Hawaii Solar Blog

Hawaii Ends Net Metering And Opens Door for Solar Energy Storage

Solar Energy Battery Storage

When one door closes, another opens. This saying holds true when it comes to Hawaii’s solar industry.

The Bad News

Citing unsafe circuits and grid disruptions as a couple of the technical and operational challenges the utility faces having the highest amount of solar per capita in the nation, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission ended net metering to new participants in October 2015. In its place, new customers choose from either grid-supply or self-supply options.

The grid-supply option is similar to NEM, allowing PV customers to export electricity to the grid for credits to their electric bill. However, instead of the full retail rate received from net metering, customers will be credited the cost of wholesale power, which is about half the average retail electricity rate. Wholesale prices range from roughly 15 cents per kilowatt-hour to 28 cents per kilowatt-hour depending on the island.

Under the self-supply option, PV customers with energy storage are eligible for an expedited review and approval of their systems in areas of high PV penetration. These customers can only export very limited amounts of electricity for a short duration and do not receive any compensation from HECO, but have the advantage of having backup solar power that can be used at night and in case of blackouts.

The Good News

While these new tariffs are much less favorable than net energy metering, here’s the good news: they open the door for technology and solutions that leverage battery storage and demand flexibility, ultimately reducing costs and increasing reliability for both the customer and the utility company.

Germany as a Renewable Energy Example

With the state’s mandate of reaching 100 percent renewables by 2045, Hawaii is certainly at the forefront of the clean energy movement, at least in the U.S., but there are other examples Hawaii can learn from.

One of these examples is Germany, which sees about as much sunshine as Alaska, but ranks second in cumulative installed photovoltaic solar capacity with 39.7 GW (previously ranked number one but was recently surpassed by China). Over the last two years, the country has added roughly 11 and 4 GW of wind and solar capacity respectively. In 2015, almost 33 percent of Germany’s electricity demand was met by renewable sources, and renewable energy penetration in the power supply is already greater than 100 percent in two German states.

Germany’s energy revolution, known as Energiewende or “energy transition,” is being largely driven by individuals rather that utilities. As of 2012, 35 percent of German renewable capacity was owned by private individuals.

“The Germans are ahead not because they have better sun, but because they set up a policy framework in which everybody can invest in renewables and come out ahead,” said Institute for Local Self-Reliance State and Communities Energy Program Director John Farrell, one of the principal architects of the groundbreaking, just-passed Minnesota solar standard. “It was not tilted toward people who have tax liability or upfront capital. It made it easy to become a renewable energy investor, democratized ownership, and created strong and resilient political support for renewables.”

Solar Energy Storage Solution for Hawaii

A key to the renewable energy industry in Germany is not just utilizing solar power but combining solar with battery storage. This allows customers to store excess energy and enjoy the benefits of solar power 24-hours a day, regardless of the weather. In addition, you no longer have to worry about power outages or rising electric rates.

A major provider of energy storage, accounting for about half of the residential market in Germany, is a company called Sonnen. In January 2016, Sonnen expanded to the U.S. with a new headquarters unveiled in Los Angeles and a rapidly growing distribution network.

HECO’s self-supply tariff provides an excellent opportunity for Sonnen’s battery system. After meeting HECO’s energy storage requirements in February, Sonnen smart energy storage systems are available through certified installer Haleakala Solar.

“Adding energy storage to solar PV installations in Hawaii is now financially beneficial for residential customers with a payback of as little as 6.5 years. Our smart energy management software allows homeowners to maximize their solar production during the day, storing excess solar for use at night or when utility rates increase,” according to Boris von Bormann, CEO of sonnen U.S. “The sonnenBatterie is a key to energy autonomy enabling customers to produce and store 100% of the energy they need for daily life or for backup power in the event of a grid outage.”

Sonnen vs. Tesla

Sonnen is not the only company seeking to empower customers through energy storage. Tesla is a sexy, household name that gained a lot of attention when it entered the energy storage market. Here are the main advantages of Sonnen:

Since its founding in 2008, Sonnen has built eight generations of its all-in-one residential storage product, shipping its 10,000th system earlier this year. This knowledge is priceless and has resulted in a superior battery system.

“No one has ever installed as many batteries as we have on the energy storage side and we have historical data on them,” von Bormann said. “So all of the systems online — we monitor them, we data-mine, we understand what the customer needs, we understand how they drive them.”

