Dr. Taylor said, was caused by the high costs of getting to space from the United States, while other countries innovate to find cheaper ways. One of the ways to change the economics of space access “is to make things smaller and cheaper.” The cost of developing a big satellite, he said, is about a billion dollars; even small satellites, including launch, cost about $140 million. The good news, he said, is that technology is allowing the miniaturization of technology, particularly the computing aspects. “Small satellites are going to be more and more capable,” he said.

One exciting development, he said, is the development of new, space-friendly technologies such as the CubeSat, 10 cm on a side, which was mentioned the previous day by Vice Admiral Oliver of the Naval Postgraduate School. The National Reconnaissance Office, Boeing, and the Air Force are investing in this new technology, and the space office of DoD, NASA’s Ames Research Center, and NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist were also promoting small satellite development.

In traditional development, Dr. Taylor said, new technologies have to be “space validated” or proven through experimental missions before they can fly. This means that a “new” technology being launched today is actually more than five years old. But today’s approach, he said, is to produce components that are modular and “pre-stage” so they can be can launched earlier, with safety- redundant “constellations of small satellites.” If this can be done reliably, he said, “it will be a game changer.”

A New Space Flight Laboratory

In the University of Hawaii’s centennial year, 2007, the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology (SOEST) joined with the College of Engineering to create a new Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory (HSFL). The partnership, said Dr. Taylor, will collaborate on every aspect of space missions, from developing spacecraft and instrumentation to mission operations and analysis. Its mission21 is to:

  • Promote innovative engineering and science research for terrestrial and planetary space missions;
  • Develop, launch, and operate small spacecraft from the Hawaiian Islands;
  • Provide workforce training in space mission activities;
  • Promote collaboration between other institutions interested in space exploration.

One partner is Sandia National Laboratory, which is second only to NASA in the number of launches it has performed, many of them from the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kauai, Hawaii.

The first mission of the HSFL is called LEONIDAS, the Low Earth-Orbiting Nanosatellite Integrated Defense Autonomous System. Its objective is to conduct two launches from PMRF using low-cost systems and train the workers to prepare for the launches. “Fundamentally,” said Dr. Taylor, “we are learning to increase access to space and get there in a different way.”

The project is part of a congressionally directed program funded through the Operationally Responsive Space Office of the DoD. The space flight laboratory is the prime contractor and has multiple partners. One of those is Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, which had donated a scout rail launcher, rebuilt by HSFL. Other partners include the Aerojet Corp., manufacturer of solid rocket motor parts, the PMRF on Kauai, White Sands Missile Range, NASA/Ames Research Center, and Sandia National Laboratory. The program will use a SPARK Launch Vehicle, a three-stage solid propellant motor stack redesigned from Sandia’s Super-Strypi to reduce cost, simplify launch, and increase reliability.

The Goal of a Complete Satellite Launch System

Eventually, Dr. Taylor said, HSFL aims to provide a complete satellite system and to spin off niche companies. The first of these will be a partnership between UH and Aerojet for launch services. The future may bring small satellite development companies or others in high-tech fields. It will maintain critical support facilities at UH, such as the clean room, thermo-vacuum chamber, and vibration chamber for satellite testing and spin balance. These will be for use by both the university and small businesses in the area, as well as provide “an unprecedented educational opportunity, from kindergarten through graduate school, in all aspects of space mission operations.” HSFL will partner with Kauai Community College in program management and telemetry and with Windward Community College in their education and outreach through the aerospace center. In the future, a partnership may be added with the University of Hawaii at Hilo in software and automation. In addition, the space grant program allows system-wide under graduate and high school access through the extension program funded by NASA. The community colleges will provide the technical associate degrees and the four-year colleges the baccalaureate and graduate degrees.

An additional partnership is being formed between UH and Aerojet Corp. “We’re planning a 501(c)3 limited liability corporation with many benefits for each side. Aerojet will increase revenues by selling more rockets. It also hopes to set up a skunkworks for R&D in Hawaii. UH not only will gain workforce training, but will be able to fund its own science and engineering mission. The company has told us it wants to lower its costs by decreasing their overhead,” he said. “That’s a real driver. We have a price line to meet and they’re prepared to help us meet it through this joint partnership. Together we’ll handle risk management and hold the intellectual property.”

