Photo: Rooftop solar panels
Energy from the sun (solar energy) is used in two different types of solar energy systems.

Solar thermal 
Solar thermal systems (including solar water heaters) use the sun’s energy to heat water for residential use (up to 160°F); industrial use, including air conditioning (170-350°F); or electricity generation (350-2000°F). Tens of thousands of solar water heaters are in use in Hawaii. There is one solar thermal electricity production facility at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) in Kona, Hawaii.

Photovoltaic systems do not have the moving parts or steam production found in most other electricity generation systems. Instead, the sunlight shines on the solar cell and causes an electric current to be generated directly. Thousands of photovoltaic systems are in use in Hawaii. Some generate power for use on-site (on residential, commercial, and other buildings); other (larger) systems generate power that is provided directly to electric utilities.

Percentage of electricity
generated by solar, 2015
8% Nationwide rank of cumulative
installed PV capacity per capita,
Power density
of PV array3
watts per
square foot
Levelized cost of PV, Hawaii utility scale4 ~13‐14.5¢ /
Installed cost, U.S.,
$3.29 / W Installed cost, U.S.,
$1.80 / W
Statewide 2014 construction
expenditures attributed to
7.4% Acres per megawatt
(Hawaii, utility‐scale)8
3.3 – 7.2
1 Source:  2007 -2013 Annual RPS Reports to the Hawaii PUC,

2  Gideon Weissman, Rob Sargent, “Lighting the Way: The Top States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2014”, Frontier Group, Environment America Research and Policy Center, September 2015, page 14.

3 Module output ranges from about 11 to 19 watts per square foot. Sanchez, Justine; “PV Module Selection.” In Home Power issue #163, October/November 2014.

4  Based on latest PPA approved projects; reference Docket Numbers 2014-0356, 2014-0357, 2014-0359, 2014-0354.

5  Represents median national price.  ”Tracking the Sun VII: An Historical Summary of the Installed Price of Photovoltaics in the United States from 1998 to 2013;” Galen Barbose, Samantha Weaver, and Naim Darghouth; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; September 2014.

6  Represents median national price. Ibid.

7  DBEDT, March 2014.

8  Maunalani, 0.3 MW, 1.5 acres; La Ola, 1.5 MW, 10 acres; Hoku/Forest City, 1.2 MW, 4 acres; Kapaa, 1.21 MW, 5 acres; Port Allen, 6 MW, 20 acres; Kalaeloa SunPower, 5 MW, 36 acres; Kaleloa Scatec Solar project, 5 MW, 20 acres; Kalaeloa Home Lands Solar, 5 MW, 29 acres.


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For information and data on renewable energy and energy efficiency in Hawaii, download Hawaii Energy Facts & Figures, May 2016 Edition.


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