Helping Hawaii Switch to Solar

By Sarah Pacheco Posted in: Energy

In 1988, Poncho’s Solar Service was established as a licensed solar contractor on Oahu by Poncho Safranca, who boasts more than 30 years’ experience in the solar industry. Twenty years later in 2008, Safranca began a business partnership with Kaimi Chung of Walter’s Electric Inc., a full-service, licensed electrical contracting company based in Hilo that specializes in residential and commercial electrical services.

Today, the two locally owned and operated companies help customers make the switch to solar and save up to 50 percent on their electric bill each month, thanks to Poncho’s Solar and Walter’s Electric’s large assortment of name-brand solar products, including solar thermal water heating systems and photovoltaic systems.

One specific product the companies proudly support is Enphase Micro-inverters (see graphic). Traditionally, solar panels are connected together in a series of circuits that are fed into a single, central inverter, controlling the tens, hundreds, even thousands of panels as if they were one unit operating at the same power level. However, as Safranca explains, this approach reduces the overall system efficiency and limits the available information about individual panel health.

“If one panel goes bad, it all stops, and that can be a twoor three-day service to correct,” he says.

Enphase pioneered a new way of managing solar power with its microinverter system, which replaces the large central inverters with small microelectronics attached to each solar panel. Known as microinverters, these devices allow each panel to operate independently, making the entire solar system smarter and more efficient.

However, “some homes may not be eligible for PV installation without updating or repairing the existing electrical service to meet the latest code requirements,” Safranca notes.

“We perform a full home solar evaluation,” Chung adds. “It takes time to do things right from the beginning.”

Homeowners will see instant savings as soon as their Enphase Micro-inverter system is switched on, and they can check up on their system any time through their computer or iPhone/smart phone (depending on if they have Internet service at home).

This technology also allows Poncho’s Solar and Walter’s Electric to monitor each home’s panels online and detect a problem early on.

“We monitor all of our systems,” Safranca says. “We have the ability and capability to stay on the same page as our customers with service issues and are able to troubleshoot problems more seamlessly and easily. Basically, it’s a serviceman’s dream!”

To learn more about the Enphase Microinverter system, visit Poncho’s at 650 Kakoi St. or call 422-4266.

He and Chung also want to remind Hawaii residents to continue sending in their nominations for the Poncho’s Solar Outstanding Educator Award. Visit www.ponchosolar.com or the www.staradvertiser.com home page and click on the link to enter the educator you believe is making a difference.

ADDRESS: 650 KAKOI ST.
CONTACT: 422-4266
WEBSITE: www.ponchosolar.com