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EV Charging Stations JumpStart Maui

As part of the growing network of EV charging stations being deployed by Hitachi’s JumpSmart Maui initiative Haleakala Solar has recently completed the installation of residential charging stations and is under contract to construct a number of new charging station projects in 2015.

Under contract to Hitachi, Haleakala Solar, Inc has announced the completion of construction and commissioning for the new Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Station located at the County of Maui building in Wailuku. The EV charging station owned by Hitachi under a lease agreement with the County and is comprised of one (1) level-2 station and two (2) Level-3 charging stations. Construction was completed on November 17, 2014.

The commissioning of the County charging station project was followed by a dedication and blessing performed at the project site on Wednesday December 17, 2014. The event was attended by Hitachi corporate representatives and executive, County of Maui officials including Mayor Arakawa and members of the Maui Economic Development Board.

Haleakala Solar poses with Mayor Arakawa for JumpStart Maui

Haleakala Solar Energy Conservation team members pose for a photo with Mayor Arakawa at the JumpSmart Maui EV charging station blessing ceremony. From left to right, Pete Papa, Jim Laehy, Mayor Arakawa, Keoni Hoopii.

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Renewable Energy Storage System – Energizr

JLM Energy - Energizr Battery Backup

When you’re ready to take your energy independence to the next level, Haleakala Solar has a couple solutions based on your needs. The most space-efficient option is the JLM Energy Energizr™, a residential energy storage and management system that stores solar power generated during the day to provide electricity at night or in cloudy conditions. The system even combines with a generator to provide constant energy access during a power outage.

Energizr Renewable Energy Storage System

Energizr™ has four different modes of operation:

  • Grid-based with battery backup
  • Off-grid using renewable energy sources
  • Integrated grid, renewable, and battery backup
  • Immediate battery backup

Visit JLM Energy’s website for further information about these modes of operation.

The battery storage system is only 93″ tall x 16″ wide x 9″ deep. It uses lithium iron phosphate batteries and has storage capacity options of 2.1 – 7.8 kWh. A single unit is able to meet the energy requirements of a well-designed 1,500 to 2,500 square foot home. For larger homes, more than one unit can be installed.

Top reasons to consider Energizr™:

  1. Never ever have to worry about your power going out
  2. Gain energy independence so you no longer have to worry about changes made by the utility company
  3. For our customers who still want to remain connected to the grid: When the meter runs backwards, instead of all of your solar energy getting pumped back into the grid for everyone to use, some can be saved for when YOU need it later, which gives you the power (literally and figuratively) to avoid on-peak charges

Are you thinking taking the next step towards energy independence? Contact Haleakala Solar for more information. You can also stop in to our Maui Mall location (near Baskin Robbins) to see the Energizr™ in person.

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Rebate For Solar Hot Water Tune-Up

Modern, high-quality solar hot water systems typically require very little maintenance. However, getting a tune-up from Haleakala Solar, an insured, licensed contractor, every 3-5 years will ensure your solar hot water heater is running at optimum efficiency for as long as possible.

Here’s the great news:
Hawaii Energy is offering a special limited-time rebate for a solar water heater tune-up. If you have a solar hot water heating system that is at least 3 years old located in Honolulu, Maui, or Hawaii counties, you qualify for a $150 instant rebate off of a tune-up! This offer is valid until May 31, 2015 or while funding lasts and is only available through a Hawaii Energy Participating Contractor, like Haleakala Solar.

The tune-up will include a list of maintenance services based on whether your solar hot water system is active or passive.

solar hot water checklist

Once your maintenance tune-up has been completed, Haleakala Solar will provide you with the rebate application for you to complete and sign. We will submit your rebate application for reimbursement. Your rebate from Hawaii Energy is instant as it is discounted from your out-of-pocket cost.

To schedule your solar hot water tune-up appointment, please call us at:
Statewide Toll-Free: (808) 643-8000

This limited-time rebate is being issued on a first-come, first-serve basis, so don’t put off making this phone call!

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A Closer Look At NextEra And What Merger May Mean For Hawaii

Nextera and HECO deal, what it means for Hawaii

On December 3, it was announced that Florida-based NextEra Energy agreed to purchase Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. Since HEI was not for sale, this news came as a surprise and leads us to wonder how the deal will affect HECO customers and rooftop solar.

