Photovoltaic systems focus of solar summit

A Maui “Solar Summit” will focus this month on issues relating to the installation and use of photovoltaic systems.

Presented by Maui County and the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui, the summit will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at the Pilina Building’s multipurpose room at the University of Hawaii Maui College.

Recent changes to the state tax credit for photovoltaic systems will be discussed, among other issues. Several of those issues stem from electric utilities limiting the amount of solar systems on a circuit to protect the power grid’s stability.

In October, Hawaii power utilities, including Maui Electric Co., began allowing most residential and some commercial customers to install single-phase PV systems of up to 10 kilowatts (a typical residential system) on single-phase transformers and to participate in net energy metering with no interconnection study. Such studies could cost thousands of dollars and were seen as a strong disincentive for installing solar power systems.

The “Solar Summit” will address questions such as:

* “Are there ‘closed off’ power circuits on Maui? If so, where are they?”

* “What are the chances that a solar system will be allowed if an interconnection study is paid at a resident’s expense?”

* “Are county permits and MECO pre-approval needed before solar systems are installed? How long does that take?”

* “What is the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission Rule 14H, which governs power interconnections, such as photovoltaic systems, and how does it affect residents who want to install solar systems?”

* “How much solar energy is being installed in Maui County this year, compared with last year?”

* “What about off-grid systems? Are people installing them?”

Mayor Alan Arakawa is scheduled to address the demand for solar-generated electricity in Maui County. Other speakers will include Ted Shiraishi, rules officer for the state Department of Taxation, who will discuss tax credits for PV systems; and Doug McLeod, Maui County’s energy commissioner.

The summit will include a panel of photovoltaic experts – Steve Rymsha, supervisor of renewable energy projects for Maui Electric Co.; Greg Nakao, electrical engineer with the county Department of Public Works’ Development Services Administration; Susanne Knappstein, project manager for Haleakala Solar; Michael Reiley, president of HNU Energy; and G. Robert Johnston, president of Hawaii Pacific Solar. Institute Director Jennifer Chirico will moderate the panel.

Lunch costs $5 with an advance reservation. To register or for more information, call the institute office at 984-3379 or send email to