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Good News For Solar Customers Put On Hold By HECO

Hawaiian Electric Drops Solar Freeze in Hawaii

Hawaiian Electric (HECO), which has been delaying approvals for customers waiting for solar system approvals, has reached an agreement with the Public Utilities Commission to open up the grid. The agreement means that HECO cannot delay nor deny applications unless there’s a serious safety issue.

Randy Iwase, Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission stated, “They’re supposed to take care of you, if you’re in line. They told us that in a letter back in October of last year that those in the que will be taken care of, will be connected.” During the negotiations, Iwase reminded HECO that it needed to keep its customers “best interest” in mind.

In a filing a month ago, HECO admitted that it’s now safe to increase solar capacity to as much as 250-percent. For months HECO claimed it would not be able to accommodate new solar systems into the grid due to “circuit saturation” and safety issues. This new statement gave a glimmer of hope to customers who had been put on hold, some for over a year, waiting for their systems to be approved by HECO before they could move forward with installation.

Four points were agreed upon. One of them is the PUC isn’t going to respond to a motion put forth by HECO a few weeks ago asking the commission to approve a lower buy back rate, the price HECO pays to purchase electric back from its customers. The utility giant said they would approve all those on the waiting list for solar projects if they got approval for the lower buy back rate (called Schedule Q). It was during this time they admitted the safety of adding up to 250-percent more capacity to the grid.

The agreement between the PUC and HECO means that HECO cannot delay nor deny applications unless there’s a serious safety issue. “If HECO can establish that they have reliability, technical or safety factors, such as you’re going to over-saturate the grid, yes they could deny because there are issues of safety there,” said Iwase. If HECO cannot prove there are safety issues, as stated in this new agreement, the project cannot be delayed.

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President Obama Pushes To Extend Solar Tax Credits

obama solar tax credits 2016Earlier this month, President Barack Obama released his 2016 budget proposal, which includes a 7% increase in clean energy funding along with $4 billion allotted to encourage states to accelerate their carbon reduction plans.

“Our nation thrives when we are leading the world with cutting-edge technology in manufacturing, infrastructure, clean energy, and other growing fields,” said President Obama in his budget message.

Obama’s proposed budget, which still must be approved by Congress, involves extending the solar tax credits on the federal level which benefits the solar industry and other clean energy industries.

$4 Billion for States to Increase Emission Cuts

The administration is finalizing guidelines that would cut down carbon dioxide emissions from power plants nationwide. The new fund would be available to any state that is trying to lower their emissions faster or more than the government mandates. States could use the capital to finance clean energy technologies, create incentives for businesses to increase their energy efficiency, and improve low-income communities that face “disproportionate impacts” from the affects of climate change and environmental pollution. Hawaii already has our Clean Energy Initiative of 70% clean energy by 2030 in place, so we are most likely ahead of the curve.

45% Proposed Increase in Solar Funding

The budget proposal requests an overall total of $336.7 million for the federal government’s solar energy technologies program within the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. This $336.7 for the solar program would include $62 million for photovoltaic R&D, $67.3 million for balance-of-systems cost reduction, and $48.4 million for concentrating solar power.

The Department of Energy requested $29.9 billion, $2.5 billion more than the amount enacted for 2015, to focus on making the electric grid more resilient and reducing methane emissions from natural gas systems.

Permanent Wind and Solar Tax Credits

Obama’s budget, which still must be approved by Congress, also calls for the permanent extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar energy and Production Tax Credit (PTC) used by the wind industry. The ITC, which was introduced in 2006, enables solar developers to write off up to 30% of the development costs of solar projects once projects come into service. Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), credited the ITC for helping the solar industry boost U.S. solar capacity from 680 MW to 13 GW, offset over 20 million metric tons of damaging carbon emissions into the air every year, and increase employment by more than 85 percent over the past four years. Under the current plan, the ITC is scheduled to drop from 30% to 10% at the end of 2016.

Hawaii Solar Tax Credit for PV Battery Backup

While Obama is trying to extend the solar tax credit on the federal level, Hawaii is considering a bill that would give a tax break especially for PV battery backup systems, since currently battery systems qualify for tax credits only when installed with PV systems. H.B. 212, which was introduced by Rep. Scott Nishimoto of the Hawai‘i State Legislature, establishes a nonrefundable income tax credit for “equal to twenty-five per cent of the actual cost of each battery backup system installed or the cap amount determined in subsection (b), whichever is less,” according to the bill. As of February 12, 2015, the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee unanimously recommended the measure be passed with amendments.

We certainly live in a historic time for energy and solar power. At Haleakala Solar, we are excited to see what the future holds for PV and look forward to sharing important solar news with you. If you’re interested in staying updated, please connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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HECO Net Metering Plan Summary for Solar PV Customers

On Tuesday, January 21st 2015, The Hawaiian Electric Companies’ filed Docket No. 2014-0192 in a motion for approval of NEM program modification and establishment of a transitional distributed generation program tariff (TDG). If approved by the Public Utility Commission, the customers of HECO, MECO and HELCO will see significant changes in world of distributed generation, DG (roof-top photovoltaics).