What We Know About The Deal

  • While Hawaiian Electric Industries is estimated to be worth $2.63 billion, the transaction has been valued at a total of $4.3 billion with NextEra assuming $1.7 billion of HEI’s debt.
  • The sale must be approved by Hawaiian Electric stockholders, the state Public Utilities Commission, and federal regulators, which is expected to take about a year.
  • Hawaiian Electric Co. will continue to operate under its current name and be headquartered in Honolulu. Likewise, Maui Electric Co. and Hawaii Electric Light Co. will keep their names and operate from their existing locations.
  • No HEI employees will be laid off until at least two years after the closure of the merger, and all of Hawaiian Electric’s union labor agreements will be honored.
  • NextEra Energy plans to maintain HEI’s current amount of corporate giving within the community and said it will establish a HECO advisory board, consisting of 6-12 people with substantial ties to Hawaii, to provide their opinions on local matters.
  • Hawaiian Electric Industries shareholders will receive 0.2413 NextEra Energy shares per Hawaiian Electric Industries share and a one-time special cash dividend payment of $0.50 per share.
  • The agreement does not include HEI’s banking subsidiary, American Savings Bank. ASB Hawaii will spinoff into an independent, publicly traded company.

What We Know About NextEra Energy

According to its website, “NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE) is a leading clean energy company with consolidated revenues of approximately $15.1 billion, approximately 42,500 megawatts of generating capacity, and approximately 13,900 employees in 26 states and Canada as of year-end 2013.”

NextEra owns two main subsidiaries: NextEra Energy Resources, one of the largest developers and owners of renewable energy in the country, and Florida Power and Light, America’s third-largest electric utility with about 4.7 million customers.

NextEra’s Relationship with Renewable Energy

NextEra Energy, Inc. has a bit of a split personality when it comes to renewable energy. On one hand, Florida Power and Light Company (FPL) has a record of opposing rooftop solar. Only 1,551 out of their 4.7 million customers had solar systems installed from 2011 to 2013, with solar power produced and sold by the utility itself. This means, while solar leaders in the U.S. utility industry are on track to meet 10 percent of their power needs with solar, FPL gets a measly 0.06 percent of its energy mix from solar power. (For the record, about 11 percent of Hawaiian Electric customers have rooftop solar systems, the highest percentage in the U.S.)

As the state’s dominant electricity provider, FPL, along with other Florida utilities Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric, are known to get approvals from the Public Service Commission, Florida’s version of Hawaii’s PUC. In November, the Public Service Commission voted 3-2 in support of the utilities’ proposals to terminate the state’s solar rebate program by the end of 2015 and roll back Florida’s energy-efficiency goals by more than 90 percent. It probably doesn’t hurt that FPL has a history of giving to political campaigns, such as in the last election when $1.2 million of company funds were donated to Florida Governor Rick Scott’s re-election and the Republican Party.

FPL does boast customer bills to be approximately 25 percent lower than the national average and the lowest in Florida. However, NextEra is the nation’s largest buyer of natural gas and FPL generates 65 percent of its power from natural gas, a cheap form of energy that is not yet prevalent in Hawaii.

Although it is nicknamed “The Sunshine State,” Florida is the nation’s 5th most coal-dependent state and ranks 29th for overall renewable energy development, most of which is not from solar or wind but wood-burning and landfill gas. This absence of renewables is caused largely by resistance and poor planning by utilities, including FPL.

On the other hand, the NextEra Energy Resources subsidiary is the largest owner and operator of wind-generating facilities in the U.S., with a total wind power capacity of 10,210 MW and 2,000 – 2,500 MW of new contracted wind projects in the United States and an estimated 600 MW in Canada from 2013 through 2015. NextEra Energy Resources is also one of the largest generators of solar power in the country with solar plants throughout California, Nevada, New Jersey and New Mexico, and Canada. About 800 MW of new solar projects are projected to be added from 2014 through 2016.

NextEra Energy has garnered the top spot in the Electric and Gas Utilities category of Fortune magazine’s “Most Admired Companies” for an unprecedented eight years in a row. The award is based on surveys from 15,000 top executives, directors, and financial analysts who judge companies on financial soundness, people management, quality of management, long-term investment, quality of products and/or services, innovation, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, and global competitiveness.