This understanding allows Sonnen to promise a 10-year guarantee and a 10,000 cycle guarantee that enables the all-in-one battery to offer the lowest cost per stored kWh on the market.

“You basically look at the fully installed cost, and you divide that by the number of cycles you can use it, times the capacity. And there we have an easy 10 cent [per kWh] advantage over everyone else in the market because of what our total system installed cost is and our cycle warranty.”

Along with Sonnen’s experience and reliability, Haleakala Solar was also attracted to Sonnen because its battery is customizable. Where Tesla’s home battery Powerwall is has a standard 6.4 kWh energy storage capacity with the ability to add on multiple batteries, the sonnenBatterie eco has a usable capacity of 4 kWh to 16 kWh, which can be upgraded in 2 kWh steps to easily fit each customer’s individual needs.

Solar Is Here to Stay

Since its start in 1977, Haleakala Solar has been around for many changes in the solar industry. While the end of net metering represents a speed bump, it just might end up backfiring on the utilities, encouraging customers to gain energy independence with solar energy storage… and possibly disconnect from the utility company altogether.

Contact us today to find out more about all of Haleakala Solar’s energy storage solutions.

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Maui Sugarcane Land to Become Renewable Energy Crops

Maui Sugar Cane Lands

With the January announcement that Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S) will cease sugar operations at the end of 2016 and transition to a new diversified agricultural model, many have been wondering exactly what will happen to the 36,000 acres used for growing sugar cane on Maui. There has been talk of creating smaller farms and implementing varied agricultural uses, potentially including food and energy crops, cattle, and the development of an agriculture park where residents would be able to grow crops.

Alan Oshima, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric, recently confirmed to Pacific Business News that he met with Chris Benjamin, president and CEO of Alexander & Baldwin, the parent company of HC&S, where the two CEOs discussed the possibility of using some of the Maui plantation land for renewable energy crops or projects.

“There are different kinds of crops we have looked at in the past and there might be some new technologies available we could look at. We promised to continue discussions,” said Oshima.

Another organization, Hawaii Renewable Resources LLC, is also interested in Maui’s potential to produce renewable energy. State lawmakers are considering bills that would allow the state to issue special purpose revenue bonds to assist Hawaii Renewable Resources with renewable natural gas and electricity production.

The mission of Hawaii Renewable Resources is to offer sustainable food production and renewable energy solutions. If SB2369 passes, Hawaii Renewable Resources would use the funds to grow energy crops that would produce renewable natural gas, carbon dioxide, recovered organic composts, and recovered irrigation water on former sugar plantation land as well as build and operate a natural gas production facility on Maui. The compost and water leftover from making the renewable natural gas would be given to farmers to help increase local food production. Since the public will benefit from this alternative energy option, without investment or operational risk to the State or counties, reaction so far has been favorable.

Tran Chinery, a spokesperson for HC&S, would not comment on the plans proposed in the bill.

In a separate bill, HB2593, Hawaii Renewable Resources is asking for $30 million in bonds to develop a facility for food crop, animal feed, and renewable non-fossil fuel production on Oahu.

With over 80 percent of Hawaii’s energy coming from petroleum, electricity rates remain among the highest in the nation, so Hawaii has set a goal to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2045. Supporters applaud efforts to help Hawaii become self-sufficient, increase local food production, and help the islands reach its renewable energy goals.

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Earth Day Events In Hawaii

Earth Day 2016

This year will mark 46 years since the very first Earth Day celebration which mobilized the public to unite in support of our planet and ignited the environmental movement. The theme for Earth Day 2016 is “Trees for the Earth” (#Trees4earth). The goal is to plant 7.8 billion trees, one for every person, by the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, 2020.

Why Trees?

Over 15 billion trees are lost every year because of land development, deforestation, and bad forest management. To put it into perspective, 15 billion trees is equivalent to around 48 football fields every minute.

Trees combat climate change by absorbing the carbon dioxide (CO2) building up in our atmosphere and releasing oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced from driving the average car 26,000 miles and provides enough oxygen for 18 people.

Trees make our air cleaner by filtering out pollutant gases and particulates, trapping them with their leaves and bark. The dust level in the air can be as much as 75 percent lower on the sheltered side of the tree compared to the windward side.

