Pilot project could lead to more solar in saturated neighborhoods

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Hawaiian Electric is testing out a new project to push more solar applications through, but it could cost you.

The utility is partnering with mainland-based company Varentec to solve the problem of voltage instability in neighborhoods with saturated solar.

Higher-than-allowed voltage can trip off rooftop solar systems, damage home appliances, and endanger utility crews working on the grid, officials say.

HECO will install equipment — a grid optimizer and management system — in a neighborhood heavily loaded with PV for one month and monitor the process.

KHON2 spoke to Nicholas Ong, a solar engineer who says it will help with the backlog of solar applicants, but the customer will pay more for it.

“If it works out, I only see positives for HECO, but the cost of implementing this may be passed down to the customers,” said Ong.

“Ultimately customers, of course, have to pay all the costs, but we think it will be relatively minor,” said Hawaiian Electric spokesman Peter Rosegg. “The cost of adding more solar will go to the people getting that solar, who will benefit.”

HECO says the pilot project will begin sometime before the end of the year.

Customers in the chosen neighborhood will be informed.

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