Hawaii Solar Blog

NEM 2.0

new net metering guidelines

On Monday, October 12th, 2015, the Public Utilities Commission issued Decision & Order 33258 which ended the net energy metering (NEM) program for new Hawaii solar customers. What does this mean for solar customers?

For existing NEM customers and those who submitted applications postmark dated 10/12/15 or earlier, net-metering guidelines will stay the same.

For all others, there are two current options for home solar, Self-Supply and Grid-Supply:

Self-Supply
This option is designed for customers who intend to use all of the electricity produced by their PV systems, and do not need to export excess energy to the grid. Under this policy, limited electricity will be sent back to the grid and no compensation will be given for these exports.

These systems will typically be designed to use energy management and energy storage systems. With these advanced features, these systems will have less impact on the grid and will receive fast-track interconnection review. At this time, there is no cap on the number of Self-Supply systems that may be installed.

Grid-Supply
This option allows solar customers to export electricity back to the grid and provides compensation at the wholesale rate, which varies on each island.

PV customers on Oahu and Big Island would be credited at approximately 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, customers on Maui would be credited at approximately 17 cents per kilowatt-hour, Molokai at approximately 24 cents per kilowatt-hour, and Lanai at approximately 28 cents per kilowatt-hour.

There is a cap of 5MW (equivalent of about 1,000 single family homes) on the total capacity of Grid-Supply systems in Maui County and the same in Hawaii County. City and County of Honolulu has a new grid supply cap of 25MW.

A Third Option
The PUC has also instructed HECO to create “Time-Of-Use” rates within 90 days, which would allow customers to save money by shifting energy usage to the middle of the day to take advantage of lower-cost solar energy.

Time-Of-Use (TOU)
In this system, a tariff would also be available to encourage solar customers to invest in home energy storage systems. This would allow solar users to store solar power generated by their PV systems that could then be fed back into the grid during periods of highest demand (5-9pm).

New Expansion to Current Systems
If you’re thinking about expanding your current solar system, two words, BE CAREFUL. New applications to expand existing NEM systems received after 10/12/2015 will probably not be grandfathered in and the expansion of an existing NEM system may void your previous NEM agreement. Before making plans to expand your current PV system, contact Haleakala Solar to get the full facts and make sure you have all the information necessary to make the best choice for you and your family.

Change of Ownership/Utility Account Holder
One of the great news to come out of the new PUC ruling is that NEM customers that have been grandfathered in are allowed to transfer the existing NEM agreement in the event of an ownership transfer, tenant change or account name change. What does this mean? If you sell your home or change tenants, the new owner, tenant or utility bill account holder will still benefit from the old grandfathered NEM program.

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Solar Hot Water Troubleshooting

Solar Hot Water Tips

Troubleshooting When There is No Hot Water

During times when there is a lot of wind and rain, you may experience a loss of hot water from your hot water system. Here are a few tips that may get your system back on track again.

RESET BUTTON
The reset button needs to be reset if system overheats and/or to get the electrical element to work again. Here are instructions how to do this:
a. Turn OFF “Water Heater Breaker” located inside of main electrical breaker panel.
b. Remove cover plate where the electrical thermostat is located (see diagram below) by using a Phillips screwdriver.
c. Press “Red Reset Button” on the electrical thermostat. Place cover plate back on with the Phillips screwdriver.
d. Turn main breaker panel back ON.
e. Make sure timer is switched to the ON position. Water will take approximately 30 minutes to heat.
f. You may turn timer on as you please, as this is what the electrical back up is for.

solar hot water reset

Here are a few other tips:
1. You may have used your supply of sun-heated water. Wait for system to restore supply, or turn on the electrical timer for an hour or so. If this happens constantly, you might want to resize your tank. Call us to get more information.
2. Check all plugs and breaker switches to make sure they are ON or plugged in.
3. Make sure all valves are turned ON. ON is signified on the pipe or the handle points in the direction of the flow of the water.
4. Check for leaks, which could cause pressure to drop.
5. Make sure timer is set for correct time of day.

If you have any questions about your solar hot water system, call Haleakala Solar at 643-8000 for service, Monday to Friday, 7:30 am to 3:30 pm. For your convenience, you may also contact us through email using our contact form.

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Haleakala Solar Ranked #1 Solar Company in Hawaii

14th Overall Top Solar Company in the Country for Residential Solar and 3rd in the country for Solar Hot Water

Haleakala Solar ranked best solar company in Hawaii

Solar Power World, the industry’s leading source for technology, development and installation news, ranked Haleakala Solar top solar company in Hawaii for residential solar contractors AND solar hot water contractors!

Perhaps even more amazing, Haleakala Solar was ranked 14th overall residential solar contractor in the entire country. For solar hot water we ranked 3rd overall in the entire country. An incredible achievement considering the market sizes of the competition on the mainland.

