Introduction: Hawaiian Electric (HECO) power outage and how solar batteries can help you!
On Friday, September 24th, 2021, around 29,000 Hawaiian Electric (HECO) customers on Oahu experienced a power outage. The blackout lasted for around 10 minutes, impacting the safety and security of homes and businesses across the island.
While a 10-minute power outage might seem like a minor inconvenience, many experts predict that power outages will become more common and more severe in the years to come.
Historically, homeowner's only option to protect themselves was expensive, dirty, and hard to maintain generators. Fortunately for HECO customers, solar and home batteries not only allow customers to save money on their utility bills but also provide backup protection against power outages.
Let's take a look at what caused this recent power outage on Oahu, the likelihood of large-scale power outages impacting Hawaii again, and how homeowners can protect themselves from blackouts by adding solar and home batteries with Alchemy Solar.
What caused 29,000 Hawaiian Electric (HECO) customers to lose power across Oahu?
Electricity grids are notoriously complex to manage and keep working correctly. The complexity is increased because Oahu is an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
On the Mainland, utilities like San Diego Gas & Electric or Southern California Edison have large grids connected to a network of power stations and resources. Access to various power resources and other power grids helps utilities in the Continental U.S. remain stable because, in an emergency, they can pull power from other producers to avoid voltage shifts or other issues that can cause a power outage.
On September 24th, HECO experienced a system issue that led to a power generator going offline, according to a HECO spokesperson.
Because the Hawaiian Electric power grid is a closed grid, when the system issue occurred, it brought the frequency of the electricity on the grid to low. Low-frequency electricity, when transmitted, can damage or destroy appliances connected to the grid.
To prevent the low-frequency electricity from damaging customer's equipment and appliances, HECO was forced to turn off the power.
Just one issue resulted in nearly 30,000 customers on Oahu losing power. The concerning part of Oahu homeowners and people across Hawaii is that the HECO spokesperson said that this outage is "routine" and happens "regularly."
The power outage on September 24th impacted customers across Oahu, covering Kailua, Kaneohe, Salt Lake, lower Pearl City, Ewa, Waipahu, and Wahiawa. Power outages are such an issue that Hawaiian Electric has a dedicated website for a Hawaii Power Outage Map.
Will Power Outages be an issue for Hawaii and Oahu in the future?
29,000 HECO customers losing power was not the first time HECO had a massive power outage in September of 2021. On September 3rd, 2021, 6,000 customers in Mililani and Pearl City experienced an extended power outage of around an hour and a half.
The disaster in Texas with the power outage of February 2021 that killed over 100 people was a shocking tragedy that we hope never happens again. But, unfortunately, the power grid in Hawaii and Texas has a lot of similarities.
Texas and Hawaii are the two power grids that are not connected to the power grids in other states. The grids are separate for different, but the risk is the same. If the grid experiences one problem, it can jeopardize the power reliability for all customers.
In Hawaii, HECO has many unique challenges that will increase the frequency of power outages in the future.
Hawaii is susceptible to natural disasters in a way that few other states are. As shown in Louisiana, where 1.1 million people experienced power outages because of Hurricane Ida, hurricanes can cause massive issues for a utility.
In Hawaii, the danger of hurricanes is especially prominent because HECO's grid is isolated. As a result, if a hurricane or tropical storm were to hit Oahu, Big Island, Maui, or Kaui, all it would take is one piece of critical infrastructure to be knocked offline, to lead to extended power outages across the island.
Because of the distance of Hawaii from the Mainland, it is also reasonable to expect that it will take longer to get the required parts and assistance needed to fix a potential issue, leading to power outages potentially extending for an extended amount of time.
The path of hurricanes and tropical storms is something that is closely tracked and monitored by scientists. Based on projections, a hurricane or tropical storm is most likely to cross the path of the Par Hawaii Refinery, located in Kapolei. The Par Hawaii Refining is the only refinery in the state. If a storm hits the Par Hawaii Refinery, that could lead to severe issues power HECO's power plants, leading to extended power outages or brownouts.
Another natural disaster that put the Hawaiian Electric grid at risk is flooding. Based on a U.S. Department of Energy study, on average, flooding causes a power outage in Hawaii is caused once every 6.7 days.
As climate change progresses, many scientists project that flooding will become more common. If flooding does become more severe, the HECO grid is not structured to avoid power outages, potentially increasing the frequency of power outages caused by flooding.
Another factor that is not always discussed is that electrical usage is projected to increase in the years to come. As homes need more electricity to power appliances and electric vehicles and keep homes cool as temperatures rise, HECO's power production will be challenged. With greater demand for power comes more significant swings in voltage and production. Large swings in voltage are similar to the issue that caused the September 24th, 2021 outage on Oahu.
