Avoiding PV pitfalls – good advice from Hawaiian Electric and Alternate Energy

As photovoltaic (PV) panels go up all over Hawaii, some customers are being made to feel a false sense of urgency.

Unfortunately, some “over-eager” PV sales reps are taking advantage of rumors that tax credits for residential systems will expire soon. This is absolutely untrue – the state’s 35% credit and the Fed’s 30% credit remain solidly in effect.

Rumors are also flying that in certain high penetration areas, new customers will be forced to pay for a usage study unless they purchase immediately.

While there is certainly a limit to how much solar-supplied energy a distribution circuit or “grid” can handle*, there is no need for undue haste in making your PV investment. Anyone considering PV should take the time to research all their options and seek several bids.

Here are some guidelines courtesy of Alternate Energy Hawaii and Hawaiian Electric Co.

1. Go to nrel.gov and search “Consumer Guide” for easy-to-use booklets on solar water heating and photovoltaic systems.

2. Don’t be rushed into signing a contract. More PV can be added to most areas with no reliability problems. To see where circuits may need added study, visit heco.com. Under “Renewable Energy,” select “Generating Your Own Power.” On the right side you can “Check Circuits” on each island.

3. While there, you can learn ways to send excess power to the grid with Net Energy Metering, Feed-in Tariff or Standard Interconnection Agreement.

4. A good PV supplier will urge you to reduce your electricity demand BEFORE adding PV. A solar water heater can reduce your demand by as much as 35 percent. Energy Star® appliances, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), and surge strips all help.

5. Talk to more than one PV provider. Make sure you are getting the right-size installation for your home and electricity use. Don’t use a provider who tries to sell you a larger system than you need. It will be more expensive and take longer for you to break even.

Alternate Energy Inc. was founded in 1993 and is one of Hawaii’s first solar energy companies, specializing in the design and installation of photovoltaic systems, solar water heating systems and solar attic fans.

*To ensure continued reliable service for all customers on a circuit, a technical review may be needed when the amount of distributed generation (DG) on a circuit reaches 15%. This is not a limit on solar; rather, the 15% threshold serves as a trigger point for determining whether additional study may be needed to evaluate the impact of more DG on the circuit.

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