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'Gilligan’s Island' goes solar, the professor smiles

Image of SolarCity workers
SolarCity workers will install solar panels similar to those pictured here on buildings at the University of Hawaii's Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology on Coconut Island.SolarCity

The isle that served as the backdrop for the hit television series "Gilligan’s Island" is going solar, for real. Somewhere off in TV land, the Professor Roy Hinkley is smiling.

Known as Coconut Island, or Moku o Lo’e, in real life, the Hawaiian isle is home to the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology. The institute recently entered a 20-year agreement with solar energy provider SolarCity

The company is installing solar panels with about 260 kilowatts of generation capacity. The panels will provide an estimated 25 percent of the institute’s energy needs. 

The university expects that percentage to increase as energy efficiency upgrades are completed and conservation practices are implemented. Savings over the life of the project are estimated at $2.3 million.

The 20-year deal is a power-purchasing agreement (PPA) that locks in a below-market electricity rate, offering some protection from fluctuating energy prices.

The "rate is flat and locked in for the life of the PPA," Khyati Shah, a spokesperson for SolarCity, explained via email.

While the exact rate is undisclosed, it is currently 30 percent less than current market rates, Shah added. 

The marine biology institute is part of the University of Hawai’i Manoa, which has a campus-wide goal of getting 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

Hawaii, which is drenched in sunshine, is a prime target for solar energy. In 2010, it imported 94 percent of its energy and had the highest electricity prices in the nation, according to the Energy Information Agency

"Electricity for commercial customers in Hawaii have increased approximately 8 percent annually for the past 10 years," SolarCity's Shah said.

As a result of high and climbing electricity rates, solar power is booming in the state. Capacity increased 150 percent in 2011, the EIA reported.

Gilligan's Island fans may recall that Professor Hinkley created a few people-powered contraptions that generated electricity during the run of the television series. The installation of the solar panels should help keep the lights on without the sweat.

 – via Clean Technica 

John Roach is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. To learn more about him, check out his website. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.