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.

Tesla Energy Powerwall: Making Battery Storage Affordable

Tesla Energy Powerwall

On April 30, 2015 Tesla Motors, the automaker known for revolutionizing the electric car industry, announced its entrance into the solar battery business with two battery backup products that will be sold under a new product line called Tesla Energy.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk explained that we need to make a “fundamental transformation” in how energy is delivered across the earth. To help us do that, Tesla has developed the Powerwall, a wall-mounted home battery that uses electricity generated from your solar panels to provide power at night, act as battery backup during power outages, and even disconnect completely from the grid if you wish.

The Powerwall comes with a 10-year warranty and will be available in 10 kWh weekly cycle and 7 kWh daily cycle models. Multiple batteries may be installed together for homes that require more power, up to 90 kWh total for the 10 kWh battery and 63 kWh total for the 7 kWh battery.

Some advantages of Powerwall compared to other battery backup systems currently on the market include its size, style, and cost. Since the Powerwall is measures only 51″ x 33.8″ x 7″ and is made to be wall-mounted, any home has the space to have it installed in their garage or wall of their house instead of needing a designated battery room. The Powerwall is also available in different colors and “looks like a beautiful sculpture on the wall,” according to Musk. In addition, having energy security with the Powerwall won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Tesla’s price is $3,500 for the 10 kilowatt-hour model and $3,000 for the 7 kilowatt-hour version (without the inverter or installation costs).


Tesla’s selling price to installers is $3500 for 10kWh and $3000 for 7kWh. (Price excludes inverter and installation.) Deliveries begin in late Summer.
Powerwall specs:
· Mounting: Wall Mounted Indoor/Outdoor
· Inverter: Pairs with growing list of inverters
· Energy: 7kWh or 10kWh
· Continuous Power: 2kW
· Peak Power: 3kW
· Round Trip Efficiency: >92%
· Operating Temperature Range: -20C (-4F) to 43C (110F)
· Warranty: 10 years
· Dimensions: H: 1300mm W: 860mm D:180mm


While the Powerwall is constructed for residential use, Tesla created the Powerpack which is “designed to scale infinitely” for business and larger installations of gigawatt class or higher. These batteries could be used to power remote parts of the world, saving places that have no or intermittent electricity from having to build power lines, “similar to what happened with cell phones and landlines where cell phones leapfrogged landlines and there was no need to set them up in remote locations.”

It would take 160 million Powerpacks to get the U.S. off of fossil fuels, 900 million to convert the entire world, and two billion Powerpacks to transition all transportation, electricity generation, and heating to renewable energy. This may seem far-reaching to most, but Musk points out that this is something that has been done before as our world went from no automobiles to two billion cars and trucks on the roads.

“It’s something that we must do and that we can do and that we will do,” Musk said.

Deliveries for the Tesla Powerwall are expected to begin this summer. Stay tuned with Haleakala Solar as we keep track of this exciting new product.

tesla powerwall for home solar battery storageattaches on the wallMusk introduced the Tesla Energy Powerwall system

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.

Install Solar PV With Battery System

Over the last 36 years Haleakala has installed a number of solar battery systems mostly for residential applications. By the end of the year we will have installed around 8-10 battery systems state wide, and we expect that number to grow significantly over the next few years.

Battery systems are a way to avoid utility approval prior to installing a PV system. In other words, people in saturated areas where MECO is requiring a 12-18 month study before declaring if PV’s safe for that particular grid or not, should consider installing solar batteries which allows them to avoid the utility-made delays altogether. This, in fact, benefits both the customer and the utility company because the customer receives the benefit of cheaper renewable energy while the utility company doesn’t have to worry about adding anymore instability to the grid.

Our founder, Jim Whitcomb, has had his eyes on solar batteries for quite some time now. Haleakala Solar is ahead of the pack in regards to the sizing, design and types of batteries we’ll be using in projects to come.

FERC Rules Pave the Way for Solar Energy Storage

Photovoltaic energy has grown significantly from its humble beginnings. With the cumulative U.S. capacity of distributed solar forecast to double between mid-2013 and 2015, federal regulators recently adjusted the rules to make connecting renewable resources to the grid even easier.