NextEra in Hawaii

Chairman and CEO Jim Robo said, “You can think about Hawaii as a postcard from the future of what’s going to happen in the electric industry in the United States. As renewable generation gets cheaper, as electric storage becomes more efficient and possible, all electric utilities are going to have to face this.”

It’s clear that NextEra has the resources to upgrade the grid, help Hawaii achieve its renewable energy goals, and create a model for the utility of the future. But to be realistic, they are a business who is buying HEI as an investment.

Analysts and energy experts believe NextEra will get a return on their investment by building and therefore controlling the energy sources.

“NextEra is very supportive of renewable energy that they own, they control and they can sell,” said Robert Harris, a Hawaii representative of The Alliance for Solar Choice, a national coalition of solar advocates. “And the difference is whether or not you want to have competition in the market. Do you want to have different sources of power coming on that allow us to get the cheapest price for the customer?”

The company has shown interest in Hawaii through various projects. Through its subsidiary Ka La Nui Solar, they bid on and won a contract with HECO to build a 15-megawatt solar energy farm in Waianae, Oahu. This solar farm is currently being evaluated by the Division of Consumer Advocacy to ensure fairness and appropriate pricing. NextEra is also interested in creating a large solar farm on Dole Food Co.’s land in Central Oahu as part of a public-private partnership with the state.

NextEra is very supportive of the proposed grid-tie undersea cable system that would bring renewable energy produced on the neighbor islands to Oahu, already having spent over $10 million to prepare for the construction as well as planning to purchase an almost 4-acre parcel of land to house the transmission system for the cable project. The sale of the site, which was the former Gasco manufactured-gas facility, is contingent on NextEra Energy getting the $650 – $800 million contract to build the undersea cable.

Many remain optimistic about the potential NextEra can bring to the islands. “I think this is a real exciting development for Hawaii,” said CEO of Blue Planet Foundation Jeff Mikulina. “This is an established mainland utility that’s going to bring some fresh ideas, some new talent and resources to Hawaii.”

Jeff Kissel, the former CEO of Hawaii Gas, agreed saying, “NextEra has a tremendous depth of skill and engineering. The thing we need most is energy-efficient solutions in Hawaii. That is the easiest way to save fuel. NextEra knows what works and doesn’t work.”

Executives from NextEra have said the right things so far. “This is not a case of cookie cutter solutions,” said Eric Gleason, president of NextEra Energy Transmission, who is a heavily involved in the Hawaii utility transaction. “This is a case of Hawaii’s needs requiring Hawaii solutions.”

Only time will tell how NextEra’s purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries will affect the people, the land, and the future of renewable energy here in Hawaii, but you can be certain that Haleakala Solar will be keeping a close watch.

For more solar news, be sure to sign up for our quarterly newsletter here: Haleakala Solar Newsletter

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Going Off Grid – Pioneers of Home Battery Technology In Hawaii

“We are completely independent of any changes in policy or whatever the utility company may throw at us. We are independent. We’ve become our own utility company and we control our energy consumption and our energy production, and we couldn’t be happier with this system – it’s amazing.” —Homeowner JD Duch

Haleakala Solar recently installed a solar/battery system that allowed Maui homeowners to become the first in Maui to disconnect from the electric company and run their own fully self-sufficient solar and battery energy system.

JD and Jonah Solar Pioneers

JD Duch and Jona Oana weren’t trying to accomplish anything groundbreaking when they started researching solar companies three years ago. Like many Hawaii residents, they were simply searching for a way to lower their electric bill, which cost between $550-600 every month.

JD and Jona began by researching different solar companies, eventually narrowing down to three choices. The two other solar companies provided quotes that were very similar, while Haleakala Solar Representative Anselm Pauls presented the homeowners with a quote that was actually higher than the other two. JD and Jona thought Anselm’s customer service stood out and didn’t want to make their decision solely based on price, so they asked Anselm to explain the difference between the systems being quoted. Anselm explained that Haleakala Solar could get them the same type of system the other two companies had offered for a similar price, but he had recommended a more efficient system that would better meet their energy needs.

