A company that has developed a biomass facility to turns plants into electricity is currently under fire on the island of Kaua'i, Hawaii. According to this report at The Garden Island, Green Energy Hawai‘i has chosen Albizia (Albizia chinensis) as their main source of fuel, which is not sitting well with officials since the tree is not native to Hawaii. As with many species eyed as sources of energy or biofuel, Albizia is prized for its ability to grow fast and to tolerate low-nutrient conditions. Unfortunately, these are characteristics that could make this species a successful invader, and indeed Albizia has already been cited as such on the island of Samoa.
Green Energy Hawai‘i has been planting acres of both Albizia and eucalyptus (also not native) in preparation for starting up their plant, but the company is now being asked to phase out Albizia over the next decade and to find an alternative species to use instead. With a law in place requiring 20% of power generation to come from renewable energy sources by 2020, I suspect Hawaii is going to continue to encounter similar dilemmas in the near future.