Hawaii Solar Blog

Challenges of Installing a Smart Grid in Hawaii

Smart Grid in Hawaii

Isolation

On the mainland, electricity generation stations are interconnected in a super-grid, allowing power generated in one state to be sent to users in another state. In fact, mainland utilities often have agreements to cover each other’s backs if needed.

However, in Hawaii, electrical stations on each island are not interconnected with stations in other states or islands, thus, cannot depend on another island or state for backup or emergency electricity. This means that each electrical station on every island in Hawaii must be able to provide for the energy capacity of the largest possible load, which is a huge task for a smart grid to handle.

Old Infrastructure

In the last few years, HECO has been working on bringing its systems up-to-date mainly by upgrading the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system that controls critical responsibilities of the grid. Many substations have not yet been integrated into the SCADA system, so the utility would not be able to monitor customer loads, defeating one of the purposes of having the smart grid.

Cost

Of course, building such an intuitive tool is bound to be expensive. For example, a normal meter costs approximately $25, the smart grid meter costs about $400. To put this in perspective, Maui has roughly 67,000 meters. This comes out to $26.8 million dollars for just the meters on Maui alone.

Existing Smart Grids in Hawaii

A smart grid has already been installed on Maui as an experimental project that uses electric vehicles to address the unstable supply of solar and wind power. A joint undertaking by the U.S. and Japan, the smart grid was launched in Kihei in December 2013 by Hitachi and five other participating companies.

A Smart Grid In Action

With users connected to the smart grid, information technology forecasts when power demand will drop, an example being from midnight to 6am. During this time, batteries of electric vehicles are charged, utilizing, say, wind-generated power, which is often wasted during this time of the day.
The smart grid project entered a new phase in April 2016 when two hundred electric vehicles were introduced that have the capability to discharge electricity. This allowed energy stored in the car batteries to be used to power households and each household can adjust their power supply and demand via their electric vehicle, reducing the electricity needed from the utility company. The traditional grid we currently have in place, is not ideally equipped to deal with this kind of interaction.

Haleakala Solar has been working with Hitachi in the implementation of this large scale project and is excited to part of helping Hawaii to reach it’s goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045.

Smart Grid – What Makes It So Smart For Hawaii?

Smart Grid

Hawaii has an aggressive clean energy goal that all of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources no later than 2045, but in order to get to that goal our electrical grid needs to be able to support all this renewable energy. One of the ways is by upgrading our existing electrical grid to a Smart grid.

Difference Between a Traditional Power Grid and a Smart Grid

Traditional Power Grid

The electrical grid is a network that delivers electricity from the power plant to consumers. In the simplest form, a power plant generates electricity. The energy is then is delivered to customers through local power lines.

Even using traditional fuel sources like oil and coal, the grid is sensitive and depends upon a steady balance of power generation and load. The reason for this is because even a two percent drop in frequency can result in blackouts and fry customers’ electronics. The system is able to keep the frequency steady when it is dealing with consistent power, like diesel generators or hydroelectric.

But when energy sources, such as wind and solar, which are affected by weather conditions, are thrown in the mix, this causes fluctuations in the energy output, which can cause problems. Thus, HECO often has to limit renewable energy use because the current “traditional” grid is not responsive enough for the fluctuations. Solar installations are restricted to less than three percent of the system’s peak load or lower than ten percent of the load on any one circuit. At the wind farms, HECO has to employ a process known as curtailment and decrease power generated by the windmills, sometimes up to 100 percent of the available wind energy.

Smart Grid

The Smart Grid uses sensors along the transmission lines and smart meters that allow two-way communication between the utility and its customers, providing greater insight and unprecedented consumer participation that will allow users to better manage their power consumption.

Some of the benefits of a Smart Grid include:

  • More efficient transmission of electricity
  • Quicker restoration of electricity after power disturbances
  • Reduced operations and management costs for utilities
  • Reduced peak demand, which could help lower electricity rates
  • Increased integration of large-scale renewable energy systems
  • Better integration of customer-owner power generation systems, such as rooftop solar

Integrating a smart grid could become a major factor in helping Hawaii reach its clean energy goals. But there are many challenges to installing a smart grid. In the next article, we will investigate the challenges of integrating a smart grid in Hawaii.

Solar Trends For the Solar Industry In 2016 And Beyond

solar trends for the solar industry

Back when Haleakala Solar first got started in 1977, solar power had the reputation of being an alternative energy source for hippies. Today, solar is a booming industry throughout many parts of the state, nation, and the world. Here are some predictions from the experts for the solar industry in 2016 and beyond.

Global solar installations will continue to experience exponential growth

2015 was a banner year with 59 gigawatts of solar installed worldwide, representing a 34 percent increase over 2014. This demand is expected to continue, with GTM Research estimating 64 gigawatts of solar PV to be installed globally in 2016, bringing the cumulative international solar energy total to 321 gigawatts by the end of the year.

