Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Briefs Tuesday, April 18, 2017

New solar systems , like this one in Ranchos, can once again generate income to homeowners who will be 
able to sell extra power to HELCO, but applications will be closed once the system reaches capacity again.
See story below.  Photo by Ann Bosted
TWENTY ONE IN JANUARY, ELEVEN IN FEBRUARY, THREE IN MARCH – that is the police record for the number of burglaries reported in Ocean View. The precipitous drop is directly attributable to the mid-February crack-down on crime in Ocean View.
Ka`u's Community Policing Officer Aron Tomota
Photo by Ann Bosted
     Ocean View’s recently appointed Community Policing Officer, Aron Tomota, explained to The Ka’u Calendar how the alarming increase in crime in Ocean View was dramatically halted.
     “Twenty-one burglaries in Ocean View in January spelled out “C-R-I-S-I-S” in Ka’u,” he said. “We were looking at a third of the burglaries for the whole island happening in one town of about 6,500 people. It was off the scale! We decided a crack-down was needed, and soon.

     “On February 10, with a lot of assistance, a task force was formed focusing on the area. Kona Police officers came to Ka’u to help with the crack down, including help from community policing, traffic enforcement, criminal intelligence and some vice officers. Detective Pernell Hanoa was particularly helpful. Major Robert Wagner oversaw the operations and was instrumental in developing the action plan. 
     “I made a list of 25 ‘people of interest,’ who, we felt, could have been responsible for much of the crime wave, or perhaps associated with known criminals. We talked to people in the community and found out with whom these people were associating, where they liked to go and more about their MO (modus operandi). We found trends and could link suspects to burglaries by how the illegal entry was made, what was taken and background information.”
     Tomota explained why the task force was effective. “Our main objective was to show a strong police presence. Of the 25 'people of interest,' I estimate that we contacted about 75 percent. We would stop anybody that was walking suspiciously, hanging out or driving. A contact could include being cited, arrested for cause, questioned or pulled over, according to the circumstances of the contact. We call it ‘pro-active’ patrolling, as opposed to ‘reactive’ where we wait for the crime and then react”, he explained. “We also stopped and talked to residents, who were more than willing to share their information with us.” 
     Meanwhile, Ocean View residents noticed the increase in police activity, and attendance at the Neighborhood Watch meetings increased.
     “Captain Quiocho was appointed head of the Ka’u District police, on March 1, and he made a huge difference at Neighborhood Watch meetings. We usually get about six people. At the last meeting we had 34 show up. Instead of reading off a long list of crimes, which was a bit boring, Captain Quiocho now has all that information posted to a web site on a weekly basis. This is controlled by Neighborhood Watch residents. They guardedly share it among themselves. They have to be careful that a potential criminal is not given the information.     
Most officers drive their own vehicles. This is a patrol car 
issued to the Ka`u District. Photo by Ann Bosted
     “Neighborhood Watch members should get a lot of credit for helping us reduce the town’s burglaries by actively helping police with important information,” said Tomota. “We could not have done the crack-down alone.”
     Tomota, who has been a Police Officer for eight years, is determined to not sit back. “We can still do better. We can reduce three burglaries a month to two or one or none. And when we get to none, we have to keep it there,” he added.
     Tomota lives in Kona with his wife and two daughters, aged five and two. He was born and raised in California, and moved to Hawai’i after graduating high school in 2005.
      Asked why he wanted to be a police officer, Tomota said that he always wanted to, adding: “I love every minute of it. I’m never bored. Every case is different. I like to feel out people so I know who I’m dealing with. I feel that everyone deserves to be treated with respect. I can say that since I have come to Ka’u, I see the patrol officers putting forth their best efforts. I urge the community to continue to work with us in making Ocean View even more crime-free.”
     Tomota said that the Hawai`i Police Department plans to extend community outreach efforts in Ka`u with a new social gathering called Coffee with a Cop in Na’alehu, though this is still in the planning stage. 

