HECO ease path to solar electric power

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There is now less red tape for people putting solar panels on their home.

As of October 1, most residential and some commercial customers of Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and Hawaii Electric Light Company can install single-phase PV systems up to 10 kilowatts on single-phase transformers with potentially no interconnection study.

The study was intended to protect the electric grid but critics complained of high costs.

In addition, any customer of the three companies who previously paid for an interconnection study and system upgrades to install a 10 kW or smaller single-phase PV system will be refunded the cost of the study and any upgrades.

"This change should make the move to PV for many customers simpler and faster," said Colton Ching, Hawaiian Electric vice president for system operation and planning.

"This is a step in the right direction and the timing could not be better," said Brad Albert, co-owner of Rising Sun Solar on Maui and founder of the Hawaii PV Coalition. "We enjoy a very good working relationship with the utilities, and appreciate their continued

support for renewable energy. This shows they are listening to the concerns of their customers and the solar industry."

A customer, or contractor on the customer's behalf, must still provide to the utility a signed NEM application with all supporting paperwork before installing the PV system and the county building permit must be closed before the NEM agreement can be finalized for the customer to begin receiving full retail credit for all excess renewable electricity sent to the grid in the next billing cycle.

For single-phase 10 kW or smaller systems, a new checkpoint before a possible

interconnection study may be needed will be 75% of the minimum daytime electrical load. This 75% checkpoint will allow more PV installations without interconnection studies than the previous 50% of minimum load threshold for small installations approved last November by the Public Utilities Commission.

The new standard will increase the capacity for added PV without further interconnection studies on the majority of circuits in the Hawaiian Electric Companies' service territories.

On a few circuits, an interconnection study may still be needed because a high level of intermittent renewable energy like PV on a neighborhood circuit can result in service disruptions and safety hazards. The study can determine what upgrades are needed to ensure that safe, reliable service and power quality is maintained for all customers on that circuit, whether they have PV or not.

For larger NEM installations, as well as larger Feed-in Tariff or Standard Interconnection Agreement installations, the threshold for possible interconnection study will remain at 15% of peak or 50% of the daily minimum load to ensure grid reliability as required by the Hawaiian Electric Companies' tariff (Rule 14-H).