Trees reduce air temperature. Three trees placed strategically around a single-family home can cut summer air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent. Along with providing shade, further cooling occurs when water evaporates from the leaf surface. It has been found that areas with heavy tree cover are often 9 degrees cooler than urban areas.

Trees save water and help prevent water pollution. Shade from trees slows water evaporation, allowing lawns to absorb more moisture. Trees also reduce surface water runoff from storms, thus decreasing soil erosion and the accumulation of sediment and pollutants in our streams and oceans.

Trees create an ecosystem to provide habitat and food for birds and other animals.

Trees have also been known to boost property value, increase business traffic, reduce violence as well as heal and reenergize.

Other Ways to Help the Planet

Sign the #ParisAgreement Climate Petition. At the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, over 190 countries agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This Earth Day, world leaders have been invited to the United Nations to sign the agreement, and the petition will urge them to keep their word.

Go Meatless on Mondays. The meat industry accounts for 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, emitting over 36 billion tons of greenhouse gases annually. In fact, the amount of energy used to create one calorie of meat is almost twenty times the amount of energy as one plant calorie.

Reduce your food waste and start a compost. Over one third of all food produced around the world for human consumption is wasted every year. Only buy what you need and freeze or give away any excess. Recycle your produce scraps by composting and returning nutrients back to the soil.

End junk mail. The average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail every year and 44% of that mail goes straight to the landfill unopened. Millions of trees are chopped down to create this junk mail, 28 billion gallons of water are wasted to produce and recycle junk mail, and the creation and shipping of junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 9 million cars each year. What if you could prevent this completely and declutter your mailbox by removing your name from mailing lists? Find out more here.

Go solar. According to the EPA, the average household emits approximately 20 metric tons of carbon pollution annually. A typical residential solar system will eliminate 3-4 tons of carbon emissions every year, roughly the equivalent of planting over 100 trees.

Earth Day 2016 Events in Hawaii

Enjoy these Earth Day festivities near you.


UH Mānoa Earth Day
Promotes existing sustainability efforts on-campus and seeks to inspire students, faculty, staff, and administration to become more involved in environmental work out in the community.
When: Friday, April 22 from 10:00am to 4:00pm
Where: UH Mānoa’s Campus Center

Mauna to Makai (Earth Day)
The Waikiki Aquarium’s 9th annual Earth Day celebration provides educational activities for both children and adults and focuses on the impact we make on water sources.
When: Saturday, April 23
Where: The Waikiki Aquarium
Cost: Free admission

Earth Day Cleanup and Ultimate Sand Sifter Competition
Volunteers check in at Waimanalo Beach Park at 9:00am and, from there, head to nearby locations to remove debris. After the clean up, the Ultimate Sand Sifter Competition invites participants to come up with a solution to remove microplastic marine debris. Winners receive a $1,000 prize and all entrants get a goodie bag.
When: Saturday, April 30
9:00am – Check in
9:30am to 12:00pm – Clean up
12:00pm to 2:00pm – Live music, games, and more
Where: Waimanalo Beach Park


2016 Maui Earth Day Festival
Celebrate the land and come together as a community to enjoy live music, information booths, a silent auction, healthy food booths, eco-friendly products, and a healing zone of massage therapists, intuitive healers and body workers. A keiki zone of music and games as well as a petting zoo and horse back riding will be available for children.
When: Sunday, April 17 from 10:00am to 6:00pm
2:00 to 3:00pm – Inspirational educational hour on “How to co-create a healthy future for Maui? Challenges and Solutions”
2:00pm – Keiki parade
Where: Ke‘opuolani Park Amphitheater, behind the Maui Nui Botanical Garden, across from the War Memorial Stadium
Cost: $7 entrance fee, kids free


Earth Day Rising VI
Celebrate the earth featuring workshops and panels on sustainable living, agriculture, and conservation, keiki on the farm activities, seed and plant giveaway, clothing swap tent, free county compost bin distribution, vendor and info booths, music, and food.
When: Sunday, April 24
Where: Malama Kauai Community Farm in Kalihiwai Ridge
Cost: $15 advanced donation online, $25 donation at door, keiki 16 and under free

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Earth Day – Yesterday and Today

Senator Gaylord Nelson - Founder of Earth Day 1970

“Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures.”
-Senator Gaylord Nelson
founder of the first Earth Day in 1970.


