Hawaiian Electric announced that it teamed up with Electric Power Research Institution to collect and analyze information from a charging station that has photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of a carport. The study wants to determine the impact electric vehicles have on the power grid.
The utility is concerned about the impact of the growing number of electric vehicles in the state with regards to the demand for electricity. The carport will have nine solar panels installed on its roof with a battery storage system.
The station can fully charge the battery of a Nissan Leaf in four hours. It is capable of storing energy collected during the day to charge electric vehicles at night.
This might make Hawaiian Electric look good for groups who advocate the use of renewable energy but its customers are not convinced by it. A lot of them want to install solar panels on their homes and businesses but they are forced to forget about the idea because they are located in areas where there are already high amount of photovoltaic systems. The customers are asked to pay for expensive study before they can connect to the grid.
Hawaiian Electric has set a 15 percent threshold for the amount of solar power that can be on a single circuit during peak load. This is also the policy of majority of electric utilities in the United States. Hawaii has the highest amount of solar energy installations linked to the grid and the threshold is being reached often in some areas of the state.
Utilities said that high amount of customer-generated solar power on the grid could be problematic because the generations are out of their control. They said that the source of the energy fluctuates and could upset the balance between electricity production and consumption.
The study required before installing solar panels could amount to several thousands of dollars for small residential systems and up to $16,000 for large commercial projects. This is why customers tend to abandon their solar dreams.
The study is needed to determine whether the solar project can be safely connected to the grid without affecting other customers. Rule 14H is the 15 percent threshold that was set by the Public Utility Commission. It used to be just 10 percent until last May 15 when it was increased to 15 percent.
Most customers want to install solar panels because of the recent rate increase issued by Hawaiian Electric for their Oahu customers. The state Public Utilities Commission approved the hike on Monday. Customers will pay 2.2 percent more for electricity.