After deciding to work with Haleakala Solar, the next step was to apply for approval from Maui Electric (MECO) and wait. First, they were told that circuits were full. Then they were told they would have to pay for an impact study and even with that they could be waiting another year and a half. This situation is nothing new for the people of Hawaii*. However, this time, the waiting period inspired a new idea.

A thought came up: What if they got completely off MECO’s grid? Then they wouldn’t need the utility company’s approval to get a solar system. But how? During the day, when there is lots of sun, the PV can provide all the electricity the home needs. But what happens when the sun goes down, or if it’s an extremely cloudy day? This is where the electrical grid comes in, providing energy when the photovoltaic system lacks the sunlight to do so itself. The answer was fairly simple: a battery could store energy and a 30kW propane generator would automatically turn on to charge the batteries on cloudy days. This system, charged by the PV panels, could provide electricity to the house when the PV panels weren’t. In essence, the battery storage system would simply replace what MECO was doing.

battery storage system

aquion battery for solar energy storage

This is where things got interesting. You see, in the history of Hawaii, a customer has never gotten a new photovoltaic system with its own self-sustaining battery back-up unit and then disconnected from the utility grid. Also, home battery systems are still a fairly new developing market. In fact, the batteries they finally decided on, from a company in Pennsylvania called Aquion Energy, were going to be the first ever to be installed in a residential home in Hawaii. In many ways, this was going to make JD and Jona true pioneers and one of the first early adopters of home battery technology in the state.

When JD and Jona first looked into getting a solar photovoltaic system, the goal was entirely about saving money. During the process of waiting to get their system and then discovering the alternative solution of a battery storage unit, this goal evolved. It became bigger than saving money… bigger than even themselves. It was about doing what was right. They readily admitted, when first looking into solar, issues with climate change and reducing carbon emissions weren’t originally in their thought process, since they would still be hooked up to a grid that burned oil. Getting the Aquion battery back-up system, though, changed that picture. They learned the Aquion Energy battery has no hazardous materials in its construction, making it truly “clean” energy. It is also maintenance free and has a useful life of 20 years. In the end, they decided even though their initial investment was going to be nearly twice what they originally were going to spend, it was well worth it.

Calculating how long it would be to pay off the system, if JD and Jona made monthly payments based on what they had been paying to MECO every month, coupled with government tax credits, they estimate they will pay off their system in 6-1/2 years. If it were just a photovoltaic system without the battery back-up unit and propane generator, the pay-off time would be closer to 3-1/2 years. Considering the system is warranted for twenty years, they would be getting roughly 13-1/2 years of electricity for free. Even if the electricity company never increased their rates during that span, their savings (calculated at $575 per month) would be roughly $93,150! Of course, if electricity rates go up, those savings go up even further.

Roughly a little over one year and one month after they decided to hire Haleakala Solar, JD and Jona’s self-sustaining system was installed. They tested their energy limits and reliability, running various appliances at the same time, and are confident that their system can handle their maximum energy needs, no problem. Jona said, “We didn’t have to change our lifestyle very much. We make more conscious decisions about when we use energy, but other than that, it’s fascinating that the system that we have in place can provide everything that we need to live comfortably. It’s also a great feeling to know that in the event of a natural disaster such as a tsunami or a hurricane, my family can feel comfortable and safe here in the home, knowing that we have power.”

If you are interested in finding out more information about the Aquion Energy battery system click here. If you have questions about a self-sustaining energy system and how you can get off the grid, call Haleakala Solar at 1-800-643-8000.

Jim Whitcomb with Jona and JD

“Just want to say something about Jim [Whitcomb, Haleakala Solar CEO] and his crew from Haleakala Solar. When we first started this process, you know, we shopped around and met with different companies. From the moment we met Jim’s salesperson, it made a huge difference in our decision on which company to go for. Jim’s an amazing man. He’s very committed and passionate about what he does, and it’s from his sales team to his electrical engineers who have spent countless hours installing our system to the different crews that came to put the panels on the roof, I mean, everyone was very professional and you could see that they have a passion for their work and the job that they do. He’s an amazing guy, and for the CEO of a company to personally come and meet with us, what 6, 7, 8 times, at night, to answer questions that we had for him, he always made us feel secure and assured us that everything we were doing would work and was the right thing to do.” —Homeowner, Jona Oana

*As of late October, there are 4,807 customers waiting for solar on Oahu. Hawaiian Electric recently announced that they are in the process of approving over 2,000 customers with another 2,500 to be approved by April 2015 and the remaining to be approved by December 2015. Its subsidiary MECO has an estimated 330 customers in the queue and most should be approved within the next five months.

