Hawaii Solar Blog

Federal Regulators Approve NextEra-HECO Merger

FERCO approves Nextera Hawaiian Electric Merger

First Step Toward Merger – The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Has Approved the Sale of Hawaiian Electric Industries to NextEra Energy.

“Approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission represents a significant step toward the completion of our merger,” said Jim Robo, chairman and chief executive officer of NextEra Energy. “Through our partnership, we will apply our combined expertise and resources to deliver significant savings and value to Hawaiian Electric customers. We will continue to work closely with our partners at Hawaiian Electric in pursuing the remaining necessary approvals to complete the merger and begin to deliver the more affordable clean energy future we all want for Hawaiʻi.”

Now only two more steps stand in the way of a completed deal: shareholders will vote on the $4.3 billion acquisition on May 12 at 9:30am and the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) must approve the merger.

The deadline for PUC approval is set for the end of August 2015 at the moment, however interveners are arguing that more time is needed to evaluate the merger and asking that the deadline be extended to October 30, which could delay potential completion of the sale until April 15, 2016.

With the highest electric rates in the country, many are concerned that about Hawaii’s energy future. State legislators are currently considering bills designed to increase transparency and require the PUC to ensure that NextEra’s acquisition would still achieve the state’s renewable energy goals and be in the long-term best interest of Hawaii ratepayers.

House Resolution 158 and House Concurrent Resolution 227 were introduced by Rep. Chris Lee of Oahu. “They have a history of opposing competition,” he said. “And what’s more concerning is they have a history of infiltrating politics to get the government to work on their behalf, to benefit the utilities over the people they serve.”

In their written statement, NextEra testified that the resolutions were based on media reports that had either misconstrued or omitted facts. NextEra intends to make “a cleaner, more affordable energy future for Hawaii” and trusts that the PUC does not need bills to be passed to do their job.

Rep. Richard Creagan, D-Naalehu and Kailua-Kona, feels that extra caution is justified, given that residents will feel the affects of this merger for years to come as NextEra can use Hawaii as a testing ground to solve high penetration solar problems before they hit the rest of the nation. “They’re not coming in here to lose money. They’re coming in here to make money,” Creagan said.

In February, Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative (HIEC), a newly formed nonprofit of business and community leaders, filed a motion with the PUC to intervene in the pending HECO purchase to consider whether public utility ownership, similar to Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), might be a better alternative. HECO filed opposition to HIEC as an intervener, but the Public Utilities Commission decided to allow it.

Marco Mangelsdorf, spokesman and a director of HIEC, said they are not taking a position against the merger but rather want to explore the benefits of local, democratic ownership and control of electric utilities.

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.

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+.

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).

SAFETY:
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.

RATE:
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.

ROI:
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.

TIMING:
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.

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.

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

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.

Haleakala Solar Shares Solar Knowledge With Students

Haleakala Solar shares solar knowledge with students of Hui Malama

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

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

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

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.


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