Despite rapid policy changes, the installed base of solar in Hawaii continues to rise rapidly year after year. According to a press release last week from Hawaiian Electric Companies, 109 MW was installed in its service area, which covers the majority of the island state, last year.
This is a 10% increase over the previous year, and brings HECO to 695 MW of installed solar. The new installations in 2017 included 82,000 customer-sited rooftop systems connected or approved by the utility, as well as the 27.6 MW Waianae solar facility.
HECO estimates that rooftop solar connections and approvals rose 3.6% over 2016 levels, as the state’s distributed solar market continues to recover after regulators abruptly shut off net metering in 2015. Hawaii has by far the highest portion of rooftop solar of any state, with HECO estimating that 16% of its residential customers on the island of Hawaii have installed rooftop solar, and 20% on the other islands.
But the big coming growth will be in utility-scale solar, as like many utilities HECO appears to prefer large solar plants over rooftop solar owned by its customers or third parties. HECO estimates that 135 MW of utility-scale solar will come online on Oahu and Maui this year, although it is unclear if this figure includes the 110 MW-AC of solar that NRG began construction on this week.
Hawaii got more than 10% of its electricity from solar in the first nine months of 2017, one of only three states to do so. With this volume of solar continuing to come online, higher portions will doubtless be seen in 2018.