The first LEONIDAS mission will launch a CubeSat planned to advance the readiness of a particular computer chip to be used in subsequent satellites for data compression. It is being built by UH undergraduate engineering students, most of whom are from Hawaii. The second mission, HawaiiSat-1, will conduct a thermal and visible image study of the earth. This will also be built by College of Engineering and SOEST faculty and engineering grad students, partnering with NASA-Ames. He showed a thermal hyperspectral imager (THI), which will measure thermal energy emitted from the surface of the earth. This tool can be used to monitor volcanoes, wildfires, urban heat sources, and trace gases in the atmosphere, such as the greenhouse gas methane. It can also detect groundwater discharges into coastal waters.

Dr. Taylor turned to cost-effectiveness. One scenario is a rideshare payload configuration in two shapes that can carry 24 CubeSats or a combination of 1, 3, 6, or 12 CubeSats, together with other small satellites. For a single CubeSat, the price of getting into space is only about $50,000. For the maximum payload, the cost is estimated at $12 million, “a fraction of the cost of any other way into space today.” He said that 80 universities in 44 states were building small satellites, but they did not have a convenient way to get them into space at reasonable cost. “So they’re sitting on shelves. We want to liberate that potential and get them to space.”

Changing the Launch Game

Another game-changer, he said, could be the use of constellations of small satellites, which allow for more efficient packaging of payload. He showed a planned series of altimetry missions for the decade 2010–2019, including two ways of carrying out a major mission. One way was a billion-dollar satellite called SWATH. A different technique, using three small satellites to accomplish the same functions, he said, would cost less than $100 million.

Researchers at the UH are interested in accurate rendering of ocean color, which is necessary to monitor the health of coral reefs. Current and planned spacecraft do not do this adequately, but the hyperspectral imager planned at the UH is designed for just this function. Similarly, Dr. Taylor plans to include methane, a potent greenhouse gas, in the UH observing program. Methane, which has begun to rise again after remaining constant through the 1990s, is currently not monitored from space.

Dr. Taylor summarized by saying that the innovative satellite launch program of the UH and its partners is poised to make an original contribution that is low in cost, low in risk, and capable of rapid response (less than one week). The involvement of the university in the program promises not only a new economic driver for Hawaii but also a focus for developing the high-tech workforce of tomorrow. The program’s first launch is planned for 2012.



Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii

Dr. McLaren, associate director of the Institute for Astronomy,22 said that he would summarize the development of modern astronomy in Hawaii and describe how that development contributes to innovation and technology transfer. He began his story in the early 1960s, when space science was expanding rapidly during the Apollo program. In 1960, a tsunami devastated the area around Hilo, and the head of the local Chamber of Commerce, Mitsuo Akiyama, was looking for projects to spur the economic recovery effort. He championed the idea of placing a major astronomical observatory on nearby Mauna Kea and sent letters around the world to observatory directors. He got only one response, from Gerard Kuiper of the University of Arizona, one of the world’s leading planetary astronomers.

In 1963 Kuiper, then director of Lunar and Planetary Studies at the University of Arizona, was on the summit of Haleakala, on Maui, where the UH was installing the Mees Solar Observatory. The site was a good one, but occasionally enshrouded by clouds. Kuiper and his assistant, Alika Herring, would look from Maui across the Alenuihaha channel at another mountain peak on the Big Island, about 65 miles away. At nearly 14,000 feet altitude, it was 4,000 feet higher than Haleakala and above the clouds. Perhaps remembering Akiyama’s letter, Kuiper decided to take a closer look. He chartered a plane and flew over the summit, which was broad enough for multiple observatories. Now truly excited, he went to see Governor John A. Burns and convinced him to put a Jeep trail from the mid-level of Mauna Kea to the summit. This was finished in a few months, and by the summer of 1964 Kuiper had established a site testing station. Dr. McLaren showed a photo of Dr. Kuiper and Governor Burns at the summit. “You can see that astronomy activity in Hawaii had strong gubernatorial support from the beginning,” he said, noting the continued support of the current governor, Neil Abercrombie.

The View from Mauna Kea

Once Kuiper and Herring had confirmed that Mauna Kea was the best site for astronomy they had ever seen, they assumed that the establishment of research programs there would be led by mainland universities, and particularly the University of Arizona. However, after many preliminary steps and despite many obstacles, the University of Hawaii, which had no nighttime astronomy program at the time, was chosen to establish the first research telescope on Mauna Kea, a 2.2-meter facility that is still in use today.

