In a major change that could effectively nix plans for the long-debated industrial-scale wind farm proposed for Lanai, state policymakers have in recent months shifted their interest toward connecting the Oahu and Maui electric grids.
If the grid-link comes to fruition, it should allow more renewable energy to be brought online, help the state toward the goal of energy independence and potentially bring down electricity rates, say officials.
Mark Glick, who heads the state energy office, told Civil Beat that it's highly unlikely that Hawaii would simultaneously pursue both the Lanai wind project and the Oahu-Maui grid connection. For now, it looks like it will be one or the other.
The energy office administrator restated his view that the controversial Lanai project, which proposes to bring wind energy to Oahu via an undersea cable, is not essential to meeting Hawaii’s mid-term renewable energy goals.
Installing PV panels in certain neighborhoods requires extra time and expenses to complete
Hawaii homeowners who were among the first in their neighborhood to install solar photovoltaic panels are finding that being an early adopter is paying off.
Although PV panel prices were higher, the relatively modest amount of solar power on electrical grids a few years ago meant that systems could be installed quickly with no extra charges from the utility.
For many of those arriving late to the party, getting a PV system on their roof has become much more problematic. A surge in PV system installations across the state is flooding utility grids with unprecedented levels of intermittent solar energy that the systems were not designed to handle. Utility executives say the intermittent nature of solar energy poses potential safety and reliability risks in areas with high concentrations of rooftop PV panels.
Responding to reports of unscrupulous business practices by some solar energy companies, Hawaiian Electric Co. this week sent letters to industry participants asking them to fully disclose to their customers hurdles they may face when connecting their solar photovoltaic systems to the grid in areas that are highly saturated with PV panels.
A surge in installations of PV systems has created a situation in which excess solar energy can "back-feed" into the company's grids on Oahu, Hawaii island and the islands of Maui County, potentially damaging customers' electronic equipment and putting utility workers at risk, according to HECO. As a result, HECO and its subsidiary utilities in some cases have required additional engineering studies for PV projects and required customers to install safety equipment to address such concerns.
Hawaiian Electric Co. continues to be under fire for its Sept. 6 procedural changes for new solar installations.
Two weeks ago, this column covered concerns on the part of consumers that had contracted to install solar systems and on the part of industry leadership. In the meantime, the state Legislature held an informational hearing during which it questioned HECO about its procedural changes and also heard testimony from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, the Hawaii Solar Energy Association and the Hawaii PV Coalition, ending with a directive to work on a solution and report back next month.
To combat climate change and move away from fossil fuels toward energy independence, several years ago the federal government rolled out a 30 percent tax credit for solar installations.
The state of Hawaii followed suit with an additional 35 percent tax credit. Investors also have enjoyed several years of bonus depreciation — for qualified capital expenses — designed to heal the Great Recession. As a result, the solar industry in Hawaii accelerated as fast as a new fully electric Tesla. That would be 0 to 60 in 5.4 seconds.