HECO ready to offer community solar to some customers

HECO ready to offer community solar to some customers

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiian Electric is looking to offer solar power to customers who don't have access.

The utility filed a request with the Public Utilities Commission for a pilot project for community solar.

HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg says customers who live in high rises or can't have panels on the roof could benefit from the pilot project which will only be for 50 Oahu customers.

"Very small, but we want to learn how this works," says Rosegg, "We want to learn what we have to do in terms of billing.  We want to learn what customers want and how they're going to react to the program."

If approved, HECO will use existing facilities at Waiau and Campbell Industrial Park.

Customers would pay upfront costs of about 6-thousand dollars.  They'll receive monthly credits for a share of the electricity output which could reduce monthly bills by about 45 percent.

The utility asked for it to last up to 17-years but customers can opt out whenever they want to.

"When you put solar panels on your roof, you're stuck with it, right," says Rosegg.  He says the credits will follow the customer.

"My reaction is that it's great, this is fantastic," says Richard Wallsgrove of Blue Planet Foundation, "Residents have been asking for this."

Blue Planet Foundation has pushed the concept of community solar farms for years.

Last month, the governor signed bills to transition the state to more renewable energy.

Wallsgrove hopes the pilot project means HECO will be ready to present larger-scale projects to the State when it files it's long-term plan in October.

"There's no downside to giving this a try.  (We'll) learn from it and then expand if possible," says Rosegg.

"We're excited to see this first baby step," says Wallsgrove, "And we'll be excited, I hope on October 1, when we get the full program filing with the PUC and all of us can access solar power."

When the PUC approves the project HECO says they'll begin taking applications for one of the 50 spots.

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