Today there are 13 telescope facilities on Mauna Kea, Dr. McLaren said, representing a capital investment by 11 countries of over $1 billion. Development of the program has been supported by both the governor and legislature of Hawaii. The state paid for the infrastructure, including the road, and set aside about 13,000 acres (later reduced to 11,000) for a science reserve, where astronomy could develop with a buffer against other activities. The congressional delegation has lent strong support, as have federal agencies, especially NASA and the National Science Foundation. The county of Hawaii has also helped in many ways, especially by passing an ordinance to limit light pollution.

Since the Institute for Astronomy was created by the university to guide the astronomical aspects of the development, it has entered into partnerships with 10 other organizations on the U.S. mainland and other countries. The partner organizations build the telescopes and pay for the operations, while the university maintains the site, helps initiate the programs, and in return shares observing time.

Protecting the Mountain

For the first 35 years, the Institute of Astronomy was responsible for virtually all aspects of the development on Mauna Kea. Today, while it still provides guidance on the scientific programs, the University of Hawaii at Hilo and its Office of Mauna Kea Management manage public access, community relations, and protection of the environment and culture. “This has been a major change,” said Dr. McLaren. “It’s still something of a work in progress, but in my opinion a great success, and a model for how other entities could approach challenges like this. Large programs that start as a seed activity naturally outgrow the ability of the initial group to manage all the aspects and address community concerns.”

Dr. McLaren displayed a photograph of the observatories, with Mauna Loa in the background. Keck 1 and Keck 2, each with 10-meter segmented mirrors, are the largest telescopes of their type in the world. 23 Other observatories include Subaru Telescope, Japan’s eight-meter facility; the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope; Gemini North, which, like its southern cousin in Chile, is run by a consortium of countries; and others.

The next large project being planned is the Thirty-Meter Telescope, or TMT, another ambitious consortium project. Current members include Caltech, the University of California, and a group of Canadian universities, while “interested and future partners” include Japan, China, and possibly India. This is a billion-dollar project, currently in the permitting phase, with ground-breaking anticipated in the next 12 months. A notable feature of the TMT is that it is not quite on the summit but on the northwest plateau where it is less visible—a concession to local beliefs in the sanctity of the site.

Activities on nearby Haleakala, like those of Mauna Kea, are planned and regulated jointly by the Institute of Astronomy and by a local body, in this case the UH Maui College. The original Mees Solar Observatory has been joined by the Air Force’s Maui Space Surveillance Site, and the mountain, also like Mauna Kea, is awaiting a new and larger facility, the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST), a $300 million project of the U.S. National Solar Observatory. Its 4-meter mirror will be the largest of its kind. The reason for its large size is that major questions of solar astronomy depend on analysis of the magnetic field and the sun’s surface at scales of tens of kilometers. The ATST is also in the permitting stage.

Tracking Dangerous Asteroids

Another project on Haleakala, the Pan STARRS 1, is unusual in being explicitly a project of the Institute for Astronomy. Pan STARRS has a mirror of modest size—about 2 meters—but it also has the largest-capacity camera in existence, a charge-coupled device of 1.4 billion pixels. This camera, built at the UH Institute, has such a wide angle it can survey the entire sky about 20 times per year, mainly looking for objects that change or move. It has many practical applications, especially in tracking asteroids whose orbits might bring them close to the Earth, as well as new supernovas and variable stars.

Astronomy activities at the UH has also led Hawaii toward a leadership position in cyber-infrastructure. Because astronomy is highly data-intensive, he said, the Institute had taken the lead in equipping the state with the wide bandwidth required by the observatories. In 1996, the observatories partnered with Hawaiian Telephone, contributing $2 million to help install fiber optic cable across the saddle of the Big Island. With the help of the National Science Foundation, DoD, and others, UH extended the cable further so that high bandwidth communication is now available to anyone.

The UH has also developed strong local instrumentation capacity, building instruments for numerous telescopes and satellites. These activities have led to spinoff activities, notably the company formed by former faculty member Gerry Lupino, called GL Scientific, which is based in Honolulu. Another innovator, Doug Toomey, an engineer at the Institute for 25 years, runs a small business in Hilo building astronomical equipment. “Having these activities in Hawaii,” concluded Dr. McLaren, “brings benefits beyond the actual technology. In addition to technology transfer to the marketplace, we transfer experience and enthusiasm to school kids, neighbors, and other people who see what is possible in this whole fascinating field. Hawaii’s kids get to see world-class science and technology in action every day.”