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Employee Focus: Q&A with James Rudolph

Haleakala Solar Employee James Rudolph

Q:  Where were you born and raised? 
A: Detroit, Michigan (Go Lions!)

Q:  Any other personal info you want to share…
A: Married, and I have three children, Desta, Soren, and Masina.

Q:  What is your position at Haleakala Solar?
A: Director of Operations.

Q:  How long have you been here?
A: Since March 2012.

Q:  Describe what you do at Haleakala Solar?
A: I oversee Operations on Oahu and Kauai.

Q:  What do you like about working at Haleakala Solar?
A: The opportunity to be with a company that is really committed to making this Earth a better place for future generations.

Q:  What do you like to do on your spare time?
A: Nothing I love better than beach day with my family and catching waves with my camera or surfboard.

Q:  You’re going to be stranded on a deserted island.  You could bring the music of one artist.  Who would it be?
A: Bob Marley, of course.

Q:  You’re going to have a dinner party.  You can invite any three people in history, dead or alive.  Who would they be?
A: Any three of my ancestors who have passed on.

Q:  What secret skill or talent do you have that no one knows about?
A: I can play the banjo reggae style.

Q:  If you could have any super power, what would it be?
A: The power to teach everyone that peace and love is the only way.

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Best Chocolate Cupcake Recipe Under The Sun

It’s that time of year again… the Holiday Season. And since you are all probably getting ready for lots of holiday parties, we decided to share with you a recipe for the best chocolate cupcakes under the sun. Honestly… they’re the best chocolate cupcakes we’ve ever tasted!

The person making these delicious treats was kind enough to pass along the recipe (after much begging and pleading). This would make a great dessert complement to all the treats we normally get for Christmas.

best chocolate cupcake recipe

DOUBLE-CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES WITH BITTERSWEET FUDGE FROSTING

FROSTING:
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut up
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

CUPCAKES:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate (99% cacao), coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut up
1/2 cup boiling water
2 Tbsp. safflower oil
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao) or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

1. Place 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate and 3 tablespoons butter in medium bowl. Bring cream, sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt to a simmer in medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour over chocolate mixture; whisk just until chocolate mixture is melted, smooth and glossy.

2. Cool at room temperature, without stirring, 2 or 3 hours or until spreadable. (Or refrigerate frosting about 45 minutes, without stirring, making sure it doesn’t harden. Let stand at room temperature until of spreadable consistency.)

3. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk flour and baking soda in small bowl.

4. Place unsweetened chocolate and 3 tablespoons butter in small bowl. Add boiling water, stir until chocolate mixture is melted. Stir in oil.

5. Beat brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl at high speed 3 to 4 minutes or until light and thick. At low speed, gradually beat in melted chocolate mixture. Add flour mixture in two parts, beating just until blended. Stir in 1 oz. bittersweet chocolate. Spoon into muffin cups.

6. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely. Spread frosting over cupcakes.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Watch this video of the whole process:

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Haleakala Solar Shares Solar Knowledge With Students

Haleakala Solar shares solar knowledge with students of Hui Malama

The goal of Hui Malama Learning Center’s career / workforce development program is to establish a partnership with employers throughout Maui who are able to share / teach / train our youth in a variety of fields (culinary, construction, farming, etc.). Hui Malama will schedule an initial informational excursion for all students with that employer so that they have the opportunity to learn about that company. After the excursion, Hui Malama staff will chose 1 or 2 students to job shadow with that employer. We stress that this job shadowing opportunity is for skills building purposes even though it might not be our students’ interest at the time.

Haleakala Solar did an excellent job at presenting ALL aspects of not only their expertise in their field, but the reality of respect, humility, punctuality and all the real life decisions that these students will be facing very soon.

