Sunrise brief: Rooftop solar in Hawaii gets a boost from a new incentive program

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Utility regulators in Hawaii approved an incentive program designed to help expand residential rooftop solar systems.

The program will provide money to Oahu homeowners who install battery energy storage systems to new or existing rooftop solar systems. In exchange, local utility Hawaiian Electric will be allowed to use the power stored in the batteries during peak hours, generally between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Thousands of new or expanded solar systems could result.

Isaac Moriwake, an attorney with Earthjustice who represented the Hawaii Solar Energy Association in the regulatory proceeding, told local news outlets the orders will spur renewed investments in solar systems.

“To reach 100% we need all options on the table,” he was quoted as saying. “But what’s clear is to reach 100% we need to cover all rooftop space.”

As designed, the program will allow consumers to get an upfront payment from Hawaiian Electric in exchange for agreeing to sell the utility power from battery for two hours per day, during hours to be determined by Hawaiian Electric, for 10 years. The size of the payment would depend on the size of the battery. For example, a Tesla Powerwall  could generate an upfront payment of $4,250.

If people back out of selling power to the utility before the 10-year term expires, they would have to pay back a pro-rated portion of the incentive.

The new incentive will be in addition to existing incentives. That means customers who already have solar can continue to sell excess energy to Hawaiian Electric under the terms of existing deals.

One concern is the potential flood of building permits for the new solar capacity, which could cause bottlenecks and impact the program’s chances of success.

Project secures construction bridge loan

Centaurus Renewable Energy LLC, developer of the Arroyo Solar & Storage Project in the southeastern part of New Mexico, said it closed a $70 million construction bridge loan facility provided by Voya Investment Management, the asset management business of Voya Financial.

The credit facility will be used to make payments for project equipment and for other development and construction expenses. The transaction was organized by Voya Investment Management’s Direct Infrastructure team led by Tom Emmons and Ed Levin.

The Arroyo Solar & Storage Project is a 300 MW solar generation facility and a 150 MW/600 MWh battery energy storage system. Solar energy and battery storage services are committed under a 20-year power purchase agreement and energy storage agreement to Public Service Company of New Mexico. The project is expected to partially replace the power from the 847 MW San Juan Generating Station, New Mexico’s largest coal-fired plant, which is scheduled to close in 2022.

Houston-based Centaurus Renewable Energy LLC, was founded in 2013 and has developed approximately 20 solar projects totaling over 1.3GW-DC across seven states.

OMCO Solar offers a business update

Solar racking and tracker company OMCO Solar said it has shipped 1 GW of products over the past year to projects in 30 states. It said that with 8 GW of contract manufacturing solar products, it now has delivered more than 9 GW to the market. It said it has increased its manufacturing capacity to more than 3 GW a year.

In Florida, the company is working with Moss Solar to complete six utility-scale projects totaling more than 600 MW. Once completed, this will be the largest fixed-tilt portfolio in the company’s history, and one of the largest in the U.S.

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