Hawaiian Electric announces plans for approval of pending solar applications

The wait is almost over for Hawaii homeowners waiting to hookup their rooftop solar systems.

Monday afternoon, Hawaiian Electric Co. announced plans to clear the backlog of thousands of customers waiting for approval to connect their photovoltaic systems to the grid.

We’re told some customers have been waiting as long as a year for approval. Most of them live in areas with a high percentage of solar customers.

The number of Hawaii residents taking advantage of the sun’s energy increases every year and it’s been hard for HECO to keep up. In a statement, HECO even acknowledged the frustration the delay has caused their customers.

But now, they’re ready to take a look at the 4,800 solar applications waiting to be processed.

Anyone who meets the following criteria will be approved for interconnection:

  • Their PV systems must use certain inverter models to prevent over-voltage. Inverters are devices that convert electricity from solar panels into AC electricity that most home appliances use.
  • These inverter models must also comply with Hawaiian Electric specifications to ride through voltage conditions during emergencies on the island-wide electric grid.

“Solar is truly a no-brainer in Hawaii. Everyone knows that. It’s just now figuring out the technical challenges, the social and economic challenges of having it become the energy and future of Hawaii,” said Chris DeBone, president of Hawaii Solar Energy Association.

HECO intends to process and approve all backlogged applications by April 2015.

Unfortunately, this does not apply to new customers as that is still an ongoing process.

Year to date, the Hawaiian Electric Companies have approved about 7,500 applications from customers to interconnect their rooftop solar systems to the grid.

As of October 2014, the list of applications in progress for Oahu includes approximately:

  • 1,100 customers seeking interconnection on circuits with installed PV equal to or less than 120% of the daytime minimum load. These applications are moving through the normal process and are likely to receive prompt approvals. In this category, new applications come in and, after review, approvals are sent out on an ongoing basis.
  • 1,000 customers awaiting completion of upgrades to substations or other modifications to their own systems and will soon receive approvals.
  • 2,700 customers are on circuits over 120% daytime minimum load. These will be approved over the coming months as this plan is implemented.

Similar approval plans will go into effect for Maui Electric and Hawai’i Electric Light with each company having about 330 customers awaiting approvals on circuits with high amounts of installed PV.

Beyond these solutions for customers already awaiting rooftop solar interconnection approval, the companies are working on a range of other customer options, such as a non-export model incorporating battery storage, and a community solar program that will support a tripling of customer-sited solar in coming years.

The companies have submitted a Distributed Generation Interconnection Plan and Integrated Interconnection Queue Proposal for review to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

Across the three Hawaiian Electric Companies, more than 48,000 customers have rooftop solar. As of September 2014, about 11% of Hawaiian Electric customers, 10% of Maui Electric customers and eight percent of Hawaii Electric Light customers have rooftop solar, compared to a national average of 0.5 percent.

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