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All Watts Are Created Equal, But Not All Systems Are

An article by: Keith Hertz of Haleakala Solar

There is no denying that 1000W = 1kW = 1000W

The same holds true for a typical system size of 6200W = 6200W. So why choose one panel over the other? Haleakala Solar has installed panels from over 20 different panel manufacturers over the last 37 years. With over 12,000 installs you could say we have some experience (more so than any other Hawaiian solar company).

A simple web search of “Top PV Panel Manufacturers” will result in many Top 10 lists. All are relatively different. Some of these lists have repeat offenders but for the most part if you have your eye on a specific panel and you look far enough, chances are you will eventually find it in a Top 10 list somewhere. Once you do, you will have the piece of mind knowing you have selected the right panel… right?

After perusing PV manufacturer site after PV manufacturer site, it becomes apparent that almost every panel manufacturer out there is the #1 panel manufacturer. So what are you to do? Who do you trust? Are more expensive panels better?

Solar PV panels installed for Akaku Maui by Haleakala Solar

Situation Matters

If you have limited space on your roof, consider a panel with higher wattage density. These panels produce more watts in a smaller footprint. You may think this is the way to go with every situation however if cost is an issue, keep in mind higher density panels come with a higher price tag.

Remember, a watt is a watt, so if you need 7500w and have enough space, go for a standard density panel of 250W and use (30) panels. If space is not available consider the same 7500W system using (25) 300W panels. Both systems given the same architecture will produce 7500W. The last scenario might save you an additional 90sqft of roof space but usually cost you a little more because you will be getting the same 7500W but in a smaller footprint.

Panel Manufacturers History Matters

Sure, everyone seems to have a 25 year warranty these days. But what if the manufacturer isn’t around in 10 years? It’s important to choose a panel whose company will be around to service the warranty period. Not all manufacturers have a stellar financial forecast so do some checking and a little predicting.

Some manufacturers have even gone to the extent of offering 3rd Party Insurance good for 25 years just in case they go out business. This insurance gives their customers the peace of mind knowing they will be covered in the unlikely event their panels fail and they are no longer in business. I like these companies.

I subscribe to Homepower Magazine. Every two years they come out with a very comprehensive PV Module Specification spreadsheet. The latest list to come out was in 2012 and it has 53 panel manufacturers with 833 different panels. The list is complete with Model Numbers, Cell Types, STC and PTC ratings, Power Tolerance, Module efficiency, physical size, weight, etc… you get the point. It’s comprehensive.

My background as an Engineer pulls me into these details like a tractor beam. After reviewing the list for over an hour it appears very likely most of these panels would perform very similarly given they were all the same rated wattage. Say I took panels from five different manufacturers with the same rating and placed them on my roof. Would I be able to see a discernable difference in the output wattage in a blind test. The answer is NO. We’ve tried it. We have had eight different panel manufacturers on the same roof plane with the same size micro inverter for over two years. The LG, Sanyo, Samsung, Mitsubishi, Hyaundi, Sharp, SolarWorld and Canadian Solar all look the same when the numbers come in.

If the numbers look the same then how do we as a contractor decide which panel manufacturer to go with? It’s easy. Look at the warranty, salt mist rating and the price. You wouldn’t by a new $30,000 car without a good warranty and service plan so why buy a $30,000 solar system without a good warranty and service plan.

The largest contributing factor to the system efficiency is not the panels. It is the inverter. This is where the bottleneck occurs.

System Design Matters

Over the past 37 years we have come to realize the system design plays the most important roll in performance. By design we mean panel layout and inverter selection or architecture.

You can purchase the most expensive, most efficient panel on the planet but if the system architecture doesn’t share the same efficiencies then you’ve just wasted a whole lot of money.

System Architecture

There are two main system architectures (we have installed thousands of each) the string inverter verses the micro inverter. Once again a quick web search will show you that each technology is superior to the other. We install either depending on the circumstance. Here is a little Pro-Con list we’ve put together.

string inverter vs micro inverter

During the past several years we have moved further away from the string inverter architecture and on to the newer micro-inverter technology. This move is mainly due to system reliability and performance. We run a full service department and warrant our systems, which means we are liable if these systems are under performing.

Since the switch to micro inverters (Enphase), troubleshooting by our Service Department has become very easy and we have fewer and fewer production complaints from customers.