Intellisis Corporation and 9th NASA Administrator (Ret.)

Mr. Goldin began by saying that he wanted to propose a strategy for Hawaii that he had contemplated for some time, and which was reinforced by the report of President Greenwood’s Innovation Council and the work of Dr. Taylor, Dr. McLaren, and other UH faculty. This strategy was to develop regional expertise in what he called “smart software.” He said that he used the term smart software to signify the varieties of data analytics, network analysis, artificial intelligence, and machine learning that are growing rapidly.

He noted that several speakers had already referred to the nation’s “data-hungry” culture and the information being generated in quantities soon to overwhelm our ability to store and, most importantly, use it effectively. He said that a “crossover point” occurred in 2006, when data creation equaled the world’s total data storage capacity. At present, he said, data-intensive programs, such as the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, are producing more data than current techniques can process. “Many places are just throwing it onto the floor,” he said, “because they can’t analyze it. There’s a crying need for some smart system to be able to pick out essential pieces of information.”

And it’s going to get worse, Mr. Goldin said, as more wireless platforms add to this overflow of information. Today there is almost one cell phone per person in the world, and most of those are used just for phone calls and text messages. By 2013, he said, there will be 2 billion smart phones, which use much more data, and these will be followed by tablets like the iPad, which use still more data. Finally, he said, in 5 to 10 years “the scientific vision of ‘smart dust’ will come to reality.” Smart dust refers to minute wireless particles that serve as sensors in health and many other applications, transmitting their data via the Internet. “ Instead of having millions of sensors,” he said, “we’ll have trillions of them that will assist us in doing unbelievable things. States or regions or clusters that start thinking in these terms now will be ready to deal with the future.”

Economic Opportunities from the Data Glut

Mr. Goldin said, the economic opportunities in this area are large. He said that current information technology (IT) spending in the United States was about $400 billion and was projected to grow to $800 billion by 2017. “Of the increase,” he said, “almost all of it is from smart software.”

Hawaii, he said, was not yet positioned to take advantage of this trend. The state was currently last in the United States in broadband capacity, as measured by the percentage of the population with access to more than 5 MB in broadband capacity. What tools does Hawaii need to capture this business 10 years from now? he asked.

The first is access to broadband technology, which was very low. “Leadership of this state must deal with that,” he said.

Second, Mr. Goldin said, was a highly skilled indigenous work force. “Your university is capable of producing this work force if the state would bring its support,” he said, and move beyond the “internecine warfare” that was blocking real educational progress. “It’s not a question of who wins what,” he said. Programs should include not only students from community colleges through the postdoctoral level, but also the children from K through 12 “so they have some sense of the future.”

Third, he said, the state must develop an “innovation friendly ecosystem.” On a personal note, he said he had tried several times to start businesses in Hawaii, and he had “flunked each time.” On each occasion, he said, he had been prepared to make an investment but “could not deal with the lack of a friendly ecosystem.” Finally, he said, there must be access to investment capital located “here and not on the mainland.”

Why Smart Software for Hawaii?

Mr. Goldin then listed a series of reasons why smart software was an appropriate business opportunity for Hawaii:

  1. Location. Hawaii, located centrally in the fast-growing Pacific region, had the potential to develop partnerships, clients, and customers both in the United States and prosperous eastern Asia. “Your population is well connected to Asia,” he said, “and they want to do business with you.”
  2. Research and academic strengths. He said that Hawaii is an acknowledged leader in Asian cancer research, astronomy, and other fields. “With smart software, you can both do better science and bring new business to Hawaii.”
  3. DoD supercomputing center. This facility brings another local opportunity for expertise in smart software. The U.S. military facilities on Hawaii have many data needs and can serve as a communication node for the rest of world. “Why bring all the information in and just relay it to the mainland for processing? he asked. “Why not process it and send it by narrow band back to the mainland? Take the data and turn it into knowledge yourselves.”
  4. Smart software bypasses supply chain problems. One handicap of Hawaii’s remote location is the difficulty of interacting with supply chains in manufacturing. Smart software firms require few parts or materials.