On November 22, 2013, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) passed Order 792, expanding its scope of the Small Generator Interconnection Agreements and Procedures, which sets standard rules for interconnecting sources of energy that are 20 MW or less, to also include energy storage via solar battery back-up systems.

FERC Order 784, which was issued in July and went into effect in November, essentially allows enterprises other than public utility companies to sell “ancillary services,” power sources that can be tapped quickly in times of short-term electrical imbalance.

Why are these new orders significant to the solar industry? Combined, orders 784 and 792 open the floodgates for the increasing importance of energy storage as part of the electric grid. Over the past few years, severe natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy and its electrical system aftermath, have prompted desire for a smarter, more resilient energy infrastructure.

Regulators never really specified guidelines for energy storage in the past, making this option seem risky to both utilities and investors. Now, they have “[addressed] energy storage by creating reporting mechanisms to track the installation, operations and maintenance costs for energy storage,” according to the Electricity Storage Association (ESA). “Enabling this information to be available to regulators will ensure transparency as more projects are deployed.”

This means the solar industry can now use energy storage to challenge gas and coal power, which public utilities traditionally use for ancillary services. In addition, utilities must consider the speed and accuracy of the power source without being discriminatory.

In October, California passed the nation’s first energy storage requirement that orders the state’s three main power companies to collectively obtain 1,325 MW of energy storage capacity by 2020 with a requirement of 200 MW by the end of next year.

As reported by The Motley Fool, an IMS Research report estimates the global energy storage market will increase “from approximately $200 million in 2012 to $19 billion by 2017.” With Hawaii’s isolation and costly dependence on diesel fuel, energy storage is a much-needed solution to the greener, more reliable energy grid of the future.

Home Solar Battery Storage, The Next Step

Photovoltaic is seen as a clean energy source and due to state and federal tax credits not just financially feasible but a smart investment.  But many homeowners that want photovoltaic, have been delayed, and in some cases, derailed by “area saturation” designations by the electric companies.  Let’s explain.

Photovoltaic solar systems create energy using panels on rooftops.  During the day, when the sun is out, the PV system provides the energy your home needs and is probably also creating more energy than you are using.  This surplus energy is fed back to the electric company grid (called net metering) that is then credited to you.  At night, when the sun goes down, you draw energy from the electric company’s grid.  If the solar company that sold and installed the solar system did their calculations correctly, the energy created by your system would be just about the same as what you use, thus in the end you should have a net zero energy bill (other than the minimum the utility company charges to be hooked up to their grid) at the end of the month.

In this typical solar system set-up, you need to be hooked up to the grid of the electric company, otherwise at night, when there is no sun to create energy, you will be out of power.  The problem is, many areas in Hawaii have been designated “saturated” by the utility companies and in order to get a PV system, they ask the homeowner to pay for an inter-connectivity study, which the utility company deems necessary to protect the grid from damaging power fluctuations.

For many, this added cost of paying for the study, along with the delays that would occur while waiting for results, puts a damper and hold on moving ahead to get a photovoltaic solar panel system.  But a solution to this problem has started to make its way around.  Home solar battery storage units are being touted as an alternative to being hooked up to the grid.

Major advances in solar battery storage technology, not to mention sharp cost reductions, have made this avenue much more realistic.  While major questions still remain about the cost, the technology and the pace of adaptation of off-the-grid solar, it is significant that there is a possible alternative option moving forward.

The solar industry has long looked at battery storage technology as a kind of holy grail that could bring solar to the masses.  But prices for battery storage have traditionally been too high, and the technology has been cumbersome, requiring extensive maintenance.  Thus, very few people installed batteries.  Affordable solar battery storage technology that can hold large amounts of energy from solar panels on a home or business would be a game changer.  Battery storage allows customers to break free from the electric company’s limitations and go completely off the grid.  Some of the other benefits are electricity during power outages, no power surges and peace of mind knowing you will always have electricity.

Though costs for home battery storage units still remain stubbornly high, a solar photovoltaic system in conjunction with a battery storage unit, coupled with tax credits, is still cheaper than buying electricity from the electric company.  And along with being cleaner energy, as electricity prices move higher, they become an even greater deal financially.

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