Gov. David Ige, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, state Rep. Chris Lee and three dozen others gathered Friday afternoon at a Maunalani Heights home overlooking Diamond Head for what was deemed a “historical moment” in Hawaii’s energy world.

Sunrun, a residential solar company, announced the first completed installation of its Sunrun BrightBox energy storage system in the state. The Tesla battery holds solar power captured during the day so that it can be used at night.

“This is the next step in the solar revolution,” said Anthony Aalto, whose home will now be powered 80 percent to 90 percent by the sun while still being connected to the grid for those cloudy days.

Mayor Caldwell, Governor Ige and left, Anthony Aalto looks on as Mayor Caldwell clicks on the power at Aalto's residence on Wilhemina Rise. 6 may 2016.
Gov. David Ige, right, and the homeowner, Anthony Aalto, left, watch as Mayor Kirk Caldwell flips on the battery storage system at Aalto’s residence in Maunalani Heights above Kaimuki. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The system costs around $40,000, but after state and federal tax credits it’s closer to $20,000, Sunrun officials said. But they encourage residents to just lease the system with no out-of-pocket costs.

Sunrun offers the leasing option now at 19 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is roughly 20 percent less than the current rates with Hawaiian Electric Co.

“The storage of energy produced by the sun is the next wave in rooftop solar, and it’s exciting that Honolulu will be on the cutting edge for these new products being offered by Sunrun,” Caldwell said. “Battery storage provides consumers an environmentally friendly choice that did not exist just a few years ago.”


Tesla Battery system Aalto residence2. 6 may 2016
Tesla battery system at Aalto’s residence. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Caldwell recalled growing up in the neighborhood near where Aalto’s home is located.

He said when he was younger, he’d look up the mountain ride and see carnation fields. While it’s not in agricultural production anymore, the mayor said homes are now “farming the sun.”

“Hawaii’s 100 percent clean energy goal requires an aggressive transformation in how energy is generated, stored and used,” Ige said. “The availability of an affordable home solar plus storage option allows the average Hawaii resident to be a part of the solution.”

The governor added that Hawaii is “happy to partner with forward-thinking companies who are innovating and reducing the cost of living for the average resident.”

Rooftop of photovoltaic system on roof that powers the Tesla Battery system at Anthony Aalto's residence. 6 may 2016
The rooftop photovoltaic system captures solar energy that is stored in the Tesla battery system at Anthony Aalto’s residence. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Michael Grasso, Sunrun’s chief marketing officer, called it a “historical moment.” He said in the future, this is how homes will power themselves.

Lee noted that one in three homes now have solar in Hawaii, which means $250 million less that the state is spending on imported fossil fuels.

He said the batter systems don’t just help the individual homeowner, but everyone else too because they act as a distributed power storage and delivery system that can help avoid the need for additional power plants and infrastructure that all ratepayers would otherwise be forced to pay for.

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