Mr. Goldin offered an illustration of the economic opportunities available to a region with talent and resources in smart software. Many businesses, he said, can benefit from new, fast-growing techniques of social networking analysis. He described some research done by IBM for Bharti Airtel, a large Indian communications firm, which needed an edge to protect its business from competitors. IBM, tapping into sociological research data, designed a product of social networking software that would allow the company to identify certain types of customers. For example, the IBM software showed that the most influential people in a given region were those who made long outgoing calls and short incoming calls; these would presumably be the best potential Airtel customers. “Think of the value of protecting some of the existing tourism business in Hawaii by using smart software,” he said. He noted that similar social networking techniques had led to the discovery of Saddam Hussein by demonstrating that before and after terrorist attacks, the drivers of certain cars would get more phone calls.

Seizing an Opportunity

Mr. Goldin suggested that within the next decade, Hawaii could be in a position to offer just such services and to build a broadly competitive software industry. In order to do so, he said, the state needs to accomplish the following:

  1. Adopt the 2008 Broadband Plan for Hawaii. He praised this document, which predicted large paybacks from broadband improvement. For example, it showed that a 7 percent increase in broadband adoption would have a $578 million economic impact. And yet the state, stymied by disagreements between local jurisdictions, had not yet implemented this plan. 24 “At present,” he said, “Hawaii has just two more slots for fiber optic cable landings. After that, no more will arrive unless you change the way you do business.”
  2. Build an indigenous workforce of the best and brightest. Such a work force can be trained in the UH system, he said. Just 1.4 percent of the state’s work force was employed in the mathematics and computer science sector, he said, compared with the national average of 2.5 percent. “I would set a goal of roughly doubling this work force in 10 years. In 20 years you ought to be up to 10 percent and you can become dominant in broadband.”
  3. Build an innovation friendly ecosystem. This is essential in order to nurture new businesses and attract existing ones.

Mr. Goldin argued that the state had everything to gain from such a strategy, and that a determined state leadership could break the existing logjam preventing its adoption. In his view, the state had the potential to build a smart software industry capable of not only servicing local business sectors, but also of moving into the global market place. “You can start as soon as you get the critical investment funds, which I don’t think is a problem with a state of your resources. Hawaii has everything it needs to become a leader in the information technology of the next decade. The critical components are leadership, speed, and the right partnership. And the time to start is now.”



Hawaii Renewable Energy Development Venture (HREDV)

Mr. Kaya, project director of HREDV, said he would talk about ways to prepare Hawaii for the energy future by making it a model for innovation. “We’ve heard a lot about the innovation ecosystem,” he said. “I think there is no better place in the world to gain from an energy ecosystem than Hawaii. This is partly because our needs are so great; we import everything, and for over 20 years, we haven’t moved the needle at all. But I remain optimistic. We have to do something right away, and if we do not, we are going to be at the tail end of suffering.”

He said that the state, to its credit, had put together a “wonderful” Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) to move toward the “unheard of” goal of 70 percent clean energy by 2030. While he applauded the target itself, he warned against “just importing the technology and the dollars without gaining the benefits from those investments. I would like to suggest that along with this transformation we so urgently need and seek in the energy markets, we see tremendous opportunity for innovation to be derived from those investments.” One analysis by the state has placed the needed investment for this transformation at around $18 to $20 billion over this period, he said. “We would be remiss if we did not take advantage of those investments to create our own innovations and benefit from them.”

Some Benefits of Clean Energy Technology

Mr. Kaya listed some of the lasting benefits to be expected from a successful clean technology sector in Hawaii:

  • Local, high-quality, high-paying jobs;
  • Opportunities for Hawaii’s youth;
  • Industry leadership and opportunities to export innovative technology;
  • Import substitution and energy security;
  • Diversified income streams for agricultural land;
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

He said that the road to this goal would not be easy. “As we move into these unprecedented levels of transformation and into clean energy markets, we will face problems and challenges,” he said. “We have a lot of wind—makani—and a lot of sun. But they are not here all the time. We have to find a better way to utilize these intermittent sources of energy.” Other challenges, he said, included integrating photovoltaics, deploying efficiency at scale, integrating electric vehicles with the grid, developing new biofuels, and developing new energy sources for agriculture.

A broader challenge, Mr. Kaya said, was to make costs manageable and predictable at the same time. On the brighter side, some innovative companies in Hawaii have already begun this process, and in some cases are well under way: he mentioned Pacific Biodiesel, Sopogy, Oceanit, Concentris Systems, Referentia, HNUTechnologies, Hoku Scientific, Makai Ocean Engineering, and Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning, LLC.