There are pros and cons to the suggested motion depending on which side of the fence you stand. In the long run it will provide both the Utility and Consumer an avenue to grow. The allotted PV circuit space will increase from 120% to 250% of Gross Daytime Minimum Load (GDML). However, with the increase in circuit penetration comes the drawback of reduced return on investment (ROI).

Based on the results of technical inverter testing, it was found the grid can take many more times the current level of Distributed Generation (DG). In the past the Utilities have been reluctant to allow their customers the benefit of roof-top solar touting the extreme safety concerns they had with any increase DG. Although there were no recorded instances of toasters catching fire due to inadvertent transient over voltage conditions, MECO, HECO an HELCO stood united in their sizing constraints and lectured about the possibilities of danger.

Now that the testing has been concluded, Hawaiian Electric is happy to announce they will clear the queues for those who have been waiting for PV and allow them the benefits of solar… ONLY if the PUC approves the modifications to the program. That’s right, although it has now been deemed safe, it is only safe if there are shared cost benefits to the utility. Without the PUC’s approval, the existing sizing constraints will remain in place.

Under the proposed plan a new accounting practice will be implemented. Currently, for every kW sent to the Utility, full price is paid and credited to the customer’s account. Under the new plan, customers will roughly receive half of what they receive today. It’s a little more complicated as the credit applied is equal to the Base Fuel Energy Charge plus the Energy Cost Adjustment but when it all shakes out, if MECO’s rate is now $0.38/kWh the customer would receive roughly $0.19/kWh from the utility. For Oahu, HECO’s rate is now $0.36/kWh so the HECO customer’s would receive roughly $0.18/kWh from the utility. These rates fluctuate with the price of oil.

All current NEM customers will be grandfathered and remain NEM customers until changes to the account occur. Which means, if an existing NEM customer were to sell their home and change the account holder, the new account holder would be switched to the Schedule Q program.

Hawaiian Electric expects system sizing to decrease. The ROI pencils out higher for systems sized only for daytime usage when power is instantaneously used by the loads in your house. Power goes where it is needed the most so if your refrigerator is running, power from your PV system travels straight to the refrigerator before ever checking into the utility. Therefore, the customer realizes gain from the full production of the system instead of getting halved by the utility.

Customers with Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) and Leases will need to be very aware of their situations. Under the new program, these agreements do not pencil out for the 100% offset of their utility bill unless the price of oil sky rockets increasing the Base Fuel Energy Charge.

For customers wishing to have maximum savings (zero out usage) on their utility bill, system sizes will need to be increased by 50% to 70% depending on their current lifestyle. Knowing when power is consumed is crucial in proper sizing of the system. Once this motion is passed, night time usage should be doubled when calculating system size as the utility takes half. This doubling of night time load increases system size and expense therefore decreasing the Return on Investment.

ROI under the Current NEM agreement ranges from two to four years. ROI under the proposed Schedule Q will remain the same for those purchasing PV for only daytime usage but will increase to five to seven years for those wishing to mitigate 100% of their utility consumption.

Hawaiian Electric has given a 60 day deadline to the PUC. We anticipate a conclusion sometime around March 21st. For those customers interested in roof-top PV under the existing NEM program, it is suggested they submit their NEM applications as soon as possible. Hawaiian Electric will honor all submitted NEM applications prior to the passed motion. Once the motion is passed, all new applications will be filed for Schedule Q.

Hawaiian Electric Net Metering Plan Pros and Cons

For more information, Solar Consultants may be reached at (808)643-8000 toll-free throught the state of Hawaii.

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EV Charging Stations JumpStart Maui

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

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

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

Haleakala Solar poses with Mayor Arakawa for JumpStart Maui

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

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Renewable Energy Storage System – Energizr

JLM Energy - Energizr Battery Backup

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

Energizr Renewable Energy Storage System

Energizr™ has four different modes of operation:

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

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

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

Top reasons to consider Energizr™:

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

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

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Rebate For Solar Hot Water Tune-Up

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

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

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

solar hot water checklist

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

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

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

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

Nextera and HECO deal, what it means for Hawaii

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

What We Know About The Deal

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

What We Know About NextEra Energy

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

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

NextEra’s Relationship with Renewable Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

NextEra in Hawaii

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Going Off Grid – Pioneers of Home Battery Technology In Hawaii

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

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

JD and Jonah Solar Pioneers

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

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

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

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

battery storage system

aquion battery for solar energy storage

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Whitcomb with Jona and JD

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

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

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Employee Focus: Q&A with James Rudolph

Haleakala Solar Employee James Rudolph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Best Chocolate Cupcake Recipe Under The Sun

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

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

best chocolate cupcake recipe


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Watch this video of the whole process:

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