Every year on April 22, the world comes together to honor our planet and shine a spotlight on environmental concerns. Earth Day is currently the largest civic event in the world, celebrated by over a billion people in 192 countries.

Earth Day History
Back in the 1960s, politicians’ focus was on development and economic progress. Laws to protect the environment were virtually nonexistent, so factories could pollute the air and dump toxic waste into lakes and rivers without punishment. Many residents drove big, gas-guzzling cars as a symbol of their status, and hardly anyone knew about, let alone practiced, recycling. As a result, this country’s beautiful natural areas were being destroyed, and pollution was viewed as a necessary consequence of prosperity.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson started Environmental MovementRachel Carson’s best-selling book ‘Silent Spring,’ published in 1962, is often credited with kick-starting the environmental movement. ‘Silent Spring’ caused a booming post-war America to stop and think about the dangers of applying DDT and other non-selective pesticides. “These sprays, dusts, and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests, and homes — nonselective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad,’ to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams, to coat the leaves with a deadly film, and to linger on in the soil — all this though the intended target may be only a few weeds or insects. Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life?” asks Rachel Carson.

Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin, was elected to the U.S. Senate the same year ‘Silent Spring’ was published, determined to convince the government that the planet was at risk. In 1963, Nelson introduced legislation to ban DDT and not one single member of Congress joined him. Nelson was able to convince President Kennedy to join him on a 5-day, 11-state “conservation tour” in hopes of making the environment a national political issue, however the press was uncooperative, preferring to cover foreign policy over environmental issues.

Even though Washington was slow to respond, citizens increasingly began to share Nelson’s concerns. In 1969, two major ecological nightmares grabbed headlines – the largest oil spill in United States waters at the time occurring in Santa Barbara and the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio becoming so contaminated that it actually caught on fire. Nelson was returning from the oil spill devastation when he read about anti-Vietnam War “teach-ins” that were taking place on college campuses around the United States. The idea inspired a new strategy: “If we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force the issue onto the national political agenda.”

The First Earth Day
Earth Day 1970 Senator Nelson selected 25-year old student activist Denis Hayes as National Coordinator and California Republican Congressman Paul McCloskey to serve as co-chair. Together, with an army of student volunteers, Nelson’s Senate staff, and media support, rallies were organized in Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and over 1,000 communities across the nation on April 22, 1970. A whopping 20 million people participated in the very first Earth Day, including 10,000 high schools, 2,500 colleges, and everyone from housewives and farmers to scientists and politicians.

The first Earth Day represented a turning point for many, as environmental issues became a community concern and residents grasped the effects of oblivious consumption and waste. When polled in May 1971, 25 percent of the U.S. public named protecting the environment to be an important goal, a 2,500 percent increase over 1969. In turn, Congress responded by making amendments to the Clean Air Act, creating the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and forming the EPA within three years of Earth Day 1970.

6th graders march at first Earth Day 1970.

6th graders march at first Earth Day 1970.

Balboa Park Earth Day 2011

Balboa Park Earth Day 2011

Earth Day Goes Global
Earth Day went global in 1990, with Earth Day Network, a nonprofit organization started by Denis Hayes, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and elevating environmental concerns onto the world stage.

The Importance of Earth Day Today
While the first Earth Day was focused on joining different groups of people together within the United States, today’s message is to think globally and act locally, meaning that no matter where you live, we are all environmental stewards of the planet. According to Hayes, “Important environmental issues that are facing us–climate change, everything from threats to the hydrological cycle and nitrate cycle, mining, devastation by over-fishing of the world’s oceans, acidification of the world’s oceans, the trade in endangered species, and on and on–are all things that no one country can control or cure by itself.”

Take Action
So, since the biggest problems are ones that can’t be solved by any one nation (let alone one person), what CAN you do?

Easy things to do today!
Help NASA raise awareness with a #GlobalSelfie – On April 22, 2014, Take a selfie out in nature, include the tag #GlobalSelfie, and upload on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram or Google+. NASA will then combine each of these individual photos and create the “blue marble”- a mosaic of the earth formed with all the collected images.

Plant a tree – Over a 50-year lifespan, one tree provides $31,250 worth of oxygen and $62,000 worth of air pollution control. Bonus if it’s a native Hawaiian tree.