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SELLING POWER TO HAWAI`I ELECTRIC LIGHT CO. is a possibility once again for new installers of solar power at their homes. More than two megawatts of space are now available on HELCO’s grid for new rooftop solar systems. This means that homeowners who want to be able to install solar and sell their excess power to HELCO can do so until that capacity is taken. The space was recently opened up for Customer Grid Supply systems because homeowners, who had been approved for rooftop solar more than 18 months ago, never followed through.
Selling back to HELCO through the solar grid will once again be
available in Pahala and other neighborhoods.
Photo by Julia Neal
Emily Ebert, General Manager of ProVision
Solar in Hilo, explains the new sell-back
program for solar.
      The move comes after the state Public Utilities Commission ruled in December 2016 that the solar industry could bring on more customers for the previously closed Customer Grid System program, which credits customers for the energy their solar systems export into the grid. In March, the PUC clarified the ruling, which opened up more capacity, or space on the grid for new solar customers. At that time, the PUC ruled that signing up for the Customer Grid program would end on Oct. 21, 2017.
     Prior to the PUC announcement, the only new solar program offered to homeowners by HELCO was the Customer Self Supply program, without the opportunity for the owner to sell excess power to HELCO’s grid. Typically, the Self Supply program involves an owner adding battery storage to hold excess energy generated by the solar panels.
     Emily Ebert, General Manager of ProVision Solar in Hilo, explained that 3.46 megawatts of capacity were transferred from the Net Energy Metering program to the Customer Grid program, but only two megawatts of capacity remains. This program allows Big Island households to reduce their monthly HELCO bill, without needing battery storage, because it credits homeowners for excess power sent to the grid.
     Ebert told The Ka’u Calendar the backstory. “In October of 2015 an order from the PUC ended the popular Net Energy Metering program which had been in place since 2001. Nearly 70,000 customers have installed Net Energy Metering systems in the state, more than 11,000 of them on the Big Island. The Net Energy Metering program allowed for full retail credit for energy exported to the grid. It was replaced with two substitute programs; Customer Grid System and Customer Self Supply.
     “Customer Grid System was by far the more popular program as it allows homeowners to be compensated for energy sent to the grid,” said Ebert. This means that householders are charged about 30 cents per kWh for power supplied by HELCO, but are credited 15.14c per kWh for excess power from their solar systems.
     “Space for this program was limited to 5 MW on the HELCO grid,” elaborated Ebert. “This cap was reached in August of 2016 but HELCO continued to take applications. These applications, along with the ones that are currently being submitted, were allowed to begin to process due to the PUC orders in December of 2016 and March.
     “The PUC ordered that the capacity for Net Energy Metering systems that had been reserved but never installed, or were cancelled due to their deadline expiring, was to be transferred to the Customer Grid Supply program.”
     Ebert calls the applications that were approved for the desirable Net Energy Metering program and placed in a “queue,” but never installed “dead wood.”
     “This NEM dead wood will in the coming months all be cleared out of HELCO’s queue. So it is likely that a little more space will be transferred to CGS,” she added. Asked how Ka’u residents can benefit from this extra capacity, Ebert replied: “You must apply with HELCO to reserve your spot on the grid. Once the space fills up, it will be closed to new customers and CSS will be the only program left - unless the PUC announces another program in the meantime.”
     “One way or the other, the PUC has made clear that CGS will come to a close in October,” said Ebert. The two megawatts that have been made available on the Big Island means that the gates are once again open. The additional capacity is likely to fuel another spate of rooftop solar applications from householders and business owners who procrastinated in applying to go solar, and then missed the boat. 
     Asked about the future of the CSS program, Ebert replied that this option was less desirable as it required a battery to be installed and does not allow for the solar system to export energy to the grid.
“CSS is not a bad program by any means, it’s just different and a transition that will take some getting used to. A good solar contractor will do the due diligence necessary and listen to the customers to find out which available program is best for their situation. Adding a battery with the CGS program may be in the best interest of certain customers to further reduce their future utility bill, and to be able to have backup stored power for when the grid goes down.
     “People considering a solar electric system tied to the HELCO grid would be encouraged to talk to a solar professional soon to find out what their options are. New battery options are rolling out that make these systems more affordable. Solar remains one of the best investments that a homeowner or business owner can make,” said Ebert.
     Asked why space on the grid is alternately available and not available, Ebert explained:  “The utility companies have worked very hard to allow more and more solar to continue to tie into their grids. Over the past many years, certain areas would fill up and not allow more solar, and then the utility would engineer new ways to allow more solar capacity to come online. That being said, there are certainly limitations to a finite electric grid and some areas are just too saturated to accept more exported energy. 
     “Grid tied solar cannot continue to be connected at the pace it has been or in the way that it has been.
     “There will be more changes coming, and we continue to evolve as an industry. Our state is the first in the nation to see solar grid capacity like this and other states and utility companies will be watching Hawaii closely to see how we are able to address these issues,” added Ebert.

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KA`U REGIONAL GYM in Pahala hosts Ka`u Trojans Boys Volleyball Senior Night tonight, Tuesday at 6 p.m., with JV and varsity competition. First match starts at 6 p.m. Public is invited.

HULA CLASSES with  Kumu Hula Debbie Ryder are each Wednesday at Pahala Community Center. Class for keiki begins at 5:30 p.m., beginning adults at 6:30 p.m. and advanced adults at 7:30 p.m. All classes are free and under the auspices of Halau Hula O Leionalani.

Special Merrie Monarch Festival Event, Wed, April 19, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Kīlauea Visitor Center lānai in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Practitioners share lei making, pala‘ie & kāpala mea ulu. The Young Brothers perform local melodies. Free; park entrance fees apply.

Kai Ho‘opi‘i in Concert, Wed, April 19, 6:30 – 8 p.m., Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. The Aloha Festival Hawaiian falsetto contest winner shares traditions and music of his ‘ohana. Free; park entrance fees apply.

Special Merrie Monarch Festival Event, Thu, April 20, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Kīlauea Visitor Center lānai in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Practitioners share lei making, haku hulu, ‘ohe kāpala and kuku kapa. Multiple Nā Hōkū Hanohano award-winning composer, singer and musician Kenneth Makuakāne performs. Free; park entrance fees apply.

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