Solar will dominate the energy market within 12 years

Ray Kurzweil, an American inventor, computer scientist, author, and futurist, is known for his 86% accurate track record concerning the future of technology. Since the ‘90s, Kurzweil has made 147 predictions and 115 of them have been completely correct with an additional 12 predictions being correct, just with the timing being off by a year or two.

Now Kurzweil is forecasting that solar will become a major force in the energy sector, growing from its current 2% market share to 100% of the market in 12 years. While others anticipate 12% market share in 20 years using linear analysis, Kurzweil attributes this increase to what he calls the Law of Accelerating Returns, which means that new technologies experience exponential growth as they become smaller and cheaper. He points to solar’s high rate of growth and the fact that PV has been able to double its market share every two years – what is now 2% was only 0.5% in 2012. While this prediction sounds a little outlandish, keep in mind that Kurzweil used the same accelerating returns reasoning to predict the mobile Internet, cloud computing, and wearable tech nearly 20 years ago.

China is expected to remain world market leader for Photovoltaic

Solar power installations in China, already the world’s largest market, is expected to equal at least 19.5 GW in 2016, an increase of 14.7 percent over 2015. The government aims to raise their PV capacity by 20 GW annually until 2020 as part of their strategy to decrease air pollution.

In addition to being market leader for cumulative PV installations, China will continue to be the leading producer of photovoltaic solar cells due to incentives, political stability, and dedication from its entrepreneurs to stay in the top spot.

The U.S. will have a milestone year and take the number 2 position

With the extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), PV installations in the U.S. is expected to hit over 10 GW for the first time ever and continue to grow, reaching 20 gigawatts per year by 2020.

In addition, Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) set by each state will bolster PV installations at the state level. Hawaii made headlines as the first state to enact a 100 percent renewable energy goal last year, while California and New York both increased their renewable goals to 50 percent by 2030.

Emerging markets will play a prominent role

The COP21 climate meetings outside Paris were attended and adopted by 196 nations who all agreed on a goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (°C) compared to pre-industrial levels. For many of the smaller nations, installing solar power is an attainable, cost-effective way to meet their promise to implement renewable energy in an effort to reduce climate change.

With the national solar installation target raised from 22 GW to 100 GW by 2022, we will see increased installations in India in 2016. Up to 3.6 GW of new solar capacity has been estimated, which represents a 70 percent boost over 2015.

Latin American countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, will be tested for their capability to meet their ambitions and actually execute projects. Other countries, including the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uruguay, Guatemala, and Panama will attempt to reach the 100 megawatt mark.

The off-grid solar sector will hugely impact people in Africa and Asia who don’t have access to the power grid

For the 1.2 billion people living without access to the electric grid, affordable off-grid solar solutions such as sun-powered portable lights and pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar kits offer a more reliable service than kerosene, candles, battery torches, or other fossil-fuel powered bandaid technologies. With rising consumer awareness and lower prices, the market is projected to grow from 25 million households today to 99 million households in 2020. Consumer demand and sales-driven push for higher-margin products are expected to encourage more sales of solar home systems capable of powering appliances such as TVs and fans, with around 15 million households possessing a solar-powered TV and 7 million off-grid households using solar-powered fans by 2020, according to a report produced by Lighting Global and Bloomberg New Energy Finance in partnership with the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association.

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

New HOA and AOAO policies for Solar Installers in Maui

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

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

SolaTrim To The Aesthetic Rescue

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

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

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

What Is Photovoltaic?

ten seconds of sunlight provides enough energy

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

Solar panel history

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

How do solar photovoltaic panels work?

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

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

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

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

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

Hawaiian Electric’s Community Solar Program

solar community program in hawaii

Oahu residents who can’t have rooftop solar installed on their home may soon be able to reap solar benefits due to HECO’s recent proposal for a community solar pilot project.

In June, a bill was passed to make renewable energy benefits more accessible to a greater number of Hawaii residents. “As of March 2015, there are about 56,000 PV solar systems on rooftops. These folks are saving tremendously on their electricity bills. That’s great, but what about the 44 percent of Hawaii residents who don’t own their homes? And those without roof space?” said Sen. Mike Gabbard, co-author of the community solar bill.

Under SB1050, electric utilities in Hawaii are required to establish a community-based renewable energy program, with a deadline to send a proposal to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) by October 1, 2015.

On July 15, Hawaiian Electric Company proposed a pilot community solar program that would provide about 50 Oahu utility customers the opportunity to take advantage of a lower energy bill without having to install a rooftop solar system.

If the plan is approved, the average residential customer who uses 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month and buys the largest available community solar share will pay $5,711 upfront along with a $200 enrollment fee and a small monthly maintenance fee. Each month, this customer will receive a credit, based on the current fair market rate for utility-scale solar power, resulting in a 45 percent bill reduction (with current rates). As an incentive, HECO will guarantee an 80% reduction in participating customers’ annual electric bill.

