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Employee Focus: Q and A with James Aruda

Haleakala Solar Maui Employee Focus James Aruda

Question: What is your full name?
Answer: James Aruda.

Q: Where were you born and raised?
A: I was born here on Maui. 1968.

Q: What is your position at Haleakala Solar?
A: Currently I’m the RME and VP of Operations for Haleakala Solar.

Q: What does RME stand for?
A: RME is Responsible Managing Employee and what that entails is… because I am a licenced contractor in electrical, I can either run my own business or I can sign permits for another company or entity.

Q: So you basically sign off on all the electrical permits for Haleakala?
A: Yes, correct.

Q: How long have you worked at Haleakala Solar?
A: 3 years.

Q: What is your marital status?
A: Been married for 18 years… my wife’s name is Jennie. I have two wonderful kids. My daughter… her name is Jamie Lee and she just turned 13. And I have a son. His name is Jonah and he’s currently 20.

Q: What do you like about working at Haleakala Solar?
A: The awesome thing about working here at Haleakala Solar is Jim, our CEO and owner. Great guy. He’s such a smart businessman and also he’s an innovator. He’s always looking for the newest, latest technology in our industry… trying to be ahead of the competition at all times. He’s a real go-getter when it comes to business.

The staff, the employees, the line employees… really great people. It’s interesting, I’ve worked for other companies and this company is really unique… it’s not only we know each other as co-workers but… it has that family atmosphere. I really enjoy working here and you know what’s neat is when we have new hires come in, everybody seems to feel that camaraderie. Everybody comes in, always says good morning, how’s everything… it’s really neat.

Q: That’s great. You don’t always get that in other companies.
A: Yeah, it’s rare.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: (laughs) Uhh, shoots. (thinks) I like to watch movies. I like action movies… comedies. I like to read and learn. Try new things. Do work on the house and build things.

Q: What kinds of things do you like to read?
A: I read a lot about electrical, mainly… my field. I’m like Jim, self-driven, try to stay ahead as far as technology, what is the latest and greatest on the market. Always trying to improve.

Q: And now for something a little different. If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island, what kind of music would you bring?
A: Uhhh…wow. (thinks long) You know actually, I like local, Hawaiian music, I would say. I also like Christian music too. Those are the two main ones I would listen to.

Q: What type of food would you bring?
A: Whoo, man… (laughs)

Q: I know it’s hard to bring it down to just one…
A: Yeah, that would be hard… I like a LOT of different…Uhhh. (thinks) Well, I like local food, Hawaiian food. Yeah.

Q: What secret skill or talent do you have that no one knows about?
A: Whooo… what kind of secret talents? Drawing… I love to draw. Yeah, I used to draw all the time… ever since small kid time.

Q: What kinds of things would you draw?
A: Pencil drawing mainly. Anything… cartoon characters… anything. When I was a young kid… I loved it… and I was pretty good at it too. (laughs)

Q: Were you a comic book reader?
A: No, not so much a comic book reader. I used to like to watch the tv shows… Marvel, Superman, Batman… things like that. I loved to draw them. I liked how they were drawn… the way they did the muscles and everything. I thought that was pretty cool.

Q: If you could have any super power, what would it be?
A: Flying (laughs). If you think about it… strength, that would be great, but if you could fly, you could go anywhere.

Super Powers - Haleakala Solar

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Hawaiian Electric Companies Release New Energy Plan To PUC

Back in April, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) gave Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) 120 days to come up with a comprehensive strategy that would meet customer needs of reduced rates and more access to renewable energy, especially solar photovoltaic systems. (If you want the whole story, read it here.)

HECO has responded with plans to reduce residential electric bills by more than 20%, obtain over 65% of the companies’ energy through renewable resources, and nearly triple the amount of rooftop solar to equal over 900 MW by the year 2030.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Hawaii imported 93% of its energy in 2012, resulting in the highest electricity prices in the nation. Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc., and its subsidiaries, Hawaii Electric Light Company, Inc and Maui Electric Company, Limited, supplies electricity to approximately 450,000 customers or 95% of Hawaii’s population through its electric utilities.

