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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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Project: Kihei Akahi Solar Hot Water

Solar Hot Water Project for Kihei Akahi Complex

The solar hot water project Haleakala Solar installed for the Kihei Akahi condo complex consisted of replacing the existing boiler with new induced draft gas water heaters as well as installing 60 new 4′ x 10′ Sun Earth solar hot water panels with a 3,500 gallon storage tank for EACH of the buildings. So, in total, there were two 3,500 gallon tanks with two new induced draft gas water heaters and 120 total solar hot water collectors installed.

The scope of the project required the use of a large crane. The purpose of the crane was to place each 3,500 gallon storage tank, which weighed 4,938 lbs., into position while avoiding existing trees, a MECO electrical transformer, and the existing building. The tanks needed to be placed perfectly on the concrete slab and footings that were measured and poured precisely to specs. Precision was crucial in getting everything to line up and fit nicely between all of the obstacles. We also used the crane to hoist all of the collectors onto the roof.

This video shows how we installed one of these hefty 4,938 lb. storage tanks using a large crane:

installing akahi hot water solar

solar hot water panels in Kihei Akahi Maui

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Blessing of the New State-of-the-Art Off-Grid Battery System

First Family In Hawaii To Disconnect From The Utility Grid

Kahului, Maui – Haleakala Solar, Inc. announces the blessing of its latest and most advanced, off-grid solar system in the state of Hawaii. The system fulfills the complete expectations and desires of the homeowners to safely and conveniently become independent from the utility company at a cost comparable to grid pricing.

The system is designed to provide 100% of the home owners electricity needs 24/7. In the event the batteries need to be charged, or the homeowner needs more electricity than the solar provides, a propane generator automatically turns on to charge the batteries. The generator is sized to be able to handle 100% of the home’s energy needs and charge the batteries at the same time. The homeowners will never be without electricity even after a hurricane or power blackout. The system is designed to function automatically.

The system utilizes the Aquion battery which is the most advanced battery in the world. The Aquion battery has no hazardous materials in its construction, is maintenance free, and has a useful life of 20 years. These features combine to make battery systems cost effective for any use. The system stores 60 KWH of electricity and has 17.6KW of inverter capacity which is enough to run the entire household electrical load at once. High efficiency PV panels charge the system throughout the day and store energy for nighttime use. Haleakala Solar is the oldest solar company in Hawaii. Since 1977 the company has installed over 11,000 solar systems. The company is a vertically integrated full service organization. The company has a full time service department servicing all of its customers as well as any other solar system that may need repair. The company specializes in PV, solar hot water, solar swimming pool heating, solar air conditioning, energy conservation products, and battery systems. The products are available for both residential and commercial clients.

On Thursday October 16, 2014 at 4:00 p.m., the Reverend Alika from Keawalai Church at Makena Landing will conduct a Hawaiian blessing of the new facilities. The homeowners will be having their electric meter from MECO removed and go 100% off-grid for their electricity soon after the blessing.


View news article from the Maui News:

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Jim Whitcomb Discusses Hawaii Solar Future On Akaku

Hawaii’s Solar Future Is At A Crossroads

Jim Whitcomb deiscusses Hawaii Solar future and HECO energy planAkaku’s TV program, Crossroads, put an important spotlight on the proposed HECO energy plan that the PUC will be deciding on in the near future. The show hoped to motivate the public to express their comments and thoughts about the new energy plan to the PUC, who is accepting public comments until Monday, October 6th. The public will be very much affected by what happens with these new policies and yet a lot of the public don’t even know that anything is being decided right now. So, that’s why this discussion about this topic is so important.

The host of the show, Lucienne DeNaie, sat down with three special guests in the Hawaii energy field, Brad Albert from Rising Sun, Daniel Grantham, Energy Committee Chair of Sierra Club Maui, and Jim Whitcomb from Haleakala Solar, the longest standing solar company in Hawaii.

Special guests on Crossroads TV show discuss Hawaii Solar and HECO

Topics covered in depth were:

• the provision to charge solar system users a higher fee
• the need to upgrade the grid to accommodate more clean renewable energy, and what that takes in terms of funding and infrastructure
• what does solar industry need to survive and thrive?
• were solar industry reps invited to the recent (August) MECO public briefing?
• Is it likely that more solar users will go off grid? What are the factors that would influence that?