Pump up your tires – Over 700 million gallons of gasoline are wasted in the U.S. annually because tires are not inflated properly.

Eat meatless – Reducing meat consumption conserves fresh water, saves topsoil, and even reduces air pollution.

Mother EarthPledge your commitment – Help Earth Day Network reach their goal of 2 billion acts of green. Even better, post your commitment on social media and encourage your friends to get involved.

Inspired to go green beyond Earth Day?
Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth – This can save up to 8 gallons of water.

Reduce your waste – The average American generates 4.38 pounds of trash per day. Start a compost, separate your recyclables, and remember to take your reusable bags to the store.

Buy local – 42% of carbon pollution emissions in the U.S. are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use.

Go solar! – Since electricity rates in our state are so high, solar power systems in Hawaii have a total payback of 3-4 years.

See even more tips on Going Green.

going green

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Will Hawaii Reach Its 100% Renewable Energy Goal?

Hawaii renewable-energy-goal

The third annual Maui Energy Conference was held on March 16-18 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Hosted by the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development and Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB), the 2016 conference was attended by more than 300 of the brightest minds in the energy sector. Much of the discussions focused on Hawaii’s renewable energy goal of 100 percent by 2045 and how, or whether, the state will reach this goal.

So far, Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) has reported record-high renewable energy use in 2015 of a combined 23.2 percent for Big Island, Maui County, and Oahu. This represents an increase from 21.3 percent in 2014 and exceeds Hawaii’s 2015 renewable portfolio standard (RPS) goal of 15 percent.

The 2015 RPS was achieved with several renewable energy sources, including waste-to-energy, biomass, geothermal, hydro, wind, biofuels and solar, both utility-scale and customer-sited rooftop systems. Hawaii Island blazed the way with 48.7 percent of customer electricity use coming from renewable resources in 2015. Maui County, including Molokai and Lanai, reported 35.4 percent and Oahu produced 17.2 percent of its electricity from renewables.

Future RPS goals are 30 percent by 2020, 40 percent by 2030, 70 percent by 2040 and 100 percent by 2045. Although Hawaii achieved its 2015 RPS goal with flying colors, the end target of 100 percent by 2045 has some concerned.

Kauai Island Utility Cooperative CEO David Bissell estimates that in order for Kauai to be 100 percent renewable with today’s technologies, it would take three times as many rooftop solar systems, battery storage infrastructure and agricultural land for utility-scale photovoltaics and biomass crops. This equates to 5,000 acres and a $1 billion investment, with debt-service payments of up to $70 million.

Kauai is the only island not served by HECO. KIUC has around 35,000 member customers and is already supplying 40 percent of its demand using renewable energy. In January 2016, KIUC hit a milestone when renewables met an average 77 percent of the island’s energy demand and, during peak solar hours, briefly spiked to 90 percent renewable on four separate days. These achievements are credited to the liberal use of solar power and battery storage. On a normal day, the renewable energy profile on Kauai is 62 percent solar power, 8 percent biomass, and 7 percent hydroelectric.

Bissell pointed out that although Kauai, a rural island of 65,000 residents, could reach the state’s goal within the next 30 years, it’s a different story on the island of Oahu, which is home to nearly one million and the bustling capital city of Honolulu.

“The sheer infrastructure and scope that would be required to go to 100 percent on Oahu is really impossible under today’s technology,” Bissell revealed at the Maui Energy Conference. “There’s just not enough land there. It’s got to come from biofuel or other technology or from other islands.”

“No one is going to get to 100 percent without upending the utility model,” encouraged Bill Ritter Jr., former governor of Colorado and founder and current director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. “It’s absolutely doable. It’s part of what the future of the world needs to look like.”

Boris von Bormann, CEO of sonnenUSA, believes that Hawaii can meet its 100 percent renewable energy goal through storing solar power, and Haleakala Solar Inc. has partnered with sonnen to make this happen.

“At sonnen, we envision a world where clean and affordable energy for all is available. We’re doing it in Germany now, with our sonnenCommunity of households using sonnenBatterie storage with solar, and we see a pathway to a clean energy future in Hawaii thanks to innovative utility tariffs, market adoption of clean technology and key distribution partnerships with local solar installers and contractors,” stated von Bormann.

