Solar Panels Work in Bad Weather


Living on solar power in Hawaii means free, abundant power most of the year. The return on investment here happens much faster than in other parts of the country. Situated just above the equator, Hawaii gets a lot of sun even in winter, which of course is one of the reasons it is America’s beach. In addition, power rates in the islands are the highest in the country and climbing. But what happens during periods of dark clouds and stormy weather like last week?

Heavy rain and storms often cause the Maui County power grid, which is supplied by hulking diesel-powered generators, to crash as it did last week. Most of the island went dark. However, at my off-grid house, we still had power thanks to our independent solar system. But what good are solar panels when not even a shadow of the sun is visible?

I went out to the power box at least every hour to check. According to the power meter, the solar panels were delivering juice to the batteries even under dark, thundering clouds. On the worst day of the storm, the panels brought down 1 kilowatt hour–more than our gas generator would had it been running all day and enough to power lights, the water pump and WIFI. Despite the storm, we still had power.

Winter Storm Hits Maui

Winter just arrived at my front door. It’s coming from the southwest (Kona weather). At 6 PM last night in Kahului, rain started pouring out of thick, dark clouds, and I raced ahead of the strong winds to get home–to get my laundry off the line and bring the dogs in. But it didn’t hit. The sky was a little drizzly, but mostly calm and quiet. We all slept peacefully. I was thinking the storm might have weakened enough as it snaked around Haleakala to miss us altogether.

But now rain is streaming in sideways through the front porch screens. The winds are strong, having already knocked out the local NPR affiliate. Looking out through the front screens back toward Kahului from the cozy of my office chair, sipping hot tea, I am watching a dazzling display of lightning punctuated by the dramatic rumbles of thunder–neither of which are very common here. It’s not like Texas, where lightning and thunder are as common as our tradewinds.

I can barely hear my own thoughts as the downpour of water cascades onto the metal roof. It’s time to put on socks and a jacket, curl up with the doggies and wait it out. Before NPR went off the air, they announced that winter could last up to 5 days! Summer is forecast to return by this weekend.

Official updates from Maui County are available at .

Math Homework = Exotic Travel?


My 16-year old niece whines about doing math homework, which from her perspective, seems totally useless in life. I am sympathetic to the genuine agony felt by teenagers droning toward their hormonal destiny.  When anything forces their attention away from their sole purpose in life–dating–it couldn’t feel worse.

For most teenagers, math, especially advanced math, is nowhere near as exciting as next Saturday night. But what if math could lead to the ultimate date? Many successful scientists figured out this equation long ago: math homework = exotic travel.

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