Monday | April 20, 2015
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Hawaii ranks 3rd for per capita solar installations

A new report, released this week, ranks Hawaii third in the country for per capita solar installations.

Environment America, a coalition of 29 state environmental groups, released the report, compiled by its Research and Policy Center. The report focuses on 12 states, including Hawaii, that are experiencing a solar energy boom.

Courtney Abrams, federal clean energy advocate with the national organization, said some of the states that are doing the best aren’t the ones Americans may think of as being the sunniest.

“They’ve put in place good policies and agendas” to support solar infrastructure, Abrams said.

Government agencies at the state and local level in states such as Hawaii have been particularly supportive of installing solar power, she added.

In Environment America’s report, Arizona and Nevada edged out Hawaii with a higher per capita solar installation rate. Hawaii was followed by New Jersey, New Mexico, California, Delaware, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Maryland.

Abrams praised Hawaii for its interconnectivity and net metering policies. Hawaii Island residents, however, have criticized Hawaii Electric Light Co. for perceived roadblocks to connecting a home photovoltaic system into HELCO’s grid. Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, has intervened on the behalf of a number of West Hawaii constituents who wanted to make the switch to solar.

“A lot of constituents had a lot of resistance from HELCO,” Green said. “It was pretty difficult, particularly when there was a large cluster of people in North Kona to Kohala trying to get it.”

HELCO was requiring many residents to complete a costly interconnectivity study, to assess whether the electric grid in their neighborhood could support more solar power being connected.

Green said he has seen improvements in HELCO’s response time to those requests in the past year, and in completing the studies.

“In each case, ultimately, people did qualify,” he said.

State policies have contributed to the increase in solar installations statewide, the senator said.

“We had a very rich tax credit at the state level, which was matched at the federal level,” Green said, adding people with enough cash took advantage of those credits, even during the recent economic slowdown.

Those people are reaping the benefits now, he said, with significantly lowered electricity bills.

The Legislature last year took steps to create opportunities for middle class residents, those people without the ability to pay out of pocket for solar, to install photovoltaic systems, Green added.

The 12 states highlighted in Environment America’s report represent 28 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 85 percent of the county’s installed solar energy producing technology, Abrams said. The country, according to a Solar Energy Industries Association report last year, has enough solar-produced power to run 1.3 million homes. In 2012, the country had three times as much solar-generated power as it did in 2010 and 10 times as much solar power as was generated in 2007.