With Hawaii, Cheap Solar PPAs Are Now in Nine US States

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With the addition of Hawaii; the latest state to allow SunRun solar power purchase agreements to compete with utility power, homeowners in nine states now have the option for solar that’s cheaper from the first month than dirty power and costs little or nothing to start.

In Hawaii, SunRun hits the sweet spot, because the state not only has good clean energy legislation (meaning that it allows competition from clean energy to green its grid) but it also has an almost complete dependence on fossil fuels.

Every year, Hawaii spends  over $5,000 for oil to power each homeowner. The state gets 90% of its power from dirty energy. It is about on a par with Wyoming, or Kentucky, but worse, since it is all imported. This combination (clean legislation/dirty dependence) makes Hawaii ideal.

Usually, states that are as dependent on fossil fuels as this are also very unfriendly to clean energy, with the result that solar residential PPAs are just not allowed to compete in those states. Most of the South for example, won’t allow competition with dirty energy.

The ideal states for a residential PPA are those with good clean energy legislation to encourage clean energy to compete with dirty energy, such as the states that are members of RGGI, that are already operating a kind of cap and trade to clean the grid. New Jersey and Massachusetts allows residential solar PPAs and leases.

States like California which have decoupled utilities so PG&E pushes homeowners to be more efficient – because their paycheck depends on it: they earn more when they save more – rather than sell more – power.

With the addition of Hawaii, solar leases or PPAs are now available in seven states from solar financing company SunRun (California, parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Hawaii). SolarCity, the other giant player in zero-investment solar (with leases in their case) also covers some of those states and Oregon and Texas. Cheap leases or PPAs are also offered by installation companies Sungevity and GroSolar in some of these states.

For homeowners in these nine states, home solar can be essentially free now. With solar leasing or PPAs, you pay zero or just a few hundred down, and then pay a lower rate monthly than for your utility power. You don’t save as much in the long run as if you bought the system, but you don’t have to buy anything, and you do still save hundreds of thousands of dollars over time on electricity.

Oh, yeah. It’s also sunny in Hawaii, just like it is in California, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, and lots of US states. But almost any old sun will do, actually. The real determining factor is whether there is sunny energy legislation in the state.

Image: Sarah Camp
Susan Kraemer@Twitter
(Disclaimer: After I got my own solar power through the SunRun PPA, I asked SunRun if I could help other homeowners get a solar PPA too)

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6 thoughts on “With Hawaii, Cheap Solar PPAs Are Now in Nine US States

  • I would really hope that Hawaii would opt for solar thermal systems in addition to installing photovoltaics. Solar thermal can give them dispatchable as well as baseload power, while solar PV cannot. Another big issue is that for utility-sized power plants, solar thermal is now a bit cheaper than PV as far as I know. Even paying extra for the heat storage in order to run the plants all night, the cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour is equal or lower for the large solar thermal installations going up now.

    Most people don’t understand that in order to run a power grid, you need dispatchable sources so that you have the power when you need it. In the case of hawaii, they don’t have the geographic size to spread out wind turbines to get more steady power like a continent could do. They have to rely on more deterministic power sources. Basically things that they can rely on no matter what.

    Solar thermal would be an excellent choice for them in this manner. It can be baseload and dispatchable. It is cheap(ish). It can be paired with fossil fuel backup power using the same turbines for very cheap. This means even in a really bad cloudy situation, you can turn on the fossil fuel heating system and continue producing power without a hiccup.

    My volunteer group recently completed an article on this subject. We go into a bit of detail on why we think solar thermal is so awesome. If you are interested check it out.
    The article can be found at http://www.visionofearth.org/featured-articles/solar-thermal-power/

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