Hawaiian Electric Co. has announced a project that may be a key first step toward solving one of the thornier issues in Hawaii’s push toward renewables: how to let people living in apartments and condominiums power their homes with solar electricity.

The solution, so-called community-based renewable projects, has been anticipated for years – but so slow to roll out that some have accused the regulated electric monopoly of “dragging anchor.” The concept is simple: big solar farms from which renters or condo dwellers can buy power, which HECO delivers on its grid. The problem has been figuring out the details.

The first project, announced on Monday, Mililani Tech Solar I, isn’t open to everyone, said Peter Rosegg, a HECO spokesman. Tritium3 Renewable Ventures’ 270-kilowatt facility comprising 864 solar panels in the Mililani Tech Park area is fully subscribed, but Rosegg said the project shows HECO has worked things out. More such projects are expected to be approved in 2020, the company said.

“The projects coming later on will likely be open to everyone who wants to join,” he said.

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