Rooftop solar booming in Hawaii as utility launches ‘Quick Connect’

Hawaiian Electric announced that rooftop solar installations increased by 55% in 2020 despite the global pandemic. In 2020, 5,965 new rooftop solar systems were installed across Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi Island and Maui County, up from the 3,840 systems in 2019. Of the new systems, 4,624, or 78 percent, include battery storage, it said.

Hawai‘i leads the nation in per capita use of rooftop solar, with over 20 percent of customers, including 36 percent of single-family homes on O‘ahu, with solar systems connected to island grids. Going forward, some utility customers in Hawaii may benefit from a quicker installation and approval process, which was just instituted by Hawaiian Electric.

Quick Connect is a new Hawaiian Electric program that will accelerate the process for turning on new systems. The program aims to support customers and Hawaii’s solar industry during the COVID-19 economic downturn. For the next 12 months, customers on O‘ahu, Maui and Hawai‘i islands installing new systems on circuits where the new program is available will not need the standard approvals before activating their systems.

An approval process that typically takes several weeks or months for each step to be completed can now be handled after the system is built and turned on, substantially reducing the wait for many new solar customers. If successful, Quick Connect may be extended beyond one year.

“We are committed to help our customers save money and help invigorate Hawai‘i’s economy as we get through the pandemic and move aggressively to 100 percent renewable electricity,” said Lani Shinsato, customer energy resources co-director at Hawaiian Electric.

“Quick Connect allows customers’ solar systems to be installed first and approved later,” she said. “This is a partnership with the solar industry in which they ensure system requirements are met so that the utility can maintain a safe and reliable grid for all.”

Want to learn more about utility solar interconnection programs? Check out our DTECH+ session, “Best Practices for Distributed Solar and Storage Programs and Interconnections” available on-demand here.

New systems still must start by applying for a county building permit, conform to the PUC’s Rule 14H and be no larger than 25 kilowatts in capacity, with other technical requirements. Customers will need to have a new, advanced meter installed. However, the application to be reviewed by Hawaiian Electric may be submitted after the system is built and turned on.

The goal is to speed connections for customers and increase rooftop solar on those circuits with the most existing capacity while reducing administrative work for contractors and Hawaiian Electric. The Quick Connect option may be limited in the future as circuits fill up or if the new systems create unforeseen technical or operational problems.

To determine eligibility, customers can check hosting capacity for all circuits on all three islands on the locational value maps available on the company’s website.