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More than 1,000 MW of solar now online across Hawaiian Electric grids

The Maui News

Hawaiian Electric has hit a milestone with more than 1,000 megawatts of solar on its grids as of Dec. 31, including 140 MW in Maui County, the company announced Thursday.

At the end of 2021, there were 92,504 systems with a total of 1,019 MW (1 gigawatt) of solar capacity and 121 MW of battery storage on the five islands served by Hawaiian Electric, according to a news release. About 312 MW of that solar capacity is from grid-scale facilities with contracts to sell power to the utility.

Last year, 4,656 private rooftop systems with 51 MW of capacity were installed, an increase of 5.3 percent over the 2020 total of 87,848 systems. The breakdown of systems is as follows:

• Oahu: 63,086 systems, including 96 percent residential and 4 percent commercial; capacity of 763 MW, including 53 percent commercial and 47 percent residential.

• Maui County: 14,718 systems, 92 percent residential and 8 percent commercial; 140 MW, 59 percent residential and 41 percent commercial.

• Hawaii island: 14,700 systems, 94 percent residential, 6 percent commercial; 116 MW, 66 percent residential and 34 percent commercial.

“This accomplishment owes its success to the eagerness of our customers to be part of the solar movement, dedicated solar contractors and Hawaiian Electric’s work to smooth the way for more rooftop solar and to create new customer options,” said Lani Shinsato, Hawaiian Electric Customer Energy Resources co-director.

Twenty-one percent of Hawaiian Electric’s residential customers have rooftop solar, according to the news release. Across the five islands served by the company, 32 percent of single-family homes have rooftop solar.

Hawaiian Electric aims to cut carbon emissions from power generation 70 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The company’s Climate Change Action Plan includes the addition of 50,000 rooftop solar systems on homes and businesses over the next nine years. Almost all new systems today include energy storage, giving customers greater control over their energy use and saving them money while supporting the stability and reliability of island grids, the company said.

Effective this coming Monday, the state Public Utilities Commission has raised capacity limits on popular rooftop solar programs. For Maui County, the capacity limit for Customer Grid Supply-Plus has been increased from 7 MW to 12 MW. The program allows customers to install private rooftop solar or other renewables that export energy to the electric grid throughout the day. Capacity for the Smart Export program, which allows customers to install a private rooftop solar or other renewable system and a battery energy storage system, has been raised from 5 MW to 10 MW.

Hawaiian Electric hopes to soon launch shared solar, the newest phase of community-based renewable energy, to provide a way for renters, apartment residents and small businesses and organizations unable to install private rooftop solar to benefit from solar electricity generated on their island.

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