Hawaii’s Test Case for Solar Grid Penetration
Two years ago, the state of Hawaii made history in the U.S. by becoming the first place where solar reached, and then exceeded grid parity with dirtier sources of energy.
A stark, penetrating analysis by University of Hawaii professor of sustainability, Dr. Scott Cooney. The growth of solar power in Hawaii is proceeding faster than anywhere else in the nation, with almost 10 percent of island homes and businesses using the sun for power and returning some of that energy to the electric grid. As most of you know, the rising trend in solar power generation is creating problems for regulators and utility companies that are ill-equipped to monitor and store this excess energy. Electric companies fear overloading the grid and damaging equipment, while residents want more solar power to reduce their utility fees. Dr. Cooney feels that the “technical, logistical and potentiall political obstacles all became more pervasive after the revelation of solar’s clear financial competitive advantage.” Cooney goes on to say that “the bureaucracy involved in the approval of such a popular item has clearly gummed the machinery and slowed solar’s incredible ascension.” Cooney contends that a tipping point will soon occur and the shift to solar and alternative energy sources will push conventional power generation into the background. Given the popularity of solar, the rising cost of fossil fuels, and the regulatory delays involved with solar, “Hawaii will likely serve as a test case for the rest of the nation.” The big issue, it seems, is how regulatory agencies, the utilities, and the solar industry will resolve the conflict. Another issue is what will utility companies do with outdated fossil-fueled power plants? What kind of role will the electric companies play in a world dominated by renewable, alternative energy sources? These are indeed exciting times. And, yes, turn out the lights when you leave the room. Every little bit of conservation helps. Aloha, Russ.
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