Banner year for solar power in Hawaii
By Wendy Osher
Hawaii experienced a boost in business for solar power in 2010. The number of solar electric installations on Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island more than doubled over year before figures with a total of 3,967 solar power systems connected to Hawaiian Electric utilities in 2010. That’s an increase from the 1,916 systems installed through 2009.
“Interest in solar power has steadily increased in recent years, but it really took off in
2010,” said Robbie Alm, Hawaiian Electric executive vice president. “This will help all of us in Hawaii as we continue to make progress in cutting our dependence on imported oil,” said Alm.
The totals include systems with Net Energy Metering agreements and systems with standard interconnection agreements. NEM agreements allow customers to receive full retail credit on their electric bills for excess electricity sent to the utility grid from. HECO officials say interest in net energy metering started to increase in 2008, when crude oil prices spiked at $147 a barrel. Standard interconnection agreements, meantime, use solar systems to generate power solely for the customers’ use, and do not feed into the grid.
Hawaiian Electric also has a new Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program that offers pre-established rates and standardized contract terms to make it easier to sell power back to the utilities. There are currently 17 large photovoltaic projects in the state with plans to take advantage of the new FIT program. When completed, these projects will have a combined capacity of approximately 3.2 megawatts.
Hawaiian Electric is also pursuing utility-scale solar power. Keahole Solar Power on the
Big Island currently operates a 500 kilowatt concentrated solar power system; and Castle & Cooke operates a photovoltaic system on Lanai that produces 600 kilowatts (with the potential to expand to 1.5 megawatts once its battery system is in place).
***(Supporting information courtesy Hawaiian Electric)