17% of Hawaiian Electric customers now have rooftop solar

Dive Brief:

  • Over 77,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have been interconnected or approved by the Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECOs). Over 26,000 PV arrays were installed or approved in 2015, 44% more than 2014’s 18,000 installations, making last year HECO’s biggest solar year ever, Pacific Business News reports.
  • HECO has installed or approved PV for 17% of its customers. On Oahu, the most populous island, 32% of single-family homes have rooftop PV, according to HECO VP Jim Alberts. Total installed solar capacity across all three HECO companies is over 500 MW, according to HECO Spokesperson Darren Pai.
  • Peak load for the three HECO utilities ranges from 1,500 MW to 1,700 MW. At the end of 2015, HECO had gotten to 21% of the island’s total GWh, surpassing the interim benchmark set for it as it moves toward Hawaii’s 100% renewables by 2045 mandate.

Dive Insight:

The Hawaiian Electric Co. utilities include the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) on Oahu, the Maui Electric Company (MECO), and the Hawaiian Electric Light Company (HELCO) on Hawaii Island.

HECO announced in December that after clearing a backlog of over 2,500 solar PV interconnection applications awaiting approval since October 2014, it had approved the 206 remaining applications on Oahu, the 333 remaining on Maui, and the 336 remaining on the Big Island.

The last approvals were primarily systems requiring special attention because they would go onto parts of the grid with high solar penetrations and could threaten system stability. 

“We believe distributed generation, and particularly rooftop solar, are important options for our customers and we want to continue working with stakeholders in the commission’s distributed energy resources docket to put policies in place that will build a sustainable future for Hawaii,” Pai told Utility Dive.

The new rooftop solar numbers put Hawaii firmly in first place among U.S. states for solar penetration on the grid. While a number of states have higher cumulative solar deployment than Hawaii, none come close to rivaling it in terms of the proportion of customers with rooftop solar installed.

Those in Hawaii looking for a comparable market might be well-advised to turn their attention away from the U.S. and toward a different nation in the Pacific Rim. Last week, the Straits Times reported that about 16% of homes in Austrialia have installed rooftop solar, and in the state of Queensland, the rate is nearly 30%. 

Correction: A previous version of this post stated that all applications eligible for the retail rate net metering credit, which was terminated last year by state regulators, are now complete. That was incorrect. There are still pending rooftop PV applications that qualify for retail rate net metering, according to Hawaii solar installers.

Filed Under: Distributed Energy Corporate News
Top image credit: Wikimedia Commons