Renewable energy in the ‘Hood’
Whether it is using sunlight to run appliances at home or machines in factories, running water to provide power to cable trains and windmills to grind grain, renewable energy adaptation is on the rise and sustainability—as well as lesser reliance on fossil fuels— is going mainstream around the world. And David Hood doesn’t want the CNMI to lag behind. In fact, he thinks the CNMI is the perfect place for electric cars “because we don’t go or drive very far.”
Hood, who is CEO of Coldwell Solar Inc. in California and is now based on Saipan as Coldwell Energy, wants to bring sustainable transportation technology into our neighborhood. He spent 35 years as a real estate builder and developer but, around 10 years ago, together with his son, they started a solar company catering to utility scale and larger solar projects. “I wanted to get into 100% renewable energy and that’s what we did as a family business,” he said. Currently, they are expanding outside California, in states like Nevada, Washington, and Oregon to look for potential projects.
In 2013, Hood visited the CNMI and, according to him, he fell in love with Saipan instantly and has found his retirement place. It took him a couple of years to make the commitment to stay. Today, he has bought a house and will get into the local coffee business soon but he remains true to his original vision.
“The solar business in California is still full on. …Due to the pandemic, bringing the business here will be a slow process for now and, instead, I would rather use my expertise and my passion for renewable and sustainable energy in helping out the islands with all things green,” he said.
When Hood first came here, one of the early things he noticed is that there weren’t any electric cars. “I also have not seen or met anybody who is thinking about it so I thought, ‘I’m a renewable energy guy who also loves cars and I’ll just do it. Why not bring these technologies here just like what they have in the mainland?’ So I brought two electric cars to the islands—a Tesla Model X version and a recent addition is the 2022 Nissan Leaf.” Hood said he has been asking around about electric cars and some didn’t seem to be interested or didn’t understand how it works. “My goal is to bring those cars here, test them, see how well they do and share the information with the community. Part of this is recording what the mileage is going to be, how will they charge and how quickly. We are also going to look at the downsides but I am finding that these are going to be less expensive than fossil fuel… That’s what we have already seen the past few weeks with the Tesla Model X.”
What some people don’t seem to realize is that one can charge these electric cars either in 110 or 220 plugs at home, Hood said. “When you plug it in, it charges about a mile for every two minutes with 220. The Tesla Model X can go 220 miles in just six to seven hours of charging.”
Right now, Hood still uses a conventional, gasoline-powered car but when he goes to the gas station to fill his tank with $80 worth of gas once a week, he asks himself, “…Do I have any choice? When I hand that credit card, I always think, there has to be a better way.”
“With e-cars, I can control my energy independence. I can add some solar panels, I can do one of those chargers that uses just the sun. The bottom line is it’s going to be less expensive even if I use [power from the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.] because I can charge this car for about $25 versus $80 worth of fuel. If you drive 20 miles a day with a car that can go 220 miles then your power is good for 10 days,” he said. Furthermore, if one uses CUC and adds five to 10 solar panels to that mix, from $25 it would go down to probably $10 to fill your car with power that will give you many lower cost miles,” he added. Hood understands that using CUC will still have some carbon footprint because the utility company uses diesel for its generators. “Part of the plan is to bring some chargers here so that you don’t have to hook to CUC at all. We are working on some prototypes rights now—when you plug your e-car, it is 100% solar.”
Hood was quick to clarify that he does not intend to eventually put up a car dealership. “I have no desire to go into that. I have a desire to open people’s minds to the possibility of something different by introducing these cars to the CNMI,” he said. “I want to accomplish two things: Reduce use of fossil fuel and affordability. …We clean up the air, use renewable energy that is sustainable and affordable for people in the long run. …This is energy independence. …It’s not a perfect solution but it is just the next step to help. There will be some more things coming but this is just the beginning. …I want to be that guy that will give it a shot and I think people will see that it will probably take off,” he added.
Hood said that once they are ready with the data, they are going to share with the public the results of using e-cars on island. “We will tell people so they can read about it and be informed. …They can even take the cars for a test drive. …Why are we sharing all the information? Because it’s the right thing to do. …Extending information about reducing carbon footprint on island is overdue. This is just another way that we can help our future.”