Solar energy, solar panels and more: A week of action
With solar and other renewables surging in popularity, the Hawaii Electric System has been struggling to find a way to support its power plants.
But as solar prices keep dropping and wind prices keep rising, some Hawaii residents are looking to solar panels.
As more states try to bring down prices, Hawaii is trying to figure out how to harness the energy it produces while maintaining the viability of its power grid.
Hawaii’s utilities have struggled to balance the needs of the solar panel industry and keeping the grid functioning during the downturn.
The Hawaiian Electric System (HES) has struggled to keep the lights on, while its other utility, Maui Electric Power Company, has struggled in keeping the lights running.
The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission has struggled as well, and this month, the agency announced it was taking steps to help the utility find an alternative.
It is also looking at ways to help utilities generate revenue to help pay for the grid repairs that will occur as prices drop.
“Our goal is to be able to provide a reasonable, reliable service to the people of Hawaii during these times,” Hawaii Public Utility Commission Chairman Tom Kanojia said.
The state’s utility has said the switch to solar will be temporary, and there is no timeline for when the switch will be implemented.
It will be phased in over the next two years.
As of last week, Hawaii had more than 1,000 MW of solar energy installed.
Hawaii Public Power Company reported about 100 MW of power on the grid last month, and utility officials say that will continue to rise.
While the switch is temporary, utility officials are optimistic the switch can bring in enough money to keep operating the power grid during the transition.
“We know that this switch is going to be temporary.
It’s a transition and we’re not going to go backwards,” said H. David Kuiper, a spokesman for the Hawaii Public utility commission.
The switch will also provide Hawaii with a steady supply of energy, Kuip said.
It also will help utilities like the HES maintain the reliability of the grid while the transition to solar energy occurs.
David Kaupikai, executive director of the Hawaii State Energy Council, said the transition will help the state generate $25 million in annual revenues.
The $25-million is enough to cover the cost of operating the utility during the next five years, Kaupikia said, adding that the utility will also receive $5 million from the state.
That money is being distributed to the public, but the utility is also offering it to those who can’t pay their bills, like those who are unemployed or under the age of 60.
The move to solar is just one of many ways the utility plans to generate money to pay for its grid repairs, Kuepikian said.
He said the utility has already received more than $1 million from a variety of sources, including state money and private contributions.
The utility will take a 25 percent cut of all electricity generated from the grid as part of the transition, he said.
Kuepika said the decision to bring solar to the island was made at the urging of Hawaii Gov.
Brian Schweitzer, who asked for help from the utility.
The governor has pledged to invest in solar power projects.
Hawaiian Sen. Richard Neal said he wants to see the transition done in a timely manner.
He also said he is looking forward to having more people who have been working in Hawaii working for the utility.
“If we can get the switch done right, we can do the transition as quickly as we can,” he said, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.
“It’s going to bring a lot of benefits to the state and the nation, so I think we need to move ahead.”
The transition is expected to take about a year.
It could be that Hawaii has to find another way to pay its bills as solar energy continues to surge.