Hawaii currently uses 18% renewable energy, higher than its 15% by 2015 state goal. HECO’s plans would increase consolidated renewable content of electricity to approximately 67%, surpassing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) of 40% by 2030.

Hawaiian Electric recognizes that Distributed Generation (DG) resources, particularly rooftop solar systems, are key to achieving Hawaii’s clean energy objectives. Going forward, HECO is basing their approach to DG on the following principles:

– Policies should lead to a sustainable set of customer options for DG
– The Companies must be proactive in responding to customer demand for DG
– All initiatives must ensure the safety and reliability of the grid for all customers
– Rates governing DG interconnections must fairly reflect the value of the power provided from and to the power grid, and must fairly allocate the fixed costs of the grid to all customers

heco's solar plansHECO wants to create “a clear, open planning process” so both solar companies and customers will know how much solar can be added to the grid every year.

In order to accommodate increased customer demand for rooftop solar, HECO plans to work on modernizing the grid to ensure safe operating conditions and reliable power for all customers. Hawaiian Electric is implementing a smart grid program with applications that help customers monitor and control their energy use as well as provide system operators with accurate energy demand and generation information. The smart grid is already being tested in Oahu but needs to be customized to the needs of each island. Full implementation of the smart grid is expected to be complete on Maui County and the Big Island by the end of 2017 and by the end of 2018 on Oahu.

Energy storage, including batteries, is another important component of the utilities’ business strategy and will “be used to increase grid flexibility, operability, and reliability in a rapidly changing operating environment.”

Energy needs not generated by renewables will be met through liquefied natural gas (LNG), a lower cost alternative to costly oil.

“This plan sets us on a path to a future with more affordable, clean, renewable energy,” said Dick Rosenblum, Hawaiian Electric president and CEO. “It’s the start of a conversation that all of us – utilities, regulators and other policymakers, the solar industry, customers and other stakeholders – need to be a part of, as we work together to achieve the energy future we all want for Hawaii.”

The PUC will immediately begin an evaluation “to determine the extent in which the HECO Companies’ action plans are consistent with the Commission’s April orders and the State’s energy goals.”

If you want to read the HECO documents for yourself, visit here.

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Storm Tips For Solar System Owners

storm tips for solar energy system owners Hawaii

The recent double-whammy threat of hurricane Iselle and Julio reminds us that Mother Nature can be unpredictable and that it’s important to prepare ourselves when in the face of oncoming menacing weather. Haleakala Solar has been in the solar industry in Hawaii for over 37 years, through many tropical storms and hurricanes, and near-misses. For the most part, the weather we experience in Hawaii is mild and pleasant; however, at times we experience tropical storms or even hurricanes which may bring hazardous conditions of heavy rains and destructive winds. In preparation for these storms, along with stocking up on supplies and securing loose items in the yard, it’s important to know some facts and get some tips as a solar PV system owner during severe weather.

Solar photovoltaic panels are attached to the roof securely and are meant to withstand gusty wind conditions of a category 2 hurricane. When winds begin to exceed 105 mph structural damage to homes and businesses may begin to occur. The systems installed by Haleakala Solar are rated to withstand winds of even greater capacity than the norm; however, with flying debris from these types of rip-roaring winds, damage to the panels may occur, such as cracked glass. In 37 years we have NEVER had a panel come loose.

Unless you have an off-grid system (not tied into the utility grid), you may turn off the PV system to prevent a power surge from the grid. We suggest that you isolate your PV system by turning off the PV disconnect and your PV breaker. This will help isolate and protect your PV system in the event of a power surge. Enphase Microinverters have integral surge protection, greater than most traditional inverters; however, if the surge has sufficient energy, the protection built into the microinverter can be exceeded, and the equipment can be damaged. It’s important to call your insurance company to confirm that your solar is indeed covered under your hurricane policy.

Once the high winds and heavy rains have passed, you may turn the PV system back on; however, if you suspect that damage has occurred, it is advisable to contact Haleakala Solar for a complete inspection of the PV system before powering up the system. If you find damage did occur to the PV panels, inverters or wires, DO NOT touch the paneling or wiring since you may get electrocuted.