HECO representatives voiced their support of the 100 percent goal but stayed firm on their intent to use liquefied natural gas as a bridge fuel to get to a 100 percent renewable future. Hawaii Gov. David Ige does not agree with the use of LNG, believing that investments in LNG infrastructure would be better spent on renewable energy projects.

NextEra Energy, the company that has offered to buy Hawaiian Electric Industries for $4.3 billion, was a major sponsor of the conference, however they did not participate on a panel or have any visible representation at the Maui Energy Conference. The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission is expected to make a decision on NextEra’s offer this summer.

“The conference panelists presented many innovative local solutions to bring 100 percent renewable energy to Hawaii in the most efficient way possible, without requiring a Mainland takeover by NextEra,” said Stanley Chang, consultant with Earthjustice.

Because Hawaii is helping to pave the way, the journey to a 100 percent renewable future will not be easy. There will be bumps and roadblocks along the way, complete with differing opinions on the best way to get there. However, it’s safe to agree that, as a renewable energy leader in the country, Hawaii already has so much to be proud of.

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Take Advantage of Solar Tax Credits

solar tax credits

Tax policies have played a crucial role in the advancement of renewable energy in the United States. The Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which is a 30% federal tax credit available for solar PV and solar water heating systems, has been hailed as the “cornerstone of continued growth of solar energy” by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

History of Federal Tax Credit

The ITC was first implemented from January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2007 as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. With unprecedented growth including the amount of solar capacity installed in 2007 being double the capacity installed in 2006, the commercial and residential solar ITC was extended through the end of 2016.

The federal tax subsidy is recognized for stabilizing the solar industry and providing an incentive that has enabled annual solar installation to expand by more than 1,600 percent since the ITC was first applied in 2006.

Current Status of Federal Tax Credit

The solar industry had been preparing for the federal tax credit to expire in 2016, but the 30% credit has been extended until 2019. The credit will then reduce to 26% in 2020, 22% in 2021, and 10% in 2022.

According to GTM Research, the ITC extension will result in $40 billion in incremental solar investment between 2016 and 2020. “The ITC extension currently written into the omnibus spending bill will result in a 20-gigawatt annual solar market in the U.S. by 2020,” said Shayle Kann, senior VP of GTM Research. “At that rate, more solar will be installed each year than was added to the grid cumulatively through 2014.”

State of Hawaii Tax Credit

In addition to the federal tax credit, Hawaii residents and business owners can take advantage of the state’s renewable energy tax credit, which has existed since 1976.

Hawaii’s tax credit was intended to provide a credit for each solar system installed, but the word “system” acquired new meaning when micro-inverters were successfully introduced into the market in 2008. Due to the structure of the micro-inverter system and unclear wording that could interpret a system according to the number of inverters or connections to the electricity system, homeowners claimed each micro-inverter as a separate system and even installed systems with multiple connections to the electrical grid for no apparent electrical purpose, in order to apply for more than one state tax credit.

To avoid this confusion and stop the abuse of renewable energy credits while still encouraging solar adoption, a law was passed in 2013 that redefines a solar energy system according to its total output capacity, or the amount of kilowatts generated.

The Hawaii state tax credit for PV system installations is currently set at 35%, up to $5,000 per system, on a single family residential property. Solar water heater installations on single family homes also qualify for a 35% tax credit, up to $2,250.

With a sunny climate year-round coupled with among the highest electric rates in the nation, the savings associated with solar energy are attractive enough to justify a solar installation investment, but add the 30% federal and 35% state tax credits in and it’s a no-brainer. Contact Haleakala Solar today to find out about the best solar solution for you.

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SolaTrim Provides Haleakala Solar With Aesthetics Solutions for Hawaii HOA and AOAO

New HOA and AOAO policies for Solar Installers in Maui

Haleakala Solar has been installing solar photovoltaic panels and hot water systems since 1977, one of the oldest solar companies in the state of Hawaii. Through the years there have been more and more demands for PV (photovoltaic systems). The HOA (Home Owners’ Association) and AOAO (Association of Apartment Owners) recently came out with new policies for solar installation in regards to aesthetics and protection. One of these included a mandate to include skirting around the solar array which would be more aesthetically pleasing by covering the panel framework.

