Solar generation up 21% in 2019, Hawaiian Electric says

  • A rooftop solar water heating system sits on a home on Halekii Street in Kealakekua. (LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today)

HONOLULU — Hawaiian Electric announced Friday that it experienced a 21% jump in solar generation capacity last year, its largest-ever annual increase for the five isles it has served since 2005.

The total solar capacity jumped to 902 cumulative installed megawatts in 2019 from 745 in 2018 and was due, in part, to the completion of several large, grid-scale projects, along with thousands of new residential solar photovoltaic systems that went on isle rooftops last year.

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Hawaiian Electric said an estimated 3.5 million solar panels now produce electricity on the company’s five grids on Oahu, Maui County and Hawaii island.

In 2019 several grid-scale projects, including three solar arrays built by Clearway Energy Group totaling 110 megawatts, and Hawaiian Electric’s West Loch solar array totaling 20 megawatts, came online on Oahu.

That, in addition to nearly 3, 500 new systems across Oahu, Maui County and Hawaii island, were completed.

The number of Hawaii residents who installed solar PV rooftop systems on Oahu, Hawaii island, Maui, Molokai and Lanai rose to 77,801 in 2019 from 74,331 in 2018, a 4.6% increase.

That may have been driven by before a scheduled step-down went into effect this year.

For years a 30% federal tax credit had been available to homeowners installing solar PV systems, with no caps. Starting this year that tax credit is now at 26%. In 2021 it is scheduled to decline to 22%, and in 2022 it ends.

The greatest number of rooftop solar PV systems are on Oahu, at 37% of single-family homes, followed by Hawaii island, at 21%, and Maui County, at 27%.

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Hawaiian Electric said year-end figures show that 19% of residential customers in its service territory were using rooftop solar, up from 18% in 2018.

“The numbers show the adoption of residential rooftop solar remains strong, increasing year after year across all of our islands,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of customer service, in a news release. “Rooftop solar is a critical piece of the renewable mix, and our plans call for tripling the amount already installed to help move the state toward a clean energy future.”

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