The community solar pilot program will run for up to 17 years, but participants may choose to leave the program at any time. If a customer moves, the community solar credit continues as long as they still have a Hawaiian Electric account.

To get the pilot running as soon as it is approved by the PUC, HECO plans to use 260 kilowatts of existing combined solar capacity from Waiau and Campbell Industrial Park power plants. Hawaiian Electric will remove the power plants from the calculation of electric rates that all customers pay and will subsidize many costs associated with the pilot as part of the learning experience.

“Large-scale community solar would offer value to all customers through its operational efficiency and our ability to monitor and dispatch solar generation for safe and reliable service. Community solar will be an important part of our transformation to expand options for customers, achieve 65 percent renewables by 2030 and lower costs for all customers through equitable rate design and low-cost renewable resources,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric vice president for corporate planning and business development.

HECO is upgrading their electric grids to accept triple the amount of distributed energy resources over coming years, including rooftop and community-based solar projects. Community solar will help to keep some of the $3-5 billion Hawaii spends every year on fossil fuels within the state. In addition, the community solar pilot program will not impact customers’ ability to gain approval for the interconnection of rooftop solar systems. If the PUC approves the pilot, Hawaiian Electric will announce how customers who wish to participate in the pilot can apply. For more information, visit hawaiianelectric.com/communitysolar.

Storm Tips For Solar System Owners

storm tips for solar energy system owners Hawaii
Mother Nature can be unpredictable and that it’s important to prepare ourselves when in the face of oncoming menacing weather. Haleakala Solar has been in the solar industry in Hawaii for nearly four decades, through many tropical storms and hurricanes, and near-misses. For the most part, the weather we experience in Hawaii is mild and pleasant; however, at times we experience tropical storms or even hurricanes which may bring hazardous conditions of heavy rains and destructive winds. In preparation for these storms, along with stocking up on supplies and securing loose items in the yard, it’s important to know some facts and get some tips as a solar PV system owner during severe weather.

Solar photovoltaic panels are attached to the roof securely and are meant to withstand gusty wind conditions of a category 2 hurricane. When winds begin to exceed 105 mph structural damage to homes and businesses may begin to occur. The systems installed by Haleakala Solar are rated to withstand winds of even greater capacity than the norm; however, with flying debris from these types of rip-roaring winds, damage to the panels may occur, such as cracked glass. In 37 years we have NEVER had a panel come loose.

Unless you have an off-grid system (not tied into the utility grid), you may turn off the PV system to prevent a power surge from the grid. We suggest that you isolate your PV system by turning off the PV disconnect and your PV breaker. This will help isolate and protect your PV system in the event of a power surge. Enphase Microinverters have integral surge protection, greater than most traditional inverters; however, if the surge has sufficient energy, the protection built into the microinverter can be exceeded, and the equipment can be damaged. It’s important to call your insurance company to confirm that your solar is indeed covered under your hurricane policy.

Once the high winds and heavy rains have passed, you may turn the PV system back on; however, if you suspect that damage has occurred, it is advisable to contact Haleakala Solar for a complete inspection of the PV system before powering up the system. If you find damage did occur to the PV panels, inverters or wires, DO NOT touch the paneling or wiring since you may get electrocuted.

If you DID NOT turn off the system and your area loses electricity, your PV system will turn itself off automatically. Be aware that the PV modules, even when turned off, can still hold electrical current. Once power has been restored, the PV system will turn itself on automatically. At this point, check your online monitoring system (if applicable) to check the electrical output of the system and make sure it is registering at normal levels.

We hope everyone stays safe during this hurricane season. If you have any other questions not covered by the above, please call us at our state-wide number, 643-8000, or drop us a line by using our contact form, and we’ll be sure to give you the answers you seek.

Free Solar Technology Seminar on Kauai

Kauai Solar Seminar

Free Solar Technology Seminar On Kauai

Join us for a FREE informative presentation about solar photovoltaic and solar hot water systems offered every Friday at 6pm until 7pm located at Haleakala Solar’s showroom at the Kukui Grove Center on Kauai. This educational and informative seminar aims to answer any questions you may have about solar systems – how they function, what net metering is, tax credits, along with current solar trends and issues that are happening in the solar industry today in Hawaii.

This seminar will give you valuable knowledge about solar and we invite you to ask our solar experts questions. Ever wonder how solar systems really work? Wondering how much money you will be able to save? Let us answer all of your questions, without a sales pitch.

Our expert solar energy speaker will give you real facts and answers about solar technology, tax incentives, how solar can pay for itself, and even the hot topic of Schedule Q and where KIUC stands on the issue.