Because of HOAs new aesthetic guidelines, Haleakala Solar began looking for a cost-effective and easy-to-install solution that would be in line with the HOA solar installation guidelines. The Haleakala Solar team opted to come up with their own solution and designed a skirting system that was aesthetically pleasing, built to last, and met with the HOA guidelines. However; with the high demand of solar photovoltaic installations for apartments and condominium complexes they found that the time it took to make and install the company-made skirting, it was time-consuming and expensive and ended up lowering the overall operational capacity. It was time for a new solution.

SolaTrim To The Aesthetic Rescue

solar panel skirtingThe head engineer of the Wailea Community Association was introduced to a skirting product called SolaTrim by Tony Racanelli, SolaTrim’s rep in Hawaii. After learning about the product, he asked Haleakala Solar to take a look at the SolaTrim skirting solution to see what they thought. The team at Haleakala Solar came to discover that the SolaTrim skirting solution addressed many of their needs for a robust, aesthetically-pleasing, yet cost-effective skirt that would meet the requirements of HOA and AOAO.

Haleakala Solar began using SolaTrim for their HOA and AOAO customers and were able to eliminate many costs and save a lot of time associated with manufacturing their own skirting. These savings meant the ability to save money for their customers. Not only is aesthetic skirting for solar arrays pleasing to look at, the skirting also protects the panels from unwanted pests that may build nests under the array. The SolaTrim skirting was found to be sturdy, even in tropical storm conditions. SolaTrim states that their skirting system has been tested for military-grade applications and is designed to be sturdy enough to last for the lifetime of the solar photovoltaic rooftop system… no matter the weather.

To learn more, be sure to visit the SolaTrim website today.

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What Is Photovoltaic?

ten seconds of sunlight provides enough energy

Enough sunlight falls on the earth’s surface every hour to meet world energy demand for an entire year. This sunlight can be converted into electricity through a method known as the photovoltaic (PV) effect.

Solar panel history

Although solar technology was used as far back as 7th century BC and there are records of ancient Romans utilizing the sun to warm their houses in the 6th century AD, nineteen-year old French physicist Alexandre Edmund Becquerel is credited with discovering the photovoltaic effect in 1839 while experimenting with a solid electrode in an electrolyte solution. Silver chloride was placed in an acidic solution and illuminated while connected to platinum electrodes. During the experiment, Becquerel found that certain materials would produce small amounts of electric current when exposed to light. The word “photovoltaic” was formed by combining light (photons) and electricity (voltage).

How do solar photovoltaic panels work?

The basic unit of a solar photovoltaic panel is a solar cell (aka PV cell). Each photovoltaic cell is made up of at least two layers of semi-conducting material, usually silicon, one of the most common elements on earth. Boron is added to one layer of silicone, resulting in fewer electrons and a positive charge, while the other layer is dosed with phosphorous, which adds extra electrons creating a negative charge. These positive and negative layers create an electric field.

Sunlight is composed of packets of energy called photons. These photons contain various amounts of energy corresponding to various wavelengths of light. When photons strike a solar cell, they may be reflected, absorbed, or pass right through. When enough photons are absorbed by the negative layer of the solar cell, electrons are knocked loose from the atoms in the negative semiconductor material. These freed electrons naturally migrate to the positive layer creating a voltage differential.

If electrical conductors are attached to the positive and negative sides, forming an electrical circuit, the electrons can be captured in the form of an electric current, forming electricity. Since the electricity generated by solar cells is direct current (DC), it is then sent to an inverter that converts the power into the same alternating current (AC) used by the appliances in your home and the local distribution grid.

Each individual solar energy photovoltaic cell produces only 1-2 watts. To increase power output, photovoltaic cells are electrically connected to each other and mounted in a weather-tight support structure called a solar module. These modules are then wired up in serial and/or parallel with one another into a solar array to generate the desired voltage and amperage output required to meet the business or home’s energy needs.

Solar power can be used to lower your electric bill or, with battery backup, even enable you to get off the electric grid and not have to depend on the utility company. The size of the solar photovoltaic array, inverter, and battery required for a PV installation depends on a number of factors, including the amount of electricity you use, the amount of sunlight received, and peak electricity demand at any given time. Contact one of our friendly associates at Haleakala Solar to determine the right photovoltaic system for you.

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A Fresh Look At The Progress of the GEMS Program

GEMS solar loan program

A while back, we reported about the creation of the state’s Green Energy Market Securitization (GEMS) program, and we thought it was time to circle back and take a current look into the program’s status.

