Innovation Bridges the Gap
Ed Smeloff is senior director of grid integration at Vote Solar.
In March 2021, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission found itself in a tight spot. Knowing that the large coal power plant on Oahu was going to close in less than eighteen months, the Commissioners discovered that the timeline for installing large-scale battery storage was delayed and that there would likely be shortages during peak summer demand for several years. Blackouts in Honolulu and Waikiki are not an option as Hawaii's economy recovers from the pandemic, so the Commission was quick to look for innovative solutions.
Fortunately, Hawaii's robust solar industry rode in for the rescue. Vote Solar and a coalition of solar groups told the Commission that solar companies could quickly install enough battery capacity linked to existing and new rooftop solar systems to bridge the gap for the two years of expected power shortages. What the coalition needed was for the Commission to act quickly and approve a new program that would incentivize the battery installations that would be paired with onsite solar.
In July, the Hawaii Commission did just that, unanimously approving an innovative new program to add as much as fifty megawatts of additional behind-the-meter battery capacity that customer-generators would own and operate.