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County sees more rooftop solar installed

Statewide capacity surges with largest 1-year increase

The Maui News

As more rooftop solar systems were installed across Maui County last year, the state as a whole experienced its largest-ever annual jump in solar capacity, Hawaiian Electric reported Friday.

Total solar capacity surged 21 percent, rising from 745 cumulative installed mega-watts in 2018 to 902 MW at the end of 2019. Hawaiian Electric said it was the largest one-year increase since the company began tracking solar capacity in 2005.

In 2019, Maui County had 11,956 residential rooftop solar systems, a 4.7 percent increase over the 11,414 systems in place in 2018. Last year, 19 percent of residential customers were using rooftop solar, matching the percentage of customers in 2018.

The total number of residential rooftop solar systems on Oahu, Hawaii Island and Maui County rose to 77,801 in 2019, a 4.6 percent increase over the 74,331 systems in 2018. Overall, 19 percent of customers were using rooftop solar, up slightly from 18 percent in 2018.

While there was little change in the percentage of customers using solar, the amount of generation grew statewide as major grid-scale projects and nearly 3,500 home systems were added across the five islands. Including commercial and grid-scale units, there are now 81,783 solar systems online, capable of producing 902 MW, and an estimated 3.5 million solar panels producing electricity on the company’s five grids.

The percentage of residential customers with rooftop solar in Hawaii is more than double that of California, which has the second most at 6.6 percent; followed by Arizona at 5.5 percent; Rhode Island and Guam, each at 4 percent; and Utah at 3.6 percent, according to an analysis of 2018 data by the Smart Electric Power Alliance.

In Maui County, 27 percent of single-family homes now have rooftop solar, Hawaiian Electric said. On Oahu, it’s 37 percent, while on Hawaii Island, it’s 21 percent.

“The numbers show the adoption of residential rooftop solar remains strong, increasing year after year across all of our islands,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of customer service. “Rooftop solar is a critical piece of the renewable mix, and our plans call for tripling the amount already installed to help move the state toward a clean energy future.”

The state’s goal is to reach 30 percent renewable energy by the end of 2020.