Wednesday, Oct. 04, 2023|
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Keaka Nelson with Provision Solar poses for a portrait in front of his solar panels on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023.
Installing a home solar system could become cheaper under a new bill that will be discussed by the Hawaii County Council.
On Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, installing a residential photovoltaic system that generates 30 kilowatts or less does not require review and approval by a licensed electrical engineer. On the Big Island, however, it does, but Puna Councilman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder hopes to change that.
In an effort to promote solar development and put the Big Island in line with the rest of the state, Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder will introduce a bill at today’s meeting of the council’s Policy Committee on Planning, Land Use and Development that will, like the neighbor islands, remove the requirement for licensed engineers to prepare, design and stamp residential PV systems smaller than 30 kilowatts.
“Right now, if you want to install even a one-kilowatt solar project, you need an engineer’s stamp,” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said.
Marco Mangelsdorf, former owner of Big Island-based ProVision Solar — which, he said, previously employed Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder before he became a councilman — said the county’s tighter regulations have existed since before 2000.
“There was an excess of caution about solar, which was a lot newer back then,” Mangelsdorf said. “And nobody bothered to revisit it ever since.”
By putting the island’s regulations in line with the rest of the state, Mangelsdorf said it will remove a certain amount of extraneous work for solar providers, which will in turn lead to a cost savings for consumers.
“We wouldn’t have to go through this whole rigmarole of passing all this small work to our electrical engineer,” Mangelsdorf said. “We could do it all in-house, and we’d pass on the savings to the customer. It’s not a huge saving, but it’s not nothing, either.”
Mangelsdorf said that based on his experience in the industry, he estimates that more than 95% of residential solar installations generate less than 30 kilowatts.
Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder added that, when he worked in the industry, an average household installation used 12 to 24 panels, and he said a 15-kilowatt installation would require about 42 panels.
Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said dropping the regulation shouldn’t introduce unreasonable safety issues, given that the other islands have gone without the restriction just fine.
“And we’re pushing for sustainability, and this just makes that easier,” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said. “We’re just matching the other three counties.”
The committee will discuss the bill, along with some potential changes suggested by the Department of Public Works, today at 11 a.m.
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