Solar voices

September 30th, 2013
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Solar panels installed by Waterhouse Solar. Courtesy photo.

Solar panels installed by Waterhouse Solar. Courtesy photo.

In an effort to keep Hawaii's current "net metering" program in place, the Sierra Club, along with several partners, have launched HawaiiSolarVoices.org.

Solar power creates good jobs, says the Sierra Club, and gives Hawaii residents a chance to save money while protecting the aina. While distributing power over a stable grid is complex, solar is still the right direction for the state of Hawaii.

The website is meant to help the public understand the Hawaiian Electric Co.'s recent policy changes on solar interconnection as well as to gather voices from Hawaii residents who support solar energy. If you have a personal photo, story or video to share with others about how solar power has changed your life, you can submit it here. If you support Hawaii solar and want the Public Utilities Commission to stand strong for solar rights, click here.

A recent story in the Star-Advertiser touched on some of the changes. Solar PV installation has doubled nearly every year since 2005 in Hawaii. Solar provides energy for a total of 54 circuits out of 416 on Oahu.

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Solar helps provide jobs. Solar worker with his son at solar rally at Hawaii State Capitol. Photo by Nina Wu.

The solar industry has created thousands of new jobs. It's not just for those who work directly as installers for solar companies.

There's also a trickle-down effect for others, including support staff, tax preparers (who have extra forms to process), electricians, tree trimmers, marketing and advertising. There's at least one company that offers to clean solar panels.

HECO says the saturation of solar power means upgrades are necessary to the Oahu grid.

Thus, HECO is no longer guaranteeing interconnection for residential systems with a capacity less than 10 kW. Now net energy metered (NEM) systems need to be reviewed by the utility prior to interconnection.

Before the new policy, if you had a solar PV system installed, you could have it connected to HECO's grid as long as you had a closed permit and the proper paperwork. Eventually, someone from HECO would come and swap out your old meter for a net meter. Now HECO is going to decide whether it can reserve a place on the grid for each PV system ahead of time. That means delays.

I remember when our solar PV system was installed, and when the meter was swapped out — an exciting and empowering feeling. It was neat to watch others in my neighborhood, one by one, install solar panels, too.

When we see the sun, we're all excited about producing power. It was a conscious investment (which we expect a return on) for the future and for our families.

And we should rightfully be credited by HECO when we produce more power than we consume. If HECO asks consumers to pay for the electricity that they use, then doesn't it make sense for us to get credit for power that we produce? We still pay a monthly fee just to be hooked up to the grid. HECO, being a utility provider, should ultimately be responsible for footing the cost of upgrades without passing that cost on to consumers. It's time to change the game.

Hawaii has gained great momentum in reaching its clean energy goals – 70 percent by the year 2030. Let's keep it going. Let your solar voice be heard.

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