Until last September, installing solar was a straightforward process, and a homeowner’s greatest challenge was choosing the right contractor to perform the high-quality work that a long-term investment requires. Today, HECO’s new policies add complexity to any solar installation project. Before signing a solar contract, consumers should now consider:
- Does my neighborhood’s circuit exceed HECO’s solar threshold?
- Will HECO delay interconnection with a circuit study?
- How long would a study take?
- When will I be able to permit and install my system?
- What are the extra costs?
“I was all dressed up and ready to go, and then the utility cancelled the party — but RevoluSun stayed with me,” jokes Terry Fullerton of Kona. He had signed a contract for solar PV installation with RevoluSun, a Hawaii PV solution provider, on August 28 last year, and on September 6, Hawaiian Electric essentially put solar on hold due to a saturated grid. Once Big Island’s grid reopened on November 15, Fullerton says that there were extra hoops to jump through for grid space and permits to reapply for.
“RevoluSun communicated with me and got us through the process professionally. We got approved December 26 and the installation was complete by January 15,” Fullerton recalls. “Once the meter was in, we finally got to switch on our system on February 12. If you look at the timeline, there were only about 60 days down time. RevoluSun got us hooked up in record time, if you ask me. They did everything to streamline the paperwork process and went out of their way to get permits and installation done not just efficiently and quickly, but they did top of the line work. The quality of their materials and installation is beyond what I expected or have ever seen.”
On Oahu, HECO recently relaxed its restrictions on the number of smaller (10 kW or less) residential solar projects it will connect to the grid without further studies. In cases where more study is needed, it may still be done at no cost to the customer. In the event that HECO requires equipment upgrades, most customers will pay only a prorated share of the cost based on their proposed solar system size.
“There are some new hoops to jump through, but the average solar project will still save homeowners tens of thousands of dollars, even if an extra fee is assessed by HECO,” maintains RevoluSun Principal Eric Carlson.
About 70% of RevoluSun’s Big Island customers have already completed a supplemental review process for their solar installations. Working with the utility, the residents and grid space restrictions is something that RevoluSun Big Island General Manager Nick Huntz does regularly. He says it only tends to add a couple extra months to the entire process for a majority of his customers.
“This is what we are here for, to work with the utility to achieve a timely installation and make sure the customer feels informed throughout the process,” Huntz says. “The utility maintains a queue for net metering interconnection applications, so the earlier a customer files an application, the better the chance of interconnection without lengthy delay or expense.”