Hawaii is the first state in the U.S. where rooftop solar has become an almost standard item on homes and businesses. Solar panels are also in places unthinkable in other locations. They face north, they're covered by trees, and some look like they're barely attached to the roof itself. But, Hawaiians find solar to be so economical that almost all solar makes sense, and they are increasingly finding energy storage an economical solution as well.
Understanding why solar energy and energy storage is working in Hawaii provides insights to what the future will look like in the lower 48 states.
On average, U.S. residential consumers pay 12.45 cents per kWh for electricity. Prices vary by state in the continental U.S., from 9.33 cents per kWh in Louisiana to 19.95 cents per kWh in Connecticut, but the prices in the lower 48 states pale in comparison to those in Hawaii.
According to the EIA, residential electricity prices in Hawaii were 27.54 cents per kWh, and on the island of Kaua'i rates are 32.78 per kWh starting this year. That makes solar extremely viable given the fact that power purchase agreements for residential projects can be found for less than $0.13 per kWh. Utility contracts are going for less than $0.05 per kWh, and the difference means energy storage makes financial sense.
In less than a year and a half between the Tesla/SolarCity deal and the AES installations, the cost of solar energy and energy storage fell 30%. It shouldn't go unnoticed that the price of electricity is now below the retail rate most consumers pay in the continental U.S. Hawaii is proving that a 100% renewable energy future is not only possible, it's closer than most energy consumers think.
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