Shining Light On Solar Power

Islandwide Solar employees install solar panels on a roof in Lihu‘e. Photo courtesy Islandwide Solar

Jeremy Menschel
Islandwide Solar Senior Engineering Consultant

Please tell us about the business you work for. Islandwide Solar is a company located in Puhi that serves the needs for renewable energy. Our solar panels produce electricity. This business started in Kalaheo by Ken Just and has been on Kaua’i about four years. I’ve been working here almost two years.

Why should we use solarpowered energy? Because right now, as a nation, we are so stuck on using power produced dirty: coal, diesel, oil. We have the ability to produce power in clean, safe, efficient manners, where we can save money out of our pockets, first and foremost, but also it helps the environment. We need to do something. Especially here in Hawai’i, with all the sun we have, it makes total sense.

How much power does one solar panel provide? The panels come in different wattage/power sizes anywhere from 185 watts up to 300 or 400 watts. Most of the time, the wattage is relatively the same. We don’t jump around too much and try to stay within a 240to 250-watt panel, depending on the manufacturer they each have a different spin. We primarily focus on 100 percent American-made and the highest quality panels available.

How much power does the average home use? Every household is different. You could have a small 1,200-square-foot house and have a $300to $400-a-month bill, and I’ve met owners who have a 3,000square-foot house and they have a $200-a-month bill. So it all is relative to consumption. Everything is custom. But the average home with a $200-a-month bill, they might need about 20 panels.

How long do the panels last? Most panels have a warranty anywhere from 20 to 25 years on power output only. We guarantee on the 25th year, the panel will have 80 percent of its total power. They all come with a fiveto 10-year manufacturer’s warranty covering the materials. There are panels out there that are 36 years old still producing power today.

What happens on cloudy days or at night? No matter what, the systems will drop power on a rainy or cloudy day. Whenever they need power, they will be drawing it off Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative if they are grid-tied. There are systems where you can go completely off the grid with batteries. We do that as well, but primarily they are all grid-tied. At night, when the panels aren’t producing power, the grid also is providing power for the homeowner. On the other hand, if the house isn’t using up all the power the panels are giving, any excess power will get pushed back into the grid, and KIUC buys that from the homeowner.

How has business been since you opened? We probably have an increase of an average 20 percent to 30 percent per year. Right now we’re installing close to 120 to 130 projects per year. The reason we’ve been so successful has been the referrals.

What sets your business apart? Our customer service. People recognize our ability to serve. We make sure we cover every single base. We’re also properly licensed in-house. We don’t subcontract any of our work, so everyone is an employee.

What is one change your business has made recently? We’ve partnered with a third-party solar provider, one of the largest in the nation, Sun Run. It is now providing power purchase agreements for homeowners where we can pretty much do a solar system for 50 percent of the cost. It partnered with us because of how much we’ve grown and our qualifications. Homeowners are basically just paying for the power that’s guaranteed to come out of the system, just the same as when they buy it out themselves and go apply for all the tax rebates. They get all the benefits of owning the system without all the headaches. Sun Run does all the maintenance, monitoring, inspections and replacements if anything fails. It also put a $1 million insurance package on each system. It’s guaranteeing that the system will be operable for the next 20 years.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of this business? When I talk to the homeowners after the job is done and they’re absolutely excited and ecstatic that their electric bill is $0.

How do you get your bills to $0? We have to properly design the system. We look at the homeowner’s daily electrical use. You have to be right down to the nickel and dime in kilowatt usage. What you have to end up doing is sizing the system to meet the demand of day and nighttime use.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? Surfing.

Islandwide Solar 4495 Puhi Road, #E Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 241-7786