In the past if a customer lost a string inverter, we would receive a call as soon as they realized the sting inverter had failed because that meant the entire system failed. With micro inverters it’s usually Haleakala Solar Service Department informing the customer they need an inverter serviced because the customer didn’t notice the loss in production… at least not an entire catastrophic failure.

We have found upfront costs for the micro inverter architectures to be 5 to 10% more than traditional string inverter architectures. However, the added monitoring capabilities and long term system production have always surpassed the string architecture efficiencies. This then decreases the payback time and increases the return on investment. In recent years the costs associated with micro inverters have come down so this price discrepancy is now becoming smaller and smaller. So… in a nutshell, you either pay a little more upfront for Micro Inverters or get less efficiency in the long term and limited troubleshooting with string inverters.

Summary

Each customer is different. Each situation has design criteria that must be met. Very rarely is there a case where one size fits all in construction. My advice to investing in a good solar system is:

  1. Consider the panel placement and determine if higher density panels are required. If not, go with standard panels (1 high density panel watt = 1 standard density panel watt).
  2. Consider a panel manufacturer that will live up to its warranty (some have salt water exclusion clauses you need to be aware of here in Hawaii).
  3. Strongly consider the investment in Micro Inverters given their warranties, waterproof enclosures, system efficiencies and monitoring capabilities.
  4. Choose a solar contractor with a track record… a good track record. According to Forbes magazine 80% of small businesses fail within the first 18 months. The trend is your friend and we’ve already witnessed this struggle with PV Contractors in the Hawaiian Islands (mostly due to utility grid saturation). Your system warranties are only as good as the contractor who installs your system.

In the end, all solar power is good. It’s a never-ending free resource. I think Thomas Edison put it best in 1931. We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.

Have a Great Sunny Day,

Keith Hertz

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Blessing of PV/Battery System for Maui Home That Goes Completely Off The Utility Grid

Maui is bracing this weekend as Hurricane Ana makes its way through the island chain. Families are stocking up on supplies and tying down loose ends around the house. Many are planning, in the event they lose electricity… stocking up on batteries for flashlights, extra candles and even portable generators. One Maui family, though, isn’t worried about this blackout scenario. Why not? This family is completely energy self-sufficient. They don’t get ANY of their electricity from the utility company. At all. Not a single watt. So if power lines go down and their Wailuku neighborhood loses power, they might not even realize it. Well, until one of neighbors come over to ask if they can run an extension cord, that is.

Jim Whitcomb - CEO of Haleakala Solar

Jim Whitcomb
CEO of Haleakala Solar

On Thursday, October 16th, the Maui family had an official blessing with family, friends and many key members from Haleakala Solar, including founder and CEO, Jim Whitcomb. The blessing was done by Rev. Alika and all were gathered to celebrate the new state of the art PV/Battery system installed by Haleakala Solar. The homeowners waited over a year and still didn’t get approval from the utility company to install a photovoltaic system. After such a long wait, and lots of frustration, they decided to move ahead without MECO’s approval and go ahead and install the solar photovoltaic system along with a state-of-the-art Aquion battery storage system and back-up propane generator. Soon, they will officially be the first home in the state of Hawaii to disconnect from the electric company and run their own fully self-sufficient energy system. MECO is set to come in the next week to remove the electrical meter from their home.

The homeowners remarked, “This has been an exciting project, and we can’t believe it’s finally happening. Everyone that we’ve interacted with in Haleakala Solar has been passionate about what they do, from the employees all the way up to the big guy. And, that says a lot about a company. So, we’d like to thank you, Jim.”

How does this system work? In the simplest terms, electricity is generated with solar rooftop photovoltaic panels. The energy created is then fed into battery units. The batteries provide the electricity for the home. If not enough electricity is generated due to cloudy skies, for example, a back-up generator automatically kicks in and charges the batteries while simultaneously providing the household’s energy needs. Thus, the home is never out of electricity. Even if, say… a hurricane comes along and knocks out electricity to the rest of the island.

Maui Solar Photovoltaic Panels
Solar Photovoltaic and Battery Storage System
Solar Battery Storage Maui
battery terminal
Haleakala Solar Guys

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