State of the solar industry in Hawaii - October 17, 2013
By: staff

Hawaiian Electric Co. has had difficulty contending with the growing amount of solar installations in the state. It has not been amenable to solar consumers hooking up to the grid in the past. However, it will now allow more than 200 Oahu consumers who already had photovoltaic contracts before these conflicts to connect to the grid, according to Senator Mike Gabbard. This is good news, as HECO's solar photovoltaic grid interconnection policy was creating problems in the state's solar energy industry.

"This means the solar industry is laying off people during its busiest time of the year and homeowners and businesses can't move forward with installing PV to lower their electricity costs," Gabbard said, according to Pacific Business News. "I've asked HECO and the solar industry to report back to the Legislature by November 14 on the progress they've made in coming up with a solution."

HECO has made progress on its policies, as evidenced by its recent move to allow owners of solar arrays in Oahu to connect to the grid. The hope in the industry is that there will be a fuller resolution by November 14, and that installations can move forward and begin to save homeowners and businesses money on their energy bills.

The future of the industry
According to Marco Mangelsdorf, president of Hilo-based ProVision Solar, the Hawaiian solar industry is moving toward consolidation. The industry, one of the fastest-growing fields in the state, may become dominated by a few major players as a result of consolidations and similar business deals.

Unfortunately, the solar industry in Hawaii has seen declines in new installations recently, largely due to the issues with HECO outlined above. Other issues include changes to building permit fees and the state solar photovoltaic tax credit, which pose challenges to industry leaders.

The challenges in the solar energy sector are expected to weed out some competitors in the space. However, it is still a high-growth industry in Hawaii. The demand for solar power exists in the state, but the mechanics of making it a workable option for power generation - both for consumers and commercial buildings - are more difficult than they have been in the past.

Hawaii's solar industry is by no means expected to fail, but it is going through trying times recently. Industry leaders and others are making efforts to smooth away many of these challenges on a statewide level
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