February 24, 2017 marked the beginnings of Maui’s first biofuel crop of sunflowers. Members of Pacific Biodiesel Technologies participated in ceremony while Kimokeo Kapahuleha gave the blessing for the 115-acre crop. Pacific Biodiesel has leased the parcel from Maui Tropical Plantation owner and developer Mike Atherton. Furthermore, this is the largest biofuel project in the state of Hawaii. The land itself is located at the corner of Honoapi’ilani Highway and Kuihelani Highway in an area that was previously used to grow sugar cane.
So why biofuel?
Environmentalists are urging communities to decrease their carbon footprint on the land. For this reason, Pacific Biodiesel planted sunflowers because its oil burns cleaner, preventing harmful carbon dioxide emissions. Right now, most of the oil is being used for utility power generation. Another use is as a backup source of energy for Hawaii’s grid powered by solar or wind energy.
Hopefully, in the future, we will see more biofuel being used for heavy duty transportation like in trucks or ocean tugs. Currently, sunflower seed oil can be used in any diesel or turbine engine. Already there are two stations on Maui that sell biofuel, one in Kahului on Hobron Street and the other in Lahaina on Kupuohi Street.
There are many expenses linked to bringing a fast growing 90-day crop to harvest. But these guys at Pacific Biodiesel are so smart. Do they throw away the rest of the plant after they crush seeds for oil? Nope, they use all the plant like the leaves. The leaves can be used as a food source for livestock. Even better, the crop is Non-GMO which means no nasty pesticides in our food chain.
Other uses include cooking oil, fertilizer, and reef-safe sunscreen. Growing sunflowers is a great way to develop a cleaner healthier fuel for our environment. Better yet, Pacific Biodiesel has designed a way to make biofuel a cost-effective resource by using all the plant and growing all year. They like to call this their “Zero Waste Agriculture Energy Model.” I like to call it pono (doing what is right).