Hawaiin electric is being pushed to transition away from using fossil fuel and coal to power its electricity production. Though the transition away from dirty power plants is good for Hawaii, the closing of the AES Hawaii Power Plant will lead to a loss of 20% of HECO's power production. HECO is in the process of working on the Kapolei Energy Storage Project, but the transition will put a lot of stress on the grid and could lead to more power outages.
The power outage issues facing HECO go beyond just natural disasters and environmental changes. The power grids on Oahu, Big Island, Maui, and Kaui are some of the oldest in the nation. These outdated electricity grids are not designed to use power from other resources besides traditional power plants. As new forms of power production become more common, the HECO grid could be more unstable and lead to more power outages.
HECO is also the frequent target of cyber hacking and attacks. For example, the Colonial Pipeline showed that hackers could take control of important infrastructure. HECO invests a lot in cyber security, but all it takes is one slip up, and the entire HECO grid could be held hostage by a cyber attacker.
How do solar and home batteries protect Hawaii homeowners from HECO power outages?
Historically, Hawaiin homeowners had only one choice for how to get electricity. HECO had complete control, which led to homeowners paying for expensive utility power and suffering from frequent power outages.
Solar and home batteries provide homeowners on Oahu the ability to save money on electricity, take advantage of federal solar tax credit and Hawaii solar tax credits, and, just as importantly, protect themselves against power outages.
Many of our customers get solar batteries for $0 down. By removing the need for an upfront payment, solar batteries can be accessed by nearly every homeowner. In addition, the availability of $0 down solar and battery options means more people can protect themselves against HECO rate increases and blackouts.
Home solar batteries like the Tesla Powerwall 2 and the LG Chem RESU take the place of fossil fuel-based generators. By powering the batteries with solar energy, the batteries are programmed to sense when an outage occurs. So when the power goes out, the home solar batteries switch on and back up critical loads in a home.
Solar batteries provide massive advantages when compared to traditional backup generators. Unlike traditional generators, solar batteries do not need to be refilled with fuel. Instead, using solar power, the battery can recharge each day when the sun comes up to help homeowners retain backup power during extended power outages.
Many different solar battery types exist, but at Alchemy Solar, we focus on the battery technology that will work for a long time. Traditional generators require frequent maintenance that can be extremely costly. In addition, if the maintenance is not done correctly, traditional generators can fail when needed. The solar batteries that Alchemy Solar work provides do not require maintenance, have a 10-year product warranty, and when our customers go with the Sunrun Brightbox solution, they get 25 years of maintenance, monitoring, warranty, and protection.
Most homeowners believe that batteries are expensive and not attainable. Fortunately, the cost of batteries has come down dramatically over the past decade, and different forms of solar and battery financing, like monthly solar leases, prepaid power purchase agreements, and solar loans, mean that almost all homeowners can afford solar and batteries.
Solar batteries can also help Oahu homeowners better support the power grid. Preexisting solar customers on Oahu can now enter into the Demand Response Battery Bonus Program. The Demand Response program allows homeowners to add solar at the most financially beneficial rate, receive a rebate of thousands of dollars to add a battery, and protect themselves from outages. HECO pulls electricity from the battery to help support the grid and avoid power outages for the rebate.
Other grid service programs also exist, like the Kukui Hele Pō program. The Kukui Hele Pō program pays homeowners with a battery and reduces their utility bills in exchange for the ability to help keep the grid voltage consistent, helping to limit power outages for other people on Oahu.
In the future, customers on Oahu with solar batteries will have access to new Virtual Power Plant programs. Virtual Power Plant programs will help HECO provide more secure power for the grid and improve the economics for customers with batteries by increasing the compensation they receive.
Conclusion: Getting solar batteries with Alchemy Solar protects Hawaii homeowners from HECO power outages
HECO power outages are a part of daily life for homeowners on Oahu, Big Island, Maui, and Kaui. Unfortunately, outages will only increase as the additional strain is put on the grid because of climate change, increased electrical demand, and an aging power grid.
It might seem like a power outage is a minor inconvenience, but as they become more frequent and go on for more extended periods, they can have terrible implications for homeowners.
At Alchemy Solar, we provide solar and battery solutions that help our customers save money on electricity and help keep their homes safe with battery backup solutions.
Solar batteries allow for financial security and protection that no utility can provide to them. Alchemy Solar focuses on ensuring that our customers receive the right equipment, financing option, education on Demand Response programs, and support to maximize the experience of adding solar and home batteries.
If you are a homeowner interested in learning more about solar, home batteries, and how you can protect yourself against the next power outage, schedule a free consultation with Alchemy Solar today!