Owner of ‘Tetris’ rights takes Hawaii home, ranch off grid

The Progress-Index - At Home - - OFF THE GRID - By Caleb Jones

HONOLULU — High above the bustling city of Honolulu, in a quiet, ex­clu­sive hill­side neigh­bor­hood where some of the is­land’s wealth­i­est res­i­dents live, there is an ex­trav­a­gant home that’s not quite like the oth­ers.

The 6,000-square-foot house has a view over­look­ing Diamond Head, Waikiki and the Pa­cific Ocean, and two Tesla cars in the drive­way. It’s not the two elec­tric cars that set the prop­erty apart from its swanky neigh­bors.

The dif­fer­ence is that this so­lar­pow­ered home is com­pletely energy in­de­pen­dent.

Home­owner Henk Rogers, 61, hopes the tech­nol­ogy he is us­ing in his home can help make other homes across Hawaii — and the world — energy in­de­pen­dent as well.

Rogers is fa­mous for dis­cov­er­ing the video game “Tetris” more than 20 years ago. He now man­ages the world­wide rights for the game along with his busi­ness part­ner, Alexey Pa­jit­nov, who wrote the pro­gram.

“If you’re go­ing to clean up the world, first of all you have to clean your own room,” Rogers said, re­fer­ring to Hawaii, which has some of the high­est energy costs in the na­tion.

Rogers will an­nounce his new com­pany, Blue Planet Energy Sys­tems, on Mon­day. The new ven­ture, which will sell and in­stall bat­tery sys­tems for homes and busi­nesses run­ning on so­lar tech­nol­ogy, plans to be­gin sales on Aug. 1. He de­clined to say how much the sys­tems would cost, but said there will be a five- to seven-year re­turn on the in­vest­ment for a typ­i­cal pro­ject that his com­pany will in­stall.

The Blue Ion sys­tem, which Rogers has been test­ing in his home for the last year, uses Sony lithium iron phos­phate bat­ter­ies, which can last for 20 years and do not re­quire cool­ing, he says.

Part­ner­ing with Sony, Rogers be­lieves the bat­ter­ies can be a so­lu­tion to the long-stand­ing prob­lem of stor­ing the sun’s energy and help­ing lower energy costs in Hawaii.

Sony has been de­vel­op­ing lithium ion bat­ter­ies since 1991, and the units be­ing used in Rogers’ home are top of the line.

The bat­ter­ies store energy from so­lar pan­els, al­low­ing peo­ple to use it at night with­out hav­ing to rely on ex­pen­sive energy from the grid.

Rogers’ com­pany will sell and in­stall the bat­tery sys­tems for com­mer­cial and residential use, sup­ply­ing ev­ery­thing from the hous­ing to the soft­ware to mon­i­tor and main­tain the sys­tems.

Robert Harris, a spokesman for the Al­liance for So­lar Choice, a so­lar ad­vo­cacy group, said con­sumers haven’t had much call to in­vest in bat­tery stor­age sys­tems be­cause of the cost and in­cen­tive pro­grams that en­cour­age peo­ple to stay linked to the grid. Harris, who is also the di­rec­tor of public pol­icy at Sun­run, a so­lar equip­ment sup­plier in Honolulu, said home­own­ers with so­lar pan­els typ­i­cally put energy into the grid and take it back as needed, some­thing called net me­ter­ing.

“A lot of energy can be put into the grid right now, so it hasn’t been a big in­cen­tive nec­es­sar­ily for a home­owner to in­vest in stor­age,” Harris said. That could change in the next few months with sev­eral new sys­tems be­sides Rogers’ ex­pected to hit the mar­ket.

“These prod­ucts will be ca­pa­ble of stor­ing and putting out energy on a

daily ba­sis at a fairly rea­son­able price point,” Harris said.

Rogers, who also owns a ranch on Hawaii’s Big Is­land that is energy in­de­pen­dent, said he had an epiphany af­ter suf­fer­ing a heart at­tack and near-death ex­pe­ri­ence in 2006.

While re­cov­er­ing, he de­cided he would take ad­van­tage of the sec­ond chance. Rogers read about the pos­si­bil­ity of los­ing all the coral reefs in the world be­cause of ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion, which has been linked to cli­mate change and ris­ing car­bon in oceans.

“We’re go­ing to end the use of car­bon-based fuel, and that is my mis­sion No. 1,” he said.

Rogers is the founder and chair­man of the Blue Planet Foun­da­tion, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­motes clean energy al­ter­na­tives and lob­bies politi­cians to change pol­icy.

Re­cently, the foun­da­tion cre­ated a book of chil­dren’s draw­ings and letters plead­ing for state law­mak­ers to man­date Hawaii be­come energy in­de­pen­dent. He made sure the books were val­ued at un­der $25, the max­i­mum amount a law­maker can re­ceive as a gift, and de­liv­ered a copy to ev­ery law­maker in Hawaii.

“This has got to be a mes­sage from the chil­dren be­cause it’s the chil­dren’s world we are try­ing to save,” Rogers said.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige an­nounced ear­lier this year that the state of Hawaii would be­come com­pletely energy in­de­pen­dent by 2045.

“I would say our crown­ing glory is 2045,” Rogers added.

Hawaii state Sen. Lorraine Inouye, who is on the Energy and Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee, said she is en­cour­aged that peo­ple are tak­ing the ini­tia­tive to be­come energy in­de­pen­dent.

“I’m so happy that pri­vate cit­i­zens are try­ing to have a sus­tain­able power sup­ply on their prop­erty,” Inouye said. The plan for energy in­de­pen­dence by 2045 “can be ac­com­plished, but we need to re­move ob­sta­cles,” she added. “If we don’t have any­thing in statute to ac­com­mo­date our goals for the fu­ture, the pri­vate en­ti­ties, the util­ity com­pa­nies, would be able to take things in their hands and do what they want to do.”

Henk Rogers, who man­ages the world­wie rights to the video game Tetris, opens his so­lar-pow­ered bat­tery unit that he uses to re­main off the elec­tri­cal grid, Tues­day, June 30, 2015 in Honolulu. Rogers is an­nounc­ing a new com­pany that will sell and...


In this un­dated photo pro­vided by Blue Planet Energy Sys­tems, LLC, PV pan­els are on Henk Rogers’ home in Honolulu. Rogers hopes the tech­nol­ogy he is us­ing in his home can help make other homes across Hawaii, and the world, energy in­de­pen­dent as well.

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