A Catalyst for Clean Energy

His own organization, the Hawaii Renewable Energy Development Venture, was created in 2008 as a catalyst for the local clean energy industry. “We recognized,” Mr. Kaya said, “that investors who support these types of companies need to be comfortable with their investments.” The HREDV is designed to support this need through three strategies:

  1. Competitively awarded funding. Competitions help accelerate the commercialization process and support local and mainland companies investing in commercialization activities in Hawaii.
  2. Training and other capacity building. For new entrepreneurs, managing federal funds is not an easy process, he said. HREDV provides training for young firms needing assistance.
  3. Strategic partnerships. The HREDV seeks to be a catalyst and believes that facilitating partnerships among industry players and coordinating with multiple levels of government are primary responsibilities.

Mr. Kaya said that the focus of HREDV is on technologies that are nearly ready for the commercial marketplace. He showed a chart of the Technology Readiness Levels, from basic technology research through system operations, emphasizing that the pipeline needed to be constantly refreshed. “This is where the university can have such a significant role—in making sure we have this continual pipeline of technologies that allows more and more efforts to reach commercialization and bear fruit.”

So far, HREDV had supported five projects in Round 1, totaling $2.1 million of federal funding that was matched by $1.4 million of private cost sharing. In selecting these companies, they had tried to listen to the barriers described by the energy community, the electric utility, the state, and state consultants. The first round focused on issues such as green transportation, from both a fuels and vehicles standpoint, and also on agriculture, a fossil fuel user linked to both import and export.

Mr. Kaya said that because his organization had little funding, it has to leverage what it has by picking “potentially great companies with great innovations,” along with significant cost sharing. Another emphasis is to recognize these energy activities as parts of an integrated system.

Clean Energy Start-ups

As an example, he said that Concentris was a local company that had developed wireless mesh technology for military applications. It was attempting to use this in partnership with another local company, Oceanit, to address the daunting problem of non-metered energy consumption in military housing. They worked in a public-private partnership with one of the major housing contractors for the Navy in Hawaii, Forest City Military Communities.

Another example was Sopogy, a pioneer of Micro-Scaled Concentrating Solar Power, or MicroCSP technologies. MicroCSP uses concentrating mirrors with optics, low-cost thermal storage, sun tracking, and a simplified installation technique. They can be installed on rooftops, and a rooftop array coupled with absorption chilling was being developed for the Maui Ocean Center. The technology can also generate electricity from solar heat, providing a non-photovoltaic alternative for general commercial cooling.

Satcon is a company from the mainland east coast which was responding to a common problem of clean energy: the supply of PV-generated electricity varies with available sunlight, and the charging of electric vehicles adds grid load unpredictably; both can affect grid stability. Satcon is developing an inverter to allow efficient charging of vehicles using direct DC solar power, as well as smooth solar power for a better interface with the electricity grid to be initially demonstrated on Lanai.

Another local company, Kuehnle Agro Systems, was a product of the University of Hawaii. It is trying to address a general problem in biofuels, which is that large tracts of agricultural land are often required. Kuehnle is building a pilot bio-reactor to produce customized algae screens for companies that want to produce biofuels from micro-algae.

The last company Mr. Kaya highlighted was Better Place, a software company that is installing infrastructure for nine electric vehicle charging stations. It plans to use seven electric vehicles to provide the first demonstration of integrated vehicle-to-grid technology on Oahu, partnering with the Hawaiian Electric Company.

“These are the types of innovations we’re supporting,” he said. “I believe that energy is where it’s going to happen in terms of making a mark for this state.” To achieve this goal, he said, innovation is critical, and the success of innovators depends on access to the market. At the same time, the traditional incumbents in the energy sector will come to depend on the success of these innovators. “The energy system of the future,” he said, “will allow you as a customer to have more ability to establish how you want your energy supplied and what you are willing to pay for a certain level of quality. It will be very different from the vertically integrated energy systems we have today.”

The same problems faced by Hawaii, Mr. Kaya concluded, are faced by regions throughout the United States and the world. “So with our success, there’s a very high prospect we can be a world leader not only as a model for energy innovation, but in the way we apply these technologies for everyone’s benefit.”



