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Hawaii Riding High On Solar Power

This guest post comes to us from Reginald Norris, Executive Vice President & General Counsel for Clean Energy Experts. Clean Energy Experts’s mission is to increase the adoption of economically and environmentally beneficial energy solutions by educating consumers through a portfolio of websites, and, on the facts about clean energy and energy efficiency, enabling them to make the right decisions for their home.

People who visit Hawaii are typically struck by the same things that every other tourist is: crystal clear water, epic surf and lush landscapes.  What many people fail to realize is that the tiny little state of Hawaii is one of the national leaders in solar energy.

For starters, Hawaii is the largest state market for solar water heaters. In fact, prior to 2006, about half of the solar hot water heaters sold in the United States were installed in Hawaii. Furthermore, the total grid-connected photovoltaic capacity installed in Hawaii increased by 48% from 8.6 megawatts in 2008 to 12.7 megawatts in 2009 making Hawaii the sixth fastest solar PV growth state over this period. Lastly, Hawaii ranked second in the nation in 2009 for installed solar power per person with 20.2 megawatts. In fact, Hawaii installed more solar power per person than California in 2009 showing just how widely solar power has been accepted throughout the state. (Source: 2009 U.S. Solar Market Trends, Interstate Renewable Energy Council)

Why has Hawaii become such a hotbed of activity for solar power? For starters, Hawaii has the highest electricity rates in the country, partly due to the fact that 90% of Hawaii’s energy comes from imported petroleum. $7 billion annually flows out of the state to meet Hawaii’s energy needs. And on the solar thermal side, installation costs are relatively low because Hawaiian solar installers do not have to worry about the effects of freezing on installed solar systems equipment. However, the true reason for the success of Hawaii’s solar power market is due to tremendous government support.

To begin, under the Hawaii Global Warming Solutions Act, Hawaii aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and the state has set a goal of meeting 70% of Hawaii’s energy needs through clean energy sources by 2030. As a result of these macro energy goals, Hawaii has strongly committed itself to a path where renewable energy sources must be developed and promoted.

Accordingly, the Hawaiian state government has implemented a number of rebates and financial incentives to help promote the adoption of solar energy.  For example, there are a number of rebates throughout Hawaii for solar waters heaters:

  • The Hawaii Energy Efficiency Fund, a public benefit fund, offers residential rebates of $750 for solar water heaters;
  • Residents who install a solar water heat system can receive a one-time, $1,000 rebate from the Hawaii Electric Company (HECO) Energy Solutions Program; and
  • Through the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative’s Energy Wise Program, Kaua’i residents may be eligible to receive an $800 rebate when they install a qualifying solar water heating system.

Furthermore, Hawaii has adopted a strong tax credit incentive to help people afford the cost of different types of solar products for their home or business:

  • For solar panel systems – tax credit of 35% of project costs or $5,000, whichever is less; and
  • For solar thermal (solar hot water) systems – tax credit of 35% of project costs or $2,250, whichever is less.

Continue Reading About Hawaii’s Solar Energy Leadership on the Next Page…

Photo Credit: Bracani….Antonio via flickr under a CC license

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