If you DID NOT turn off the system and your area loses electricity, your PV system will turn itself off automatically. Be aware that the PV modules, even when turned off, can still hold electrical current. Once power has been restored, the PV system will turn itself on automatically. At this point, check your online monitoring system (if applicable) to check the electrical output of the system and make sure it is registering at normal levels.

We hope everyone stays safe during this hurricane season. If you have any other questions not covered by the above, please call us at our state-wide toll free number, 643-8000, or drop us a line by using our contact form, and we’ll be sure to give you the answers you seek.

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Announcing Our Grand Opening of New Oahu Location

We are pleased to announce the expansion of our Oahu operations with our new Halawa Valley warehouse located at 99-1265 Halawa Valley Street. The site is on 20,000 square feet of land with 16,000 square feet of warehouse and office space. We are especially excited about the extra office space and plan to move our King Street showroom and employees into the larger Halawa facility later this year.

Oahu Solar WarehouseTo celebrate our grand opening, Haleakala Solar will host a blessing at the Halawa site on Tuesday, September 9 at 2pm. This expansion in Oahu enables us to continue providing added solar services to Oahu residential and commercial customers.

Along with our new warehouse location in Oahu, we also have a showroom in Maui located at the Maui Mall, a showroom in Kauai at Kukui Grove Center, and our main headquarters located in Kahului, Maui – which is also a large warehouse space with ample new offices just renovated and opened last year. Haleakala Solar is one of Hawaii’s oldest solar companies and was recognized in 2013 as one the country’s largest solar integrators by Solar World magazine.

In addition to installation of Solar Hot Water and Photovoltaic systems, Battery energy systems, and solar air conditioning systems, we’re also able to maintain and service all of those systems, including ones not installed by Haleakala Solar. We also help businesses save money through our Energy Conservation program, which provides energy savings through efficient use of lighting, cooling, and energy management systems.

Founder and CEO, James Whitcomb commented, “Our investment in Oahu and throughout Hawaii shows Haleakala Solar’s commitment to the Hawaii solar energy market. Every homeowner and business owner deserves to generate their own power and control their own energy destiny.”

We invite you to join us in our celebration of the Grand Opening and blessing on Tuesday, September 9th at 10am at 99-1265 Halawa Valley Street on Oahu. We hope to see you there!

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Chef Sheldon Simeon Recipe: Bibingka

Chef Sheldon Recipe: Bibingka

This recipe comes to us courtesy of one of our solar residential customers, Chef Sheldon Simeon of Migrant Restaurant in Wailea. He is Filipino and this recipe is a favorite Filipino dessert with a funny name, Bibingka. Enjoy! Try it out and let us know how it comes out.


  • 2 lb. Mochiko Flour
  • 4 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 12 oz Evaporated Milk
  • 12 oz Coconut Milk
  • 6 oz Water
  • 8 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup Butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place all Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder in standing mixer, mix together until all incorporated. In a separate bowl mix Evaporated Milk, Coconut Milk, Water, Eggs, and Butter. With mixer on low speed slowly incorporate wet ingredients into dry. Mix on low for 3 minutes. Stop mixer and scrape sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula. Turn mixer on med. speed and blend until completely smooth. Pour batter into a 2 inch hotel pan that has been sprayed with Vegelene. Bake for 45 minutes.

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New Electric Vehicle Charging Station on Maui

EV station Haleakala Solar MauiA new electric vehicle (EV) charging station is available for public use in the Kahului Minit Stop parking lot off Dairy Road.

Maui is currently home to over 450 plug-in electric vehicles, which represents a tripling of growth from the 150 EVs in 2012. However, with 110,000 to 120,000 gasoline-powered cars on the road, there’s certainly much room for improvement.

Haleakala Solar is proud to support the growing need for charging stations around the island. 46.3 million barrels of petroleum were imported for Hawaii’s total energy use over the past year. The transportation sector consumes about 60% of that petroleum, so the adoption of EVs will greatly help reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels. Plus, as our energy grid gets powered by more renewable sources, the electric vehicle will become greener too!

Electric Vehicle Station From Haleakala Solar

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Freedom From Dirty Energy

Freedom from Dirty Energy

Free·dom [free-duhm]
1. the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.
2. exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
3. the power to determine action without restraint.

