Maui Business

Hawaiian Electric Proposes Community Solar Pilot Project

July 16, 2015, 8:58 AM HST
* Updated July 16, 8:59 AM
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Solar array. File photo Wendy Osher / Maui Now.

Solar array. File photo Wendy Osher / Maui Now.

By Maui Now Staff

Hawaiian Electric Company has filed a proposal for a community solar pilot program with the Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission.

If the PUC approves the pilot, approximately 50 O‘ahu utility customers will have the opportunity to take advantage of the many benefits of solar without putting solar panels on their roofs.

Participating customers will be able to significantly reduce their monthly electric bills with credit for electricity generated by a community solar project.

“We believe customers should have options,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric vice president for corporate planning and business development. “Customers who don’t have access to rooftop solar or just don’t want to install panels on their roofs will be able enjoy many of the same benefits as those with rooftop solar.

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“Community solar will be flexible, low-risk and hassle free,” continued Kimura. “Participants won’t have to worry about the integrity of their roofs, ongoing maintenance or removal at the end of the panels’ useful life. They will be able to leave the program whenever they like. And if they move, the
community solar credit goes with them as long as they have a Hawaiian Electric account. In addition, participants can feel good about helping to provide their friends and neighbors with low-cost, clean energy.”

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A typical residential customer who now uses an average of 500 kWh of electricity a month and who purchases the largest available community solar pilot share will pay an upfront cost of $5,711 plus a $200 enrollment fee.

Each month, this customer will receive credit for a share of the electricity output of the community solar facility and pay a small maintenance fee, in total reducing the customer’s electric bill by about 45 percent, at current rates.

The pilot will continue up to 17 years, but participants may leave the program at any time.

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Solar electric output varies from month-to-month so, to reduce risk for pilot participants, Hawaiian
Electric will guarantee 80 percent of the expected annual bill reduction.

The amount of the solar credit, subject to PUC approval, will be based on the current fair market rate for utility-scale solar power. This ensures that participants are credited fairly for the solar power generated and non-participants do not pay a premium for the low-cost solar power produced for the grid.

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