We invite you to join us and learn about solar. Haleakala Solar will be offering this free seminar every Friday at 6pm. Be sure to come and gain some valuable knowledge about this exciting field.

For more information, please call Haleakala Solar’s Kauai showroom at (808) 246-8866.

PV Internet Reboot Instructions for Enphase Envoy

If Haleakala Solar has installed Enphase Microinverters to maximize your solar energy generation, you get a monthly email with your system’s production report. Some of our customers have received a report showing zero production, but this does NOT mean their system is not producing anything. The vast majority of time it simply means the Internet connection has been lost and the Enphase Envoy® Communications Gateway™ can’t deliver the data to the website. In most cases, this is an easy fix and one you can perform yourself with the instructions below.

Your Envoy / Energy Management Unit (EMU)

Enphase system elements
Your Envoy aka Energy Management Unit (EMU) collects energy and performance data from the microinverters that are connected to the PV modules. The Envoy then forwards that data to Enlighten, via the Internet, to compile your report. If your Internet connection is down, the production report will show zero.

Enphase Envoy

Look at the front display on your Envoy/EMU.
The screen initially shows 5 pieces of information.
1. Top left is the unique IP web address of the Envoy/EMU unit.
2. Top right is either “+Web” or “–Web”. If +Web it means the Envoy/EMU is communicating through the Internet. If –Web then it means that at that moment it is not communicating.
3. Bottom left is the reading of the total present power production in watts.
4. Bottom center is the reading for total lifetime kilowatt hours reported to this Envoy/EMU unit.
5. Bottom right is the number of microinverters reporting to this Envoy/EMU. There is one microinverter for each PV panel. So this is also the number of panels reporting power production.

Bridges – Important Point To Remember

Enphase Energy bridgeMake sure the dark gray “bridge” connected to your router is always plugged directly into its own electrical outlet and not a power strip. Power strips “clean” the electrical signal and prevent the communication link that is needed to transmit your PV system’s data via the Internet to your Enlighten website. These bridges can be either dark gray colored and say “Enphase Energy” on the top or white Tenda or Netgear brands. You have 2 bridges that are about 2 inches wide by 3 inches tall. The bridge near the Envoy/EMU will be plugged into the electrical outlet within the same box containing the Envoy/EMU. The bridge inside your house is the one to remember to keep plugged directly into the wall outlet, even if you later remodel or reorganize your computer cords. The bridge will have an Ethernet cable connecting it to your router – preferably at the port closest to where the modem cable comes into the router.

Troubleshooting

What to do if your Envoy/EMU stops reporting data to your Enlighten website:

  • If you check your Enlighten website and it doesn’t show any current PV power data, then generally you’ve lost the Internet connection and it needs to be reset.
  • First, check the display on your Envoy/EMU.
  • If the upper right shows “-Web” then it confirms that the unit is not communicating over the Internet. If there are numbers on the bottom left, and center, and the bottom right number matches the number of PV panels you have, then it is simply a matter of restoring the Internet connection.

Restoring Your EMU’s Internet Connection

There are 5 Pieces of Equipment to Unplug and Re-boot. Unplug the power from all 5 devices first and then begin re-booting with the following steps:

  • Modem: This will be somewhere near your computer. Plug it back in and wait 60 seconds before proceeding to the next step.
  • Router: This will also be near your computer. Unplugging both the Internet cord and the power cord is best. Plug it back in and wait 60 seconds before proceeding to the next step.
  • Inside Bridge: Plug it back in and wait 60 seconds before proceeding to the next step.
  • Outside Bridge: Located in the EMU metal box on the outside of house. Plug it back in and wait 60 seconds before proceeding to the next step.
  • Envoy/EMU: The EMU box is labeled and located on the outside of your house as described above. When you plug it back in it will begin its cycle with “INITIALIZING.” This normally takes about 5 minutes to reboot itself and start scanning for inverters. It can take up to 20 minutes to complete the process and reconnect to the Internet. If it comes back up with “+Web” then check to make sure the number on the bottom right matches the number of PV panels you have. If it does, then you’re done as everything has been reset back to normal and the data will soon be available online again.

Whenever the Envoy/EMU has been offline and then is brought back online, the system will first catch up with oldest data and once caught up will display current data, so expect some time (24-48 hours) before the output on the computer matches what you expect to see. The microinverters send information every 5 minutes to the Envoy/EMU, and the Envoy/EMU sends data to your website via the Internet every 15 minutes. The data can be stored for several weeks before it reaches its memory limit. So all the old data needs to get caught up before it is current when viewed online. But you can be confident that the Envoy/EMU unit is tracking and monitoring your panels and the information will be available for you to view online.

If you would like assistance with this process, please don’t hesitate to contact the Service Department on your island.

Oahu – (808) 523-3305
Maui – (808) 871-8654
Kauai – (808) 246-8866

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.

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