Freedom is something we often take for granted. One of the greatest benefits of living in America is the amount of freedom we have, something people in a lot of other countries do not have. In Hawaii, though, there is one type of freedom that most people aren’t aware of. The freedom to choose the way they power their homes.

For decades, the only way we could affordably bring electricity into our homes was through the electric company. All other ways were not only more expensive but usually inconvenient as well. Well, finally there is a way to power our homes that is not only easy, but due to incredible tax breaks, even more affordable than purchasing through the utility companies. Solar energy.

Solar hot water can take care of all your hot water needs (one of the biggest energy hogs) and solar photovoltaic (pv) can fill your electrical needs. You can even purchase energy storage systems to supply you with electricity when your pv system isn’t producing enough.

Take control of your life and cut back your usage of dirty, fossil fuels. Solar is not only clean, but will actually save you money in the long run and put YOU in control of how your energy is generated. Which is another type of freedom. The freedom to determine how much you will be paying for your electricity every month.

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Ten Tips For Living Green

think green go green

TEN TIPS for Living Green

Here are some simple tips and ideas on how you can live more sustainably and save money at the same time.

  1. Use Energy Efficient Appliances

    The major appliances in your home- refrigerators, washer and dryers, dishwashers, etc. account for a large chunk of your monthly utility bill. We’re not saying to go out and get rid of all your appliances and buy new ones right now, but when the time comes they need replacing, it would be smart idea to consider purchasing energy efficient models. Some current energy-efficient refrigerators could actually use less than half the energy of a model that’s 12 years old or older.

  2. Unplug Your Charger

    It’s amazing the amount of devices, tools etc. we use today that need recharging. Smartphones, tablets, and portable tools are just a few. Once people are done charging their devices, often they will leave the charger plugged in the wall. Unfortunately, chargers keep pulling power whenever they’re plugged in and all that energy is wasted. Best thing to do? Unplug the charger from the socket when charging is done.

  3. Improve the Efficiency of Your Existing Water Heater

    Well, we debated putting this one on here, but in all honesty, it is one of the best ways to cut down your energy bill. Tankless and solar water heaters in of themselves are great, but simple changes to your existing setup can cut your energy bills by 25 percent or more. Reduce the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees, wrap it in a water-heater insulating blanket and insulate the first 3 to 6 feet of hot and cold water pipes. These changes don’t take a lot of time or money, but could make a real difference in the energy you use.

  4. Compost

    Composting is a great way to turn food and lawn wastes into rich mulch. What’s great about this is the idea taking something that’s considered (literally) trash and turning it into something valuable. Here are a few tips on how to get started:

    • Find an area in your yard with bare earth to start your composting pile. Having your pile on open earth would allow worms and other beneficial organisms to aerate the compost.
    • Gather a pile of lawn and garden waste onto the bare area. Be sure to mix “brown” materials like leaves and shredded paper with “green materials such as grass clippings. Having both ensures better results.
    • Keep your compost pile damp but not wet. Moisten materials as you add them to your pile. This will help ensure your pile will not dry out which would slow down the process.
    • Do not compost meat, bones or fish scraps. Stick with food scraps and yard waste only.
    • Turning your pile as often as possbile helps to speed up the process. Aerating the pile in this way adds oxygen which helps the process to work better.
    • Cover the pile. You can use wood, plastic sheeting, old carpet for example. Covering helps retain moisture and heat, two elements essential for composting.
  5. Switch to CFL or LEDs

    CFL (compact flourescent lights) and LED (light-emitting diodes) use up to 80 percent less energy than incandescent light bulbs and can last up to 25 times longer. Out of the three LEDs are generally the most efficient and have the longest life span but also the most expensive.

  6. Get a High-Efficiency Showerhead

    You can lower your water heating cost by getting a high-efficiency showerhead. Doing this can save up to 3,000 gallons of water per year. This equates up $50 in energy costs and roughly 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. The showerheads are specially designed to conserve resources while still providing like a luxurious-feeling shower.

  7. Buy Local Produce

    Many communities have a local farmer’s market. They are usually fresher (fruits and vegetables shipped from outside the state and country can travel up to two weeks before it arrives in grocery stores. As a bonus they are often cheaper than produce found in stores and many are organically grown as well.

