Rooftop solar installations up 55% despite pandemic, boosting industry and Hawaii economy

Nearly 6,000 new systems installed, most with energy storage

Release Date: 1/25/2021

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HONOLULU, Jan. 25, 2021 – Despite concerns the COVID-19 pandemic would slow the installation of private rooftop solar, Hawaiian Electric saw a 55 percent jump in new customer-sited systems in 2020 compared to 2019.

In 2020, 5,965 new rooftop solar systems were installed across Oahu, Hawaii Island and Maui County, up 55 percent from the 3,840 systems in 2019. Of the new systems, 4,624, or 78 percent, include battery storage.

At the end of 2020, there were 87,848 private customer systems connected to Hawaiian Electric's five island grids, including 9,751 with energy storage. The generating capacity of customer-sited systems and grid-scale solar projects totaled 968 megawatts in 2020, an increase of 7 percent from 902 MW in 2019. In total, about 3.7 million panels are in use.

With this increase, 36 percent of single-family homes on Oahu, 29 percent in Maui County and 21 percent on Hawaii Island have rooftop solar. This is by far the leading rooftop solar uptake per capita in the nation.

Number of PV Systems PV Capacity, MW
Number % Residential % Commercial Capacity % Residential % Commercial
Oahu 59,837 96% 4% 726 46% 54%
Hawaii Island 14,087 94% 6% 110 66% 34%
Maui County 13,924 92% 8% 132 59% 41%
Total 87,848 968

"This continued progress for customer self-generation is welcome news for Hawaii and all our customers," said Lani Shinsato, customer energy resources co-director at Hawaiian Electric.

"We cannot hope to reach our clean energy goals, especially on land-scarce Oahu, without robust customer participation in generation, storage and grid services that keep the electric system, reliable, secure and safe."

Throughout 2020, Hawaiian Electric met regularly and worked closely with the solar industry and regulators to cut the time from application to activation of new private rooftop solar systems. This and other improvements in the review and approval process were aimed to let customers reap the financial benefits of solar sooner and boost the solar industry as a vital part of the state’s economic recovery.

Most recently, Hawaiian Electric launched its Quick Connect program, which allows customers installing new rooftop solar systems to reduce their electricity costs faster. The innovative one-year test program allows customers on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii islands to install and energize new systems that meet technical requirements on certain circuits without waiting for the standard approvals, which can be received later.

For customers who cannot take advantage of private rooftop solar, Hawaiian Electric will soon launch its shared solar program, a new phase of community-based renewable energy. This program aims to extend the financial and environmental benefits of clean energy to a wider range of residents, with priority to those who have been under-represented in solar adoption, such as renters and customers with low-to-moderate incomes.

Upon approval by the Public Utilities Commission and after recruitment of local organizations to build these projects, more customers will be able to participate in grid-scale solar projects.