Hawaii: a Paradise in Transformation

View from Puu’manamana. The windward side of Oahu is famed for sporadic downpours. Kahana Bay can be seen on the right.

What comes to mind when you hear a friend leaving for Hawaii? Coconut palms swaying with the trade winds? Postcard worthy white-sand beaches speckled with lounge chairs and sunbathers? Or on a more sinister note, the image of an ever-active spawn of the goddess Pele slowly encroaching the land? Are there any truths to these stereotypes? Well, I hate to break to you… they’re pretty much a reality, for the transients at least.

When most people hear that I’ll be working in Hawaii, these are just some of the conversation topics I gathered. How difficult can it be working in the land of chi chis and vibrant sunsets after all? After my first week, I discovered that it’s pretty darn difficult to hold myself back from throwing myself out my office window overlooking the inviting ridgeline of Mt. Olympus (locally known as Awaawaloa), just a few miles due north.

With one suitcase filled with quintessential backpacking gear and the other with seven dress shirts, I was ready to make the most out of my summer.


From June to August, I will be interning at the Hawaii State Energy Office (HSOE) working in a project that assesses the feasibility of solar development in the state’s contaminated sites portfolio using techniques in GIS. This new initiative is a result of Hawaii’s ambitious commitment aptly dubbed “100% by 2045”, that is to have a 100% clean energy supply by 2045.  Fortunately, Hawaii is blessed with an abundance of renewable resources: wind, solar, and geothermal. However, renewable energy, especially solar, is land intensive, requiring approximately 5.5 contiguous acres for 1MW. Development on contaminated lands has unique attributes that offer an economically viable and environmentally sustainable solution. Due to Hawaii’s unique island landscape, reusing these resources is crucial in meeting the state’s progressive energy goals. This project is a multi-agency collaborative effort spearheaded by HSOE, Hawaii State Office of Planning (HSOP), Hawaii State Department of Health (HSDOH), US EPA, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

From the get-go (after getting lei’d of course), a conference call was already schedule with NREL to introduce me and to get me up to speed on the latest project development, followed by another meeting with HSOP, then with HSDOH later that week to talk shop and geek out about GIS. Cameron Black, my direct supervisor made every effort to introduce me to the entire office. After a week full of rapport building, and numerous governmental bureaucracies and processes, ArcGIS Pro was finally installed in the laptop they provided. Game time.

Stay tuned for more updates. For the next iteration, are you more excited to hear more of Hawaii experience, project related progress, or a little bit of both? Feel free to comment below!


View of Honolulu skyline from Diamond Head State Park.


Bought a (very) used moped here on a whim on my first weekend. Hands down the best way to get around on a budget.

One thought on “Hawaii: a Paradise in Transformation

  1. Stellar post Gordon! I was stationed at Wheeler Airfield in Honolulu before you were born. Back then we just had topographic maps and a compass — no fancy gadgets to tell us where sites were! Aloha!

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