While the output of many other solar companies in Hawaii decreased over the last year, Haleakala Solar’s output actually increased, a testament to the strength of this company.

thank you

A big mahalo to all the workers, staff and sales consultants of Haleakala Solar who without your dedication, hard work and efforts, this would not have happened!

To see the full listing for top solar residential contractors, click here.

To see the full listing for top solar hot water contractors, click here.

making the world a better place one roof at a time

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Haleakala Solar At the Great Outdoors & New Product Expo On Oahu

Join us this Father’s Day weekend at the Great Outdoors and New Product Expo at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall on Oahu from June 19 to the 21, 2015. Stop by our booth to say hello and see the latest we have to offer in solar innovation.

the great outdoors expo in honolulu 2015 solar

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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

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2 Weeks Left To Enter Haleakala Solar’s Employee Photo Contest

We are two weeks into the Haleakala Solar Employee Photo Contest with TWO WEEKS LEFT TO GO! Be sure to enter soon for your chance to win BIG CASH PRIZES.

In first place so far….
DAVID RAMOS from Oahu with a whopping 223 “Likes”.
Photo by David Ramos - East Oahu - Haleakala Solar's Finest

In 2nd place so far….
SAM ESEKIA from Oahu with 81 “Likes”.
Photo by Sam Esekia from Oahu

In 3rd place so far….
RYAN GRASA from Maui with 51 “Likes”.
Photo by Ryan Grasa from Maui

In 4th place so far….
DARRYL WINSLOW from Maui with 23 “Likes”.
Photo by Darryl Wonslow from Maui

In 5th place so far….
SAM ESEKIA (again) from Oahu with 21 “Likes”.
Sam Esekia Photo 2 from Oahu

So many great submissions! Let’s keep them coming in and have your friends and family ‘Like’ their favorites in the next two weeks. In two weeks, on June 18th, the contest ends at Midnight. Hurry and submit your photos and/or come and vote for YOUR favorite before time runs out!

photo contest poster

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Maui County Looks Into Alternative Utility Ownership

In anticipation of NextEra Energy’s merger with Hawaiian Electric Industries, Maui County is looking into different options of electricity utility ownership to determine which model would provide the best support for Maui County’s transition into 100% renewable energy smart grids and microgrids. The Request for Proposals (RFP), posted by Mayor Alan Arakawa’s Office of Economic Development on May 5, provides a $30,000 budget and four-month deadline for an analysis which would need to include the following:

  • Preliminary appraisals of how much it would cost to purchase the electric utility in its entirety and in certain parts
  • Benefits of a public power utility and an energy cooperative form of ownership as alternative utility business models
  • A recommendation of the utility structure(s) and ownership option(s) that would best align with Maui’s renewable energy future

“We must look at our options, but to do that and have a constructive conversation about the matter we need more information,” Arakawa said. “This study will provide us that information, and will tell us if it would be best to start our own utility, form a co-op as Kauai did, allow the NextEra deal to go through or some other option. We need to make an informed decision as a community.”

Arakawa and Kauai County Mayor Bernard Carvalho have discussed Kauai’s electric co-op. “We’re open to maybe partnering and sharing some of our processes of hooking up with Kauai as far as extending out to our neighbor islands too,” Carvalho said.

Kauai is the only island that is not part of Hawaiian Electric Industries and has the state’s only electric co-op, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC). KIUC purchased Kauai Electric Company in 2002 for $215 million and currently operates over 32,000 electric accounts. As a non-profit organization that is owned and controlled by the people it serves, KIUC has over 23,000 active member-owners and returned $30 million to members as patronage capital and refunds since the co-op was established.

According to the RFP, the proposed sale of Maui Electric Company to NextEra Energy brings about concerns of whether ratepayers will benefit from the change in ownership, if consumer photovoltaic systems and other sources of distributed energy will be suppressed, and whether the proposed sale will support Maui’s desire to be the “electric utility of the future.”

Maui Electric President Sharon Suzuki responded to the RFP saying that she respects the mayor’s decision to examine alternative utility models and issued the following statement:

“As with other utility services like water and sewer services, ownership is only one aspect to consider when dealing with a critical need such as energy for homes, businesses, and public facilities such as medical care centers – lowering costs and providing energy that’s reliable is expected.

Maui Alternative EnergyWe’ve made significant progress and will continue to move forward on our transformation efforts. Currently, 33% of our energy on Maui comes from renewable sources and more than 10% of our customers have rooftop PV systems, far exceeding the national average of less than one percent.

All of our employees at Maui Electric feel a deep commitment and sense of responsibility to serve Maui County’s energy needs. This has not changed in our 90-plus year history and we remain committed to the community we live and work in.”

The deadline to submit proposals is 4 p.m. on Friday, June 5, 2015. For more information, call the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development at 270-7710.

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