Solar-to-Grid Curtailment Solution on the Island of Kauai

June 19, 2014 by Jeff Shepard

Sunetric, a wholly-owned subsidiary of RGS Energy has deployed a 198.8-kW PV system with its first automated curtailment and smart-grid controls at a popular beachfront resort on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. The system is funded and owned by Kairos Energy Capital, a Hawaii-based merchant bank which finances and invests in solar. The system assures all electricity generated by the PV system is consumed by the local facility and not fed back into the utility grid. This reduces the impact on the local circuit and makes it easier for the island's electric utility provider, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), to manage the grid.

The solution addresses the concerns of KIUC and other utilities regarding "grid saturation," where electricity generated by a solar PV system exceeds the maximum amount allowed on a particular circuit. Since Sunetric's PV system intelligently avoids flowing electricity back onto the grid, it resolves this issue while providing customers the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy.

This Kauai project incorporates solar panels onto a parking canopy and is expected to save the resort more than $30,000 annually in energy costs. KIUC has been closely monitoring the PV system through interval data and confirms the solar array has not exported power to the grid. The Sunetric engineering team spent four months developing, testing and implementing this custom solution, which now serves as an excellent model for PV installations where interconnection capacity is a concern.

"We partnered with Sunetric to deploy this unique solution because they are one of the largest and most well established local solar developers and installers in Hawaii," said Larry Gilbert, managing partner and CEO at Kairos Energy Capital. "The Sunetric team brought great engineering know-how and top-notch service to the project, which has become one of our most innovative solar technologies to date. Sunetric now supports our ongoing efforts to help businesses 'go green' by adopting solar."

Sunetric's president, Aaron Kirk, commented: "We are committed to meeting our customers' special requirements, and we thrive on tackling challenges like this one that involve designing and installing an unconventional curtailment system. It represents our first solar-to-grid curtailment solution that overcomes utility grid saturation concerns common in the Hawaiian Islands. This popular Kauai resort has now created a more sustainable future for themselves and their guests, and we expect other Hawaii resort properties to follow."