Hawaii state Rep. K. Mark Takai, who served with the Hawaii Army National Guard in the Middle East in 2009, represents the communities of Aiea and Pearl City on the island of Oahu. Two years ago, he and his wife, Sami, installed photovoltaic panels for their home's roof. Earlier this year, they purchased a Nissan LEAF, which is powered by their solar panels. Rep. Takai took some time to answer our questions.
Why did you first go solar?
While serving at Camp Patriot, Kuwait, I had time to reflect on why our country is fighting in wars a half-a-world away. In Hawaii, we spend $7 billion a year importing foreign fossil fuels. When I returned from deployment, I decided that my family needed to wean ourselves off this, so we installed a 12-panel photovoltaic system. Our electric bill dropped from $170 in October 2009 to $18 in March 2010, which is the minimum charge from our utility. In anticipation of getting our Nissan LEAF, I decided to upgrade by adding 10 panels.
What was it like to switch to an electric vehicle?
It's quite a huge leap from gas-powered vehicles. Prior to the LEAF, I was driving a 12-year-old Nissan Altima, which was averaging around 20 mpg. People are always asking about our new car. Most questions are about its power and gas savings, which are incredible. Driving by our local gas stations has been quite liberating. The odometer recently passed the 10,000 mile mark.