Hawaii Poised to Become Solar Powerhouse

Just as the U.S. operates like 50 different experiments in democracy, so too are the states acting as 50 diverse tests for solar energy.

Nowhere is this better exemplified than in Hawaii. With 71 percent average annual sunshine, Hawaii makes for an ideal location for solar PV installations. The Aloha State currently sits at 14th on the national rankings for total solar installed with 1,335 MW that account for more than 13 percent of the state’s electricity.

The state also has an ambitious policy goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy use by 2045. Achieving this goal will take a dedicated, concerted effort across the state’s renewable energy sector, and solar will need to play a significant role.

(Photo credit: SEIA)

Utility and Distributed Solar Plus Storage on the Rise

In pursuit of its renewable energy goals, state officials, utilities and developers have developed different incentives to boost the adoption of solar PV systems. One method has been pushing for greater distributed solar paired with storage solutions. Another route has been the slashing of activation times in half. These factors have helped propel more growth within the state’s solar sector, particularly in distributed solar.

Despite the decline in residential solar due to the state ending its net metering program, utility-scale and non-residential solar have both experienced significant growth in recent years. Total solar capacity surged 21 percent in 2019, marking the largest one-year increase since 2005.

In particular, declining storage costs, customers seeking reliability against outages and  new utility policy incentives have all boosted the number of distributed solar installations paired with battery storage. Hawaii’s distributed solar plus storage installations surpassed 60 percent of total installs in 2018, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s “Tracking the Sun” report. Comparatively, this rate ranged from 1-5 percent of installations in other major markets during the same period.

Community Solar Comes to Hawaii

Hawaiian Electric recently opened the first phase of its Community-Based Renewable Energy program for applications by qualified organizations that wish to build and operate a community solar facility. Community solar provides a way for participants without a privately owned rooftop to reap the benefits of electricity generated by solar PV installations in their utility service territory.

Hawaiian Electric approved its first community solar project in Sept. 2019. Several other community solar projects are under review with Hawaiian Electric, with many additional similar projects expected.

As local residents experience the benefits of community solar, word will spread and interest should continue to increase.

The Potential for Solar Job Growth

A major corollary to this solar growth story involves the job creation that will accompany the increase in PV installations. Based on projections from Hawaiian Electric’s 2017 “Power Supply Improvement Plan,” the state will need between 1,226 MW and 2,537 MW of rooftop solar to meet its renewable goal. During the next 25 years, this could potentially generate between 50,000 and 100,000 new jobs, pv magazine reported.

Promising Signs

Already, parts of the state are ahead of schedule to meet the 100 percent renewable energy goal. For instance, the island of Kauai achieved 56 percent renewable energy generation during 2019. Of this, 35 percent came from solar power. The island’s grid supports about 100,000 people, plus visitors and tourists. While Kauai is far ahead of the state’s goal, work remains for the rest of the state.

EPCs and developers in Hawaii seeking ways to help the state meet its ambitious goal have plenty of great options available. For example, Trina Solar’s C&I Solutions provides the technical expertise and industry know-how that makes it easier than ever for EPCs and developers to implement C&I solar projects. Want to know more about Trina Solar’s C&I Solutions? Fill out the form below to learn more.

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