Here is a short segment of the show. Jim Whitcomb expresses his thoughts about the HECO energy plan and suggests a good solution.

It was quite an informative program leaving you eager to hear more. All of the guests made excellent comments and gave informed insights, urging the public to email the PUC with their concerns about Hawaii’s solar future. You may view the entire show by visiting this link: Crossroads.

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PUC Requests Public Comments on HECO Energy Plan

Dear neighbors, friends, family, and residents of the Aloha State,

The Hawaii solar industry needs your help! PUC is now accepting comments from the public that will be taken into consideration when they decide about HECO’s new Energy Plan. Not quite sure what to say? Letters to the editor of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser have been rolling in, with the vast majority expressing disappointment and disbelief with HECO’s plan. For your convenience, here are “Letters to the Editor” that ran in the Star-Advertiser in the past few weeks. Shows you how powerful the voices for solar can be together.

Deadline for submitting public comments is this Monday, October 6.

In May, HECO submitted an integrated resource plan that Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) rejected, saying that the utility has a “continuing void in developing a sustainable business model and strategic vision.”

The PUC gave HECO four months to come up a better plan for Hawaii’s energy future. They demanded the utility integrate more renewables, provide easier access to solar, phase out costly power plants, utilize tools such as energy storage and demand response, as well as invest in a modern smart grid that would improve reliability and accommodate greater quantities of clean energy.

In late August 2014, HECO unveiled their new plan and have been quick to point out highlights: 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. This may sound great on the surface, but many solar supporters are angry and confused over the proposed “improvements.”

For one thing, HECO is planning to charge all customers a monthly fee of $50 to $61 for grid maintenance, while also adding an additional $12 to $16 charge for customers selling solar electricity back into the grid through net metering. To offset the monthly fee, HECO would lower its charge per kilowatt-hour, which would benefit non-solar customers the most. In addition, HECO would reduce the net metering payment from the retail rate of more than $0.30/kWh currently to the wholesale rate of $0.16.

Customers often turn to solar energy to save money, and HECO is taking away these financial incentives. A Big Island homeowner, who invested in solar to use the savings for her kids’ college fund, wrote that she was “disgusted” that Hawaii Electric Light Co. is proposing to charge them more for using less energy. Another customer said the proposal would raise his monthly electric bill by 220%. “Since I have PV that I installed under NEM, and it produces just enough electricity to balance what I use each month and hence pay just the minimum connection charge, I will not benefit from any proposed reduction in retail rates, and HECO wants me to pay an additional charge [per] month to connect to the grid,” the customer said.

HECO also talks about tripling rooftop solar by 2030, but this figure actually represents a significant slowdown compared to historic growth, where Hawaii’s solar industry doubled installations every year from 2008 to 2012.

“Nearly tripling over 16 years is about a 7 percent increase each year. That is very meager compared to the very strong growth we are seeing in the last five years,” said Isaac Moriwake, an attorney at Earthjustice. “It’s far from clear whether 7 percent a year is going to sustain a vibrant solar industry and allow customers to take control of their energy future.”

We agree with the Star-Advertiser who says, “Tell this utility, with its public franchise and highly compensated executives, that this plan doesn’t go far enough in meeting its public responsibility.”

As the PUC is evaluating HECO’s plan, here’s where the good news come in. They want to hear your thoughts on Hawaiian Electric’s proposed changes, and we are humbly asking you to let your voice be heard.

Deadline for submitting public comments is this Monday, October 6.

You can submit your comments in the following ways:
1. Email hawaii.puc@hawaii.gov with the following subject line:
– “Public Comment – Docket No. 2014-0192 – DGIP – [Your Name]” if submitting comments on the DGIP
– “Public Comment – Docket No. 2014-0183 – PSIPs – [Your Name]” if submitting comments on the PSIPs
2. E-Filing
3. First-class mail to the PUC at 465 S. King Street, Room 103 Honolulu, HI 96813
4. Hand delivery to the PUC during normal business hours of Monday – Friday between 7:45 am – 4:30 pm

Hawaii is leading the way to a clean energy future and we can’t let anyone stand in our way. Thank you for taking the time to tell HECO you deserve better!

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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
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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions
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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