Prompted by pressure from clean energy advocates, Hawaii and California are quietly working to remove a regulatory obstacle that is slowing a boom in rooftop solar systems in the nation's leading solar states.
The culprit is an arcane provision in the rules many states have adopted for how utility companies handle "distributed generation," any system of small-scale power installations, usually solar arrays, that generates electricity at homes or businesses and hooks up with the main electric grid. The regulation requires that once distributed energy reaches 15 percent of peak demand on a local circuit, anyone wanting to add more solar must carry out a lengthy and costly review of the project's ability to connect with the grid.Utilities in California and Hawaii pushed for the threshold about a decade ago because they worried that customer-owned solar facilities—which they can't always control or monitor—would jeopardize the stability of the electric grid, causing widespread blackouts and power surges and damaging equipment.(Primal Media)
As the demand for solar has increased, however, renewable energy developers and advocates have begun complaining that the 15 percent threshold is too low and the studies too cumbersome and expensive.
More electrical circuits in Hawaii and California are nearing the 15 percent mark, and more business and homeowners are facing the daunting review process, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take more than a year to complete, with no guarantee that the project will pass the utility's review. To avoid the hassle and expense, many simply abandon their projects. ...
Few states are growing their rooftop solar portfolios faster than Hawaii.
Last year, Hawaii installed more solar power per person than any other state except Nevada, making it the ninth-largest state for solar PV systems, according to a June 2011 report from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, a nonprofit advocacy group. Hawaii already held the No. 1 spot for solar water heating for several years.
Now, the state has a total of 55 megawatts in installed PV capacity from 7,700 projects throughout the islands.
Hawai'i overwhelmingly enacted the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2007 without the Republican governor's signature. The legislation requires the state to reduce its carbon emissions to the 1990 level by 2020. The Hawai'i Clean Energy Initiative proposes for the state to supply 70 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2030. That's 40 percent from renewable sources and 30 percent from efficiency upgrades that reduce demand. Currently, about 90 percent of Hawai'i's electricity is generated with imported oil.
Hawai'i's is the most ambitious clean-energy goal in the nation. Just how ambitious can be seen by looking at the total installed generating capacity for the islands. Right now that is approximately 2600 megawatts, most of it oil-fired, some of it coal-fired, but with a growing amount coming from the wind and the sun. With a lot of caveats, one installed megawatt of generating power can be said, on average, to be enough to power 1000 homes. This varies quite significantly from region to region.
In addition to the 55 megawatts of solar, there are some 130 megawatts of installed wind capacity in Hawai'i, with about 73 more megawatts in the pipeline. When those projects are completed at the end of 2012 or early 2013, some 11 percent of the installed generating capacity of the islands will come from wind and solar. However, because the wind is intermittent, a megawatt of installed wind capacity is calculated to generate, on average, only enough electricity for 300 to 400 homes. So that 11 percent figure is somewhat deceptive. And it's a long way from the 40 percent renewable figure the legislation requires to be met 19 years from now.
Just one example of how hard it may be to achieve that goal can be seen in the opposition being raised against a plan to add 400 megawatts of wind power on Lana'i and Moloka'i to supply O'ahu with electricity by undersea cable. That alone would provide 25 percent of O'ahu's power needs.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2005:
Beyond the purple fingers, beyond the false claims of progress, there exists a nation on the cusp of civil war. Shiite and Sunni leaders, we learn, have started forming sectarian armies to patrol their regions. The Kurds already have their own armed force. The religious Shiite group which had the best showing in the election is refusing to acknowledge Sunni complaints, urging the county to move on in forming a "national unity" government. That same group urging "national unity" has refused to install anyone except a member of their own religious party as Prime Minister.
A nation on the cusp of civil war.