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What You Need to Know About Photovoltaic Installation in Hawaii

Photo courtesy of Chandra Marsono.

Photo courtesy of Chandra Marsono on Flickr.

In Hawaii, you may have noticed that photovoltaic systems are increasingly on the rise. You’ll see them everywhere — homes, businesses and government offices. However, as of 2012, solar systems produced only 2 – 3% of Hawaii’s electricity, according to the State of Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism Hawaii State Energy Office. That means there is quite a long way to go in reaching the state’s 40% renewable energy goal by 2030.

As you consider a photovoltaic system for your home or business in Hawaii, though, there are several things to keep in mind.

First, clean energy in Hawaii is not only good for the environment, it’s good for the state’s economy. As of now, our imported energy costs are three times higher than that of the mainland, and they are soon to be four times higher, as reported by a news release from HECO in July 2011. With that, we have an obligation as residents to take action and make investments into whatever forms of renewable energy are possible for our homes or businesses. In doing so, we’ll be doing our part as residents to reach our clean energy goal by 2030.

Second, it’s a great investment. True — the upfront costs are expensive. However, you will find several incentives to help you make the decision in purchasing and installing a photovoltaic system, like the 30% federal and 35% state tax credits (up to $5,000 per system) you can receive just for installing a PV system. Plus, HECO allows you to produce your own power, which you can either use or sell back to the utility.

Finally, residents interested in a photovoltaic system in Hawaii need to be aware of one of the big “drawbacks.” The Hawaiian Electric Company currently places limits on the installation of PV systems, relying instead on distributed generation. What this means is that electricity is generated using many different small sources, like solar, wind, hydro or biomass renewable generation, as stated by HECO.

However, to make photovoltaic installation in Hawaii plausible for as many residents and business owners as possible, HECO provides locational value maps for Oahu, Maui County and Hawaii Island. According to HECO, these maps “provide an indication of the percentage of distributed generation on the utilities’ distribution circuits.”

While all areas require application, those with less than 15% distributed generation will not require further review, states HECO. In that case, you’ll be ready to install. Conversely, if your area has a distributed generation of greater than 15%, further evaluation will need to be completed in order to ensure the safety and reliability of the circuit after adding your PV system.

This should in no way be a deterrent for you as you consider photovoltaic installation for your home or business in Hawaii. Just consider these facts, check out HECO’s locational value maps and consult with photovoltaic installers in your area. Using this information together, you’ll soon discover whether or not a photovoltaic system is right for you.