GEMS was enacted under Act 211, Session Laws of Hawaii 2013, as a financing program that would provide low-cost capital to make solar photovoltaic systems and other clean energy improvements more affordable and accessible to underserved communities including non-profits, renters, and lower-income homeowners who may not qualify for a loan to install solar. The program is considered a key component of reaching Hawaii’s clean energy goals, currently 30 percent renewable energy by 2020, 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 (previously 70 percent clean energy by 2030 when GEMS was passed), and 30 percent reduction in 2008 electrical energy consumption by 2030.

In its first phase, GEMS is concentrating on solar PV technologies because of the islands’ strong solar market and low technology risk. Nine companies have already been approved to work on installations for GEMS program solar projects. Eleven companies are pending approval, one company was denied, and another company withdrew its application.

As of November 2015, there have been a total of about 150 applications received since the program first began accepting applications in March 2015 for nonprofits and June 2015 for individuals. Twelve applications were submitted from non-profits and small businesses, of which five have been pre-qualified, four are pending review, and three have been denied. GEMS is working on evaluating over 2.3 megawatts of solar project leads for pre-qualified nonprofit loans. Out of 106 consumer loan applications, 47 were pre-approved, 18 pending, and 35 denied.

In a new report, the United States Department of Energy recognized Hawaii, along with seven other states, for “choosing to develop and grow their clean energy markets, despite the ongoing pressure to reduce government spending.” Hawaii was specifically praised for its efforts to shift away from its dependence on oil as part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative and its plan to bring clean, affordable energy to a broader demographic through the GEMS program.

Some have criticized the program for being slow (since no solar systems have been installed yet) and complained that the program is funded by the “Green Energy Infrastructure Fee” paid by all utility ratepayers. However, the DOE pointed out that the charge is less than $1.50 a month and is offset by lowering the existing public benefits fee.

Ultimately, GEMS is capable of financing the installation of over 44 MWs of energy, helping up to 30,000 underserved Hawaii consumers reduce their energy expenses, and supporting Hawaii to achieve its clean energy mandates.

To find out more about the GEMS program, click here.

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Federal Solar Tax Credits To Be Extended

solar tax credits extended

On Friday, December 18, 2015, right before lawmakers adjourned for the holidays, Congress passed a spending bill making the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) available for several more years and extending the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind power and other renewable energy technologies. President Obama has voiced support of the extensions and is expected to sign the bill into law.

The solar Investment Tax Credit, which was scheduled to step down to 10% on January 1, 2017 and expire entirely for individuals, was extended for as many as eight years as part of a $1.15 trillion spending bill. The solar tax credit for utility-scale and commercial solar projects was extended until 2024 with a gradual phase out starting in 2020. The solar tax credit for residential rooftop solar will stay at 30% for three more years, and then decline incrementally through 2021, and remain at 10 percent permanently beginning in 2022. The bill also allows for solar PV projects to claim the solar tax credit for the year in which they begin construction.

“By extending the solar investment tax credit for five years with a commence construction provision and a gradual ramp down, bipartisan members in both Houses have reestablished America as the global leader in clean energy, which will boost our economy and create thousands of jobs across America,” said Solar Energy Industries Association president and CEO Rhone Resch.

The 2.3-cent wind PTC will also be extended through 2016. Projects beginning construction in 2017 will see a 20 percent reduction in the incentive, and the PTC will continue to fall 20 percent each year through 2020.

Geothermal, landfill gas, marine energy, and incremental hydro will all receive a one-year PTC extension and, if developers choose, the technologies will also qualify for a 30 percent ITC. The bill expanded grants for energy and water efficiency as well.

In exchange for the tax credit extensions that Democrats wanted, Republicans got what they hoped for with an end to a 40-year ban on the export of crude oil.

“While lifting the oil ex­port ban re­mains atrocious policy, the wind and solar tax credits in the Om­ni­bus will eliminate around 10 times more car­bon pollution than the ex­ports of oil will add,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

According to GTM Research, the solar ITC extension will help the U.S. have a 20-GW annual solar market and propel nearly 100 cumulative gigawatts of solar installations by 2020, resulting in $130 billion of total investment. That’s enough to power at least 19 million homes and represents 3.5 percent of U.S. electricity generation, which is up from 0.1 percent in 2010.

Article Source:
Green Tech Media

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