Baseload, Geothermal, Rooftop, Solar

Listen Up: The State of Solar in Hawaii

As Jimmy Carter said, “what starts in California unfortunately has an inclination to spread.” When it comes to solar, this quote should be changed to “fortunately,” since California leads the nation in solar deployments of all types. But there is a state — even farther to the west — that is the real leader when it comes to rooftop solar penetration and the challenge these systems present to electric utilities.

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In Hawaii, 50 percent of households have either solar PV or solar thermal systems on their rooftops. Simple economics drive this high degree of market penetration: electricity prices are around $0.35/kwh, there is negligible distribution of natural gas for water heating, and imported oil provides 70 percent of the fuel for electricity generation (compared to 1 percent for the rest of the U.S.). Rooftop solar thermal systems are the most economical source of domestic hot water, and rooftop PV is quite cost-effective for electricity. Rooftop PV is so compelling that the utilities in Hawaii are limiting new installations.

Cully Judd is the co-founder of Inter-Island Solar Supply (one of the nation’s largest PV distributors) and SunEarth (a leading solar thermal collector manufacturer). He and his associates have been actively involved in the growth of the market in Hawaii, and are working hard to overcome incumbent energy providers’ opposition to more renewable power. Please join me on this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World as Judd talks about the challenges and opportunities that rooftop solar present at high customer penetration levels.

Watch Meg Cichon chat with Dora Nakafuji, director of renewable energy planning at the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), at PV America 2014 about the recent grid interconnection crisis on the island and how HECO is planning for a renewable future.