Celebrating the sun

Self-supply home battery system is a first for Maui

Kamie-Lei Fujiwara of Halau Na Lei Kaumaka o Uka dances the hula “Ke Welina” as kumu hula Napua Greig-Nakasone provides the beat during Thursday afternoon’s dedication of Maui’s first solar plus storage system at the Haiku home of Kitty and Peter Walsh, parents of famed Maui surfer Ian Walsh. “We’re excited to be harvesting energy from the sun,” said Kitty Walsh. “I feel like a pioneer for sustainable energy on the island.” The leased system features a Tesla battery that stores electrical energy. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Maui News – The parents of famed surfer Ian Walsh have installed the first solar self-supply home battery system under Maui Electric Co.’s Consumer Self Supply Program, where no solar power is exported to the grid, the installing company, Rising Sun Solar, and MECO said Thursday.

A blessing was held Thursday at Peter and Kitty Walsh’s property in Haiku.

The self-supply systems are being developed specifically for the Hawaii market and use new inverter technology to provide power to a home but prevent any excess electricity from being exported to the grid, said Hawaiian Electric Co., MECO’s parent company.

Self-supply systems are the latest in the evolution of residential rooftop solar power acceptance by Hawaii’s utilities. The initial Net Metering Program allowed small photovoltaic customers to sell excess power to the utility at market rates while still drawing power from the utility at night. Customers paid only an $18-per-month minimum fee to connect to the grid.

Grid circuits were beginning to get saturated and, in October 2015, the state Public Utilities Commission established a cap on residential rooftop solar system hookups as part of a transition from the Net Metering Program. The 5-megawatt capacity limit for MECO was reached in June, leaving only the Customer Self Supply Program.

Rising Sun co-owner Brad Albert describes the capabilities of the Walshs’ Tesla Powerwall lithium ion battery system, powered by solar panels on the home and off the Maui Electric Co. grid. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“Hawaii’s path toward 100 percent renewable energy will require us to store some of the solar energy produced during the day,” said Rising Sun Solar co-owner Brad Albert in a news release Thursday. “Home batteries enable customers to produce energy during the day and use it at night. It’s a pioneering technology that can also add resilience and adaptability to the utility grid.”

For the Walshs, Rising Sun Solar installed a Tesla Powerwall, a lithium ion battery unit that is charged by power generated by solar panels and from the utility grid, according to the Tesla website. An inverter converts direct current electricity from solar panels, the grid and Powerwall into the alternating current used by a home’s lights, appliances and devices.

The system also provides backup power during a power outage, said Kitty Walsh.

Her system was financed by Sunrun, and the Walshs did not have to pay for installation or startup costs. Officials with Rising Sun did not respond to questions Thursday evening about the cost of the PV panels and Powerwall system.

Rising Sun Solar has offices on Maui, the Big Island, Oahu and Kauai.

“Through programs like our Customer Self Supply, solar remains a viable choice for Maui Electric customers who want it,” said MECO spokeswoman Shayna Decker on Thursday. “Solar power is a significant part of our plans to reach 100 percent renewable energy and an important option for our customers.”