College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Mānoa

Dr. Yuen, dean of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, said that she would talk about the broad context of sustainable agricultural systems. “When the word ‘sustainable’ is used,” she said, “very often people think about a particular practice. Let me be clear this morning that when we talk about sustainable we will not be referring to a specific practice, like organic farming, or an end point, but rather a broad systemic strategy.” She said that sustainable agricultural systems should satisfy human needs, enhance environmental quality and protect the natural resource base, promote economic health, and enhance the quality of life. “So it’s really a multi-dimensional process which considers all of these goals from the outset rather than limiting itself to one goal at a time.”

She said that the most remarkable feature of American agriculture is that “it has been amazingly successful.” The U.S. population, she said, has increased more than four times since 1900. “But despite the growth in our population, there are fewer farmers at work today, and they are producing more food and fiber for the domestic and export markets. And we’re doing all of this on basically the same acreage of land we used a century ago.”

Even so, Dr. Yuen noted, great challenges remain. “It’s estimated that one in seven people around the world are still malnourished. And the situation is going to be worse. We’re at about 7 billion people globally right now, and by the year 2045, it’s estimated that there will be 9 billion people. How are we going to feed all those people? she asked. “The simple answer is, do what you’ve done in the past. You’ve been successful; do it again. The solution is not that simple, however, because there are many challenges that we haven’t faced in the past.” She listed these challenges:

  • Increase in income
  • Competition for land, water, and energy
  • Impact on the environment
  • Effects of climate change
  • Cost of production

Impacts of the Challenges

Today, Dr. Yuen said, more countries are experiencing rising incomes. “And when people have more money, they eat differently. They consume more meat, more fish, more dairy products, and more processed foods. This changes the way the food chain is constructed. This is because producers will follow the money and the demand. So the kinds of foods and the way we grow them will be different.” She noted that producing one pound of meat takes three pounds of grain.

There is progressively more competition for land, water, and energy, both from outside of agriculture, as in urbanization, and from other agricultural activities. The increased competition for non-food uses of crops, such as the demand for biofuels, also means that lands are being taken out of food production.

The practice of modern agriculture also has serious impacts on the environment, Dr. Yuen said. Part of the success of American agriculture is owing to its strong and singular focus on food production and on reducing costs. “But this focus, we now know, resulted in agricultural practices that produced some unintended consequences,” she pointed out. The same fertilizers and pesticides that boost food production also have a detrimental effect on ground water, rivers, and soils—not just with respect to human health, but also in terms of the environment. “And these are things we can’t allow,” she said, “as we move forward to a sustainable agricultural system.”

The Challenges of Agriculture in Hawaii

A particular difficulty for Hawaii, Dean Yuen noted, is the high cost of land. “The economic return from building houses and shopping centers is much greater than growing food.” She said that in 2006, when sugar was declining as a crop, some lands no longer tilled were slated for housing and priced at $44,000 an acre. This, she said, contrasted with the $1,000 to $5,000 an acre generally paid in the rest of the nation for agricultural lands. “You can see that this makes it quite prohibitive to acquire land to be used for agriculture. If you are a large landowner and you look at the economic returns, it is to your advantage to keep those lands fallow or limit them to short-term leases, which is what most farmers in Hawaii have. If you’re a farmer, you have little incentive to put in long-term investments, even if they could help you become profitable later. That means no energy efficiencies, no planting crops that might take longer than a few years to mature.”

Production costs are also high, Dr. Yuen said, averaging $434 per acre, in contrast with $261 per acre for the nation as a whole. “Our farmers tell us that they will farm if they can make money. But we have to create the conditions that make farming and food production economically feasible.”

Dr. Yuen listed some additional challenges for agriculture in Hawaii:

  • Hawaii is particularly vulnerable to food supply disruptions, both natural and manmade.
  • Some 85 percent of the food consumed in Hawaii is imported. “Ironically, instead of becoming more independent, despite our efforts, we are becoming more dependent in some areas on imports. For example, in 1984, 100 percent of the milk consumed in Hawaii was produced locally. Today it’s 30 percent.” Hawaii’s farms are mostly small and diverse, which reduces efficiency. About 64 percent are farms of 10 acres or less, versus 11 percent on the mainland.
  • The risk of invasive species is unusually high because of the high level of importation. The ships, airplanes, and tourists bring disease-bearing organisms, harmful insects, weeds, and other pests that can negatively affect agricultural production, the natural environment, and the economy in general. The imported Mediterranean fruit fly, which lays its eggs on more than 400 fruits and vegetables, has reduced the yields of many crops, including papaya, guava, and mango. The coffee berry borer, introduced recently, which lays its eggs in the coffee berry, is becoming widespread and reduces production.