  8. Use Rechargeable Batteries

    It’s amazing how many AA batteries one might use in the home. From remote controls to flashlights to computer mice. I recently went around my home and found over 40 AA batteries being used. Rechargeable batteries are more expensive than their non-rechargeable counterparts, but last many, many times longer. Just remember to unplug the charger after the batteries are recharged.

  9. Install a Drip Irrigation System

    Like many of the other tips listed, this one requires an investment up front, but delivers savings over the long run. If you are out in your yard watering your plants on a regualar basis, not only will installing a drip system save on your water bill, but plants will do better with the consistent watering and you will save time as well.

  10. Develop Better Energy Saving Habits

    This is something that really doesn’t cost anything other than a little bit of effort. Turn off the lights when leaving a room. Turn off the computer when not in use. Take shorter hot showers. Turn off water when brushing or shaving. Developing good energy saving habits may not seem like a whole lot over the short run, but if enough people do it over the long haul, it could add up. More than anything, it’s about developing the right mindset in helping our environment.

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Go Solar – Conserve Water

stream of water

You already know that solar power reduces your energy bill and our dependence on fossil fuels, but did you know that going solar also saves water?

Water is used throughout traditional energy production: to pump crude oil out of the ground, remove pollutants from power plant exhaust, generate steam that turns turbines, flush residue after fossil fuels are burned, and cool power plants. In fact, fossil-fuel-fired thermoelectric power plants consume over 500 billion liters, or more than 132 billion gallons, of fresh water per day in the United States alone.

“The most important use of water for electricity production is for cooling,” says Adam Schlosser, an author of the study and the assistant director for science research at MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. “The benefit of renewables like wind or solar is that you don’t need to boil water for steam to spin the turbines, and then you don’t need water to cool the steam. That cooling process is removed, saving a lot of water.”

According to the EPA, each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of thermoelectric generation requires the withdrawal of about 25 gallons of water, however only an average of 2 gallons of water is actually lost to evaporation for each kWh consumed.

If the average residential meter in Hawaii uses 615 kWh per month, that’s 1,230 gallons of water used in addition to your normal water needs. That may not seem like a big deal since that water use doesn’t show up on your water bill, but water consumption is something we all need to be aware of now – before water scarcity becomes a problem here in Hawaii.

The Hawaii Water Conservation Plan written in February 2013 shows that “over 90 percent of the state’s drinking water comes from groundwater sources, while much of the water used for agricultural irrigation comes from surface water sources. It is estimated that public water systems supply approximately 205 million gallons per day (mgd) of potable water across the state. Water used for agricultural irrigation is estimated to be well over 350 million gallons per day. In some areas of the state, demand for water is approaching the sustainable limits of supply, and these demands are expected to increase in the future. In order to sustain and protect our water for future generations, we must strive to be as efficient as possible in all of our water uses.”

Normally, when folks think about going solar, they’re thinking about their wallets, not the environment. When they do think about saving the planet with their solar panels, they’re probably happy about the incredible amounts of carbon pollution they’ll be avoiding by switching to clean energy. But now, you can add conserving water as one more reason to go solar.

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The Advantage of Enphase Microinverters

Enphase Microinverter M190

Inverters convert direct current (DC) electricity generated by solar panels into alternating current (AC). The alternating current is then fed into the electrical grid. There are, in general, two types of inverters used in most solar systems, “central” and “micro” inverters.

Microinverters have several advantages over central inverters. Microinverters are connected to each individual solar panel in the system. Central inverters combine all of the power from multiple solar panels in one central location. With microinverters, if one panel is defective or has coverage issues, such as dirt, shading or even slight orientation mismatch, it will not affect the rest of the panels. With central systems, if one panel has issues, it could alter the energy output of other panels, greatly reducing the effectiveness of the entire system.

The development of microinverters has greatly increased the efficiency of solar systems and the company on the leading edge of microinverter technology is Enphase. One of the main reasons Haleakala Solar uses Enphase microinverters is because of it’s reliability, specifically its robustly-engineered hardware, integral for withstanding harsh climates of Hawaii.

Haleakala Solar was recently featured in an article on the Enphase website. Check it out here.

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