Sun-Powered Schools Save $30M

Hawaii Pacific Solar will install solar panels at [15 Kauai schools in Hawaii] at no cost to the state. The department will buy electricity generated by the panels from Hawaii Pacific Solar [at] a rate of about 16.9 cents per kilowatt hour. The rate will rise to 28 cents an hour over the course of the 20-year contract.

…….The department will save an estimated $30 million over the life of the project, Abercrombie’s office said. The forecast assumes commercial electricity rates will increase an average of 3 percent per year.

via Sun-Powered Schools Save $30M.

Comment: ~ According to the EIA, average US retail price for electricity was 12.17 cents per kWh in August 2011 while industrial usage averaged 7.47 cents per kWh and commercial 10.83 cents per kWh. Prices increased on average by 1.3 percent from August 2010.

Rates vary from 20 to 45 cents per kilowatt hour on the islands, according to Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO). They explain:

“The cost of electricity in Hawaii is higher than on the U.S. mainland for a number of reasons. In Hawaii the electrical systems on each island are independent. Because there are no neighboring utility companies from which to draw power in the event of a problem, we must have reserve generating capacity and multiple distribution routes. This increased infrastructure is paid for by a small population.

Additionally, our use of oil to produce electricity drives up costs. Mainland states primarily use lower-cost resources that aren’t readily available here. To reduce Hawaii’s use of oil, protect our environment, and improve energy security, we are committed to significantly increasing our use of renewable energy resources.”

So the solar solution is only relevant to Hawaii because of high local electricity costs. It would only be viable for mainland (commercial) use if solar electricity charges could be reduced by 36 percent. And it would be a brave man/woman who commits to a 20-year escalation at 2.5 percent.

Renewable energy sources remain on the fringe, contributing less than 4.9 percent of the national total if we exclude hydroelectric power. Other Energy Sources comprises biomass, geothermal, solar, wind and other miscellaneous energy sources:

US Energy Sources