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Hawaii’s New Feed-in Tariff for Solar PV Finding Limited Adoption So Far

Expected interest in Hawaii’s feed-in tariff program has not materialized, says a report by the program’s independent observer. Accion Group found that in the first month of operation, Hawaii’s long-awaited feed-in tariff policy had generated little activity, and much of the allocated capacity remains to be filled. Hawaii’s experience contrasts markedly with successful programs in Ontario, Canada; Vermont; and Gainesville, Fla., where applicants, many for solar photovoltaic systems, overwhelmed administrators. Of the total 80 megawatts allocated to the program among the three utilities, only 2.6 megawatts of solar PV applications have been filed, says Accion, a New Hampshire consulting company. Accion makes no determination of why the response to the program has been so lackluster. In addition, 23 kilowatts of existing net-metered projects have converted to the feed-in tariff program. Twenty megawatts of capacity has been allocated to conversion from net-metering accounts through early 2011. The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved Tier 1 and Tier 2 feed-in tariffs on Oct. 13, 2010. Tier 3, the final tier in the program, has not been approved and there is no definite date when it will be implemented. Critics have charged that the program is limited and offers unattractive prices. Hawaii Program ‘D’ Rated In the World Future Council feed-in tariff grading system, Hawaii compares well to Vermont, though both share a “D” grade. Hawaii’s grade of 57 points is slightly higher than Vermont’s 54 points. Hawaii’s program has two features that make it stand out in comparison to Vermont. Hawaii is the first state in the nation with tariffs in dual tracks: one set of tariffs for those using one set of state subsidies, another set of tariffs for those who use a different state program. Multiple Tariffs for Multiple Technologies Vermont’s program offers two tariffs for wind energy: one for small wind, one for large. However, there are only single tariffs for all other technologies. Hawaii, in contrast to Vermont, offers tariffs for four different technologies in two size “tiers,” as they are called. Tier 1 is for projects less than 20 kilowatts. Tier 2 is for varying amounts greater than 20 kilowatts, depending upon the island where the projects are located. However, Hawaii’s program is far less robust than successful programs in other countries and the Canadian province of Ontario. In the World Future Council’s grading system, Ontario qualifies for an “A minus,” with 84 points. Program Details In implementing the program, Hawaii’s Public Utility Commission ruled that despite concerns, the program should be launched without further delay. “The commission believes the better course is to proceed, learn from experience, and make any necessary changes and improvements upon the commission’s next opportunity to review the FIT program in two years,” the PUC said in its ruling on the program. Following are some of the details of the Hawaii feed-in tariff: Program review: 2 years Program Cap: 80 MW in total Oahu: 60 MW Big Island:- 10 MW Maui, Lanai, Molokai (combined): 10 MW Project Size Tier 1: <20 kW on all islands Project Size Tier 2: >20 kW as noted PV: <500 kW on Oahu PV: <250 KW on Maui and Hawaii (the Big Island) PV: <100 kW on Lanai and Molokai CSP: <500 kW Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii (the Big Island) CSP: <100 kW on Lanai and Molokai Wind: <100 kW on all islands Hydro: <100 kW on all islands Project Size Tier 3: <5 MW on Oahu <2.72 MW on Maui and Hawaii Or 1 percent of peak load Wind: >100 kW excluded on Maui and Hawaii Comparison of Hawaii Program By international standards. the program is modest. Hawaii has a population of 1.3 million people. The 80-megawatt FIT program limit represents about 61 watts per capita, although there are other programs in the state for procuring renewables. In contrast, Vermont has a significantly smaller population and a program cap of 50 megawatts, resulting in a higher relative limit of about 80 watts per capita. Neither Hawaii’s nor Vermont’s state program compares favorably to Gainesville, Fla. Gainesville has set a soft target of 32 megawatts for a population of 100,000, for a relative program cap of 320 watts per capita — four times that of Vermont and more than five times that of Hawaii. Insolation in Florida and Hawaii is similar and significantly more than in Vermont. If all the program capacity were developed with solar PV, Hawaii and Vermont would generate about 1 percent of their electricity with solar. In contrast, Gainesville would generate 2 percent of its supply with its program. Gainesville installed nearly 4 megawatts of solar PV in 2010, the first full year of the program. or nearly twice the 2.6 megawatts of applications under Hawaii’s program. Germany currently generates 2 percent of its more than 500 terawatt-hours per year per year from solar PV alone. Wind turbines in Germany produce another 7 percent of supply. Biomass and biogas generation bring total renewable generation to 16 percent of supply. A discussion of Hawaii’s feed-in tariff on the website Energy Self-Reliant States notes the estimated prices needed for a solar PV system to yield an 8 percent return on investment. The website is a project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Read the original article on The Solar Home and Business Journal.
windenergybasics Paul Gipe is the author of Wind Energy Basics.

Germany Continues Exporting Electricity: Renewables Driving Down Prices Despite Closing Reactors

Re-posted from Renewable Energy World. Recent data shows Germany continues to export electricity despite closing seven nuclear reactors. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that continued renewable energy expansion in Germany is driving down power prices. Germany’s bureau of statistics reports that the country exported more electricity than it imported during the first half of 2011. This disproves […] Read More..

Distributed Geothermal Can Add 7% of Californian Supply

Small, geographically dispersed geothermal power plants could provide 7% of California’s electricity supply, according to an analysis of data collected by a consultant to the Golden state. California recently passed new legislation requiring the state to provide 33% of its electricity from renewable energy and newly elected Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law. […] Read More..

German Wind More Stable Year-to-Year than Fukushima Reactors

Critics of wind energy often charge that wind energy is too “unreliable” to generate a large portion of a nation’s electricity and suggest that base load needs “reliable” sources of generation such as nuclear power. While wind is a “variable” resource, that is, the wind doesn’t always blow and when it does it doesn’t always […] Read More..

Germany Continues Breaking Clean Energy Records

As the nuclear reactor accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant continues to dominate the world’s attention, Germany has quietly broken more renewable energy records. The conservative government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, struggling to stay ahead of public attitudes toward nuclear power in the run-up to regional elections, issued its annual report on the contribution of […] Read More..

Community Power Report Calls for FITs in California

In a new 61-page report, San Francisco Bay area activists call for developing the distributed generation of renewable energy in California through a system of feed-in tariffs. The Bay Area’s Local Clean Energy Alliance published Community Power–Decentralized Renewable Energy in California to frame the debate about how the state can meet its renewable energy target […] Read More..