SolarCity moves into active Hawaiian market

With comparatively high electricity prices, some see Hawaii as a prime market for rapid solar expansion. Some Hawaiian U.S. military bases have been installing solar to reduce these costs and minimize their carbon emissions as a part of Department of Defense goals to have 25 percent of its energy produced by renewable sources by 2025.

This trend is now developing further, as late last week Lend Lease and SolarCity began construction on a series of rooftop installations, which the companies expect – when combined – to be the largest in Hawaii. It will power 2000 military family homes. Called the Hickam Communities, the military homes are located at the historic Joint Base Pearl Habor-Hickam.

The communities are owned and managed by Lend Lease and the solar arrays will be installed to 600 suitable rooftops. Hickam communities will be the second solar-powered community on a U.S. Air Force Base.

SolarCity launches wider domestic program

Last week SolarCity also introduced a solar lease scheme into the Hawaiian market. Hoping to benefit from the higher electricity prices on the series of islands, the company offers residential solar installations with a monthly fee being charge for the electricity generated and used by the householder. The SolarCity Hawaiian scheme has a starting price of $60 per month.

Given Hawaii’s high energy prices, the SolarCity monthly fee may actually be less than conventional power costs, making the decision to switch easy, says SolarCity’s Hawaiian new hire Pete Cooper. “Homeowners pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country [in Hawaii] and with the abundance of sun throughout the year, solar makes both financial and environmental sense for local residents,” said Cooper.

Cooper has been appointed as the regional director in Hawaii, having previously run his organization Sun Energy Solutions there. SolarCity plans to hire a further 100 local workers. A report last week showed how in the U.S. "green collar" jobs now outnumber those in oil and gas.

The SolarCity announcement comes only days after similar solar lease scheme provider SunRun expanded their operations to Maryland.

6MW solar plant planned for Kauai

In further Hawaiian news, it was announced today that a 6 megawatt (MW) plant is planned for the island of Kauai. The project will be developed in a partnership between Alexander and Baldwin and Kauai Island Utility Cooperative.

Construction is expected to begin in late 2011 and a 20 acre site has been set aside to the installation. The 6MW polycrystalline solar array will be integrated with a Battery Energy Storage System at the point of interconnection with the grid.

The Hawaiian island of Kauai has already a one MW facility in place an another three MW facility is planned. The island community is also using hydropower and biomass generation and it aims to generate 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2023.