Some of Hawaii’s Advantages

In the face of these challenges, she said, Hawaii does have many advantages as an agricultural region. It has 11 of the 12 soil types found in the world, and 10 of the 14 climatic zones. “This means that we have a rich living laboratory for research that can be of value to many parts of the world. Inhabiting Pacific islands, we have geographic commonality with two-thirds of the world’s population, enjoying the same climatic conditions and growing many of the same kinds of crops on farms of similar size. So much of what we do here,” she said, “can be used in other parts of the world.” She noted that our research, capacity-building expertise, and cultural competence can enhance food security and economic stability in other countries, which can ultimately contribute to world peace.

Dr. Yuen said that if Hawaii really wants to help feed the world and to grow in global importance, “we have to expand and enrich our research initiatives.” This includes studies of sustainable practices, genomics and genetics; decision-support systems in which we simulate conditions; integrated pest management; and a transformative approach in which large, interdisciplinary teams use their collective efforts on site-specific areas.

She also talked about work based on an ancient Hawaiian concept in agriculture called “ahupua‘a.” “The practice was to look at the whole tract of land, from the mountain to the ocean, and pay attention to the interplay of all the factors—soil, climatic conditions, vegetation, wildlife—and how each part interacts with the others and contributes to the whole. We don’t necessarily do that in modern times. Our unit of analysis has been the farm or a single-use geographic area. When you focus that way, the interplay of all of these variables, including the human dimension, gets lost. So perhaps it would be useful to bring back some proven concepts from yesterday to combine with our best science today.”

Dr. Yuen concluded with the thought that “this is a very exciting period to be an agriculturalist, to be engaged in the research and the very hard work of putting what we learn in the lab into practice. Where else can you use your talents and your intellect and all of your skills to feed the world, protect the environment, and improve people’s quality of life?”


Teena Rasmussen, a member of the UH Board of Regents, proposed the flower farm she has run jointly with her husband for 32 years as one model for agricultural development. The 50-acre farm, Paradise Flower Farm, is located in the Kula Agriculture Park on Maui and inhabited by several dozen employee farmers. At the end of the 1970s the county had determined that the park was an appropriate place for agriculture and had put in water lines and roads, leaving farmers to develop the land with the benefit of 50-year leases. The Rasmussens cleared the lots, purchased water meters, and brought in power. The farm has been a success, she said, not only providing fresh flowers and lei in Hawaii and on the mainland, but also offering an enlightened working environment for its employees and farmers. As the farmers grew older, the Rasmussens changed the ordinance so leases could be assigned and sold. This means that if farmers build a building or greenhouse on the land, they can recoup their investment in the building. Now the farms are turning over, and new owners are coming in to continue the farming. The land has been designated for farming in perpetuity. She encouraged the state and counties to promote more such developments on what are termed Important Agricultural Lands (IALs) to preserve Hawaii’s agricultural capacity and way of life.

Dr. Yuen affirmed the value of this agricultural model. She said that the model addresses two key challenges faced by farmers: affordable land and adequate water. These and other challenges are more difficult than the work done in the laboratory, she said, because they’re being resolved in the arena of the real world of politics, competing values and interests, and trying to convince people to use new science. She said that she did see in agriculture a readiness for change. In the last legislative session, the Food & Energy Security Act was passed, which places a tax on every barrel of petroleum that enters the state. Part of that revenue is allocated to energy independence and food self-sufficiency and safety. The expense of providing water for farming was an equally pressing issue, she said, and should be addressed with public-private funds.



The mission of the HSFL can be accessed at <http://hsfl​>.


The Institute for Astronomy (IfA) was founded at the University of Hawaii in 1967 to manage Haleakala and Mauna Kea Observatories and to carry out its own program of fundamental research into the stars, planets, and galaxies. It has a total staff of more than 300, including about 55 faculty members. <http://www​.ifa.hawaii​.edu/ifa/about_ifa.shtml>.


Mirrors larger than about 8 meters in diameter cannot be made from single blocks of glass. Larger mirrors are made of multiple small segments precisely fitted together.


The final report of the broadband task force is available at <http://www​>.

Copyright © 2012, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK99268


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