Cost of Solar Panels in Hawaii- and installer reviews

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost In Hawaii?

Costs in Hawaii are going to differ quite a lot from those on the mainland because, as with most things in Hawaii, shipping and freight charges are going to drive costs up. Overall, it looks as though solar panels and installation are going to cost somewhere around $3.30- $3.50 per watt throughout the state. Therefore, a typical 6000 watt system is going to run you anywhere from $20,000 to $21,000 before taxes, so you’re looking at a total cost of somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000. This number seems cost prohibitive, to be sure, but read on, because that number is deceptive. There are a number of incentives and deductions that can actually get you down to a far more manageable number. 

aerial photography of green mountain beside body of water under white sky

What are the benefits of going solar? 

According to https://www.energybillcruncher.com/incentives/HI, the state of Hawaii currently has several incentives in place for those who want to add a solar power system to their home. Some of them are:

  • Hawaii Renewable Portfolio standards: Hawaii is probably the most ambitious state in the Union when it comes to the state’s “Renewable Portfolio Standards”. The state’s current mandate says that Hawaii must generate 100% of all its energy from renewable sources by 2045. This means there is a very strong incentive for Hawaiian utilities to encourage customers to produce solar energy, because utility companies will face heavy fines if they fail to reach the mandated 100% by 2045. 
  • Hawaiian Electric Rates: Everything is more expensive in Hawaii, electricity included. And you can’t cheat and order some off Amazon or have your cousin smuggle some to you in his suitcase. Hawaii’s electric rates are, on average, the highest in the United States at 28.72 cents per kilowatt hour- For some perspective, the cheapest in the union, Louisiana, comes in at 7.71 cents per kilowatt hour, as per https://neo.ne.gov/programs/stats/inf/204.htm. So adding any “free” renewable energy source to your home, such as solar panels, could drastically reduce your electric bill. 
  • Net Metering Laws- Hawaii has some of the strongest net metering laws in the union, which means that you will likely have an easier time connecting your solar system to the grid than you would otherwise.
  • Hawaii interconnection standards make installation easier, faster and (hopefully) less expensive, and also makes net metering more reliable. Hawaii’s standards are state wide so they should apply to all the islands, wherever you might live. 
  • Solar power rebates: Hawaii has excellent solar power rebate programs, and any Hawaiian resident with a solar power generating system is eligible to receive credits on their future electric bills towards months when they don’t produce more electricity than they use.
  • Property Tax Exemption: Under Hawaiian law, your home’s value will not be reassessed for tax purposes due to the addition of solar panels, so your property tax will not go up. 
  • STATE Tax credit- Hawaii also offers a 35% state tax credit on the purchase of solar products, like solar panels and hot water heaters. 
  • The addition of solar panels can increase the value of your home by as much as $24,000 for a median sized home in Hawaii, which is ultimately more than you will probably pay for the system itself, after discounts, rebates and tax credits. With maintenance costs for solar power being fairly negligible and your savings in energy bills eventually paying for the system, the decision to install solar panels becomes easier all the time. 
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What are the Effects of Net Metering on a Solar System?

Net metering is the process of measuring the output of your solar energy system and how much energy is used vs. how much is fed back into the “grid”. The more accurate your net metering, the more likely you are to receive solar energy credits in the future.

Due to the strong net metering laws in Hawaii and the encouragement of Hawaiian Electric, participation in the Net Energy Metering program has grown each year since its inception. For more information on Hawaii’s net metering laws, see https://www.hawaiianelectric.com/products-and-services/customer-renewable-programs/private-rooftop-solar/net-energy-metering-plus

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According to https://www.solarreviews.com/solar-panels/hawaii, the average “payback” time (that is, the time it takes for total cost of the system to be made up for by savings on electric bills) for a solar system in Hawaii is around 4.5 to 5.5 years- meaning sometime in the first 6 years of the life of your system, you will begin to actually profit off of it in the sense that your initial investment has been returned to you. Considering the average life of commercial solar panels is somewhere around 25 years, that gives you 19-20 years of essentially free electricity. In a place like Hawaii, with the highest electric rates in the United States, that’s going to translate to a huge amount of money. In fact, according to the same website, your expected savings over the lifetime of your system come out to somewhere in the neighborhood of $35-45,000. 

So yes, $25k is a lot of money to shell out for a solar system. But If you’re playing the long game, considering all the rebates and incentives available and the savings in electric bills, you’re coming out way, way ahead. 

How much solar power do I need to power my home?

The amount of solar power you will need is directly influenced by your own energy usage, the number of people living in your home and multiple other factors. Ultimately your solar panel installer will be able to look at your past electric bills and give you a good idea of how many you will need, but you can expect to need anywhere between 20 and 28 panels to be fully self sufficient.

How do I get solar panels installed in Hawaii?

First off, it looks like all the solar companies currently operating in Hawaii are on the big island and Oahu, meaning if you’re a resident of one of the other islands you may struggle to find somebody willing and able to deliver and install solar panels for you. That being said, Hawaiians necessarily must have a different attitude when it comes to things like this, so there’s a good chance that you can find a company that would be willing to come to you, though you may have to negotiate an extra fee. 

The most reviewed company I found was “Solar Help Hawaii”, who comes in with 4.5 stars on Yelp after 68 reviews. Located at 922 Austin Ln Honolulu, HI 96817. A relatively new company, only established in 2017, Solar Help Hawaii began by acquiring an existing company and hiring experienced former employees of that company, so that 2017 founding date is a bit misleading. They make a big point of their work with solar water heaters on their site, espousing the benefits available, including a $750 instant rebate from the Hawaii Energy Efficiency Program, a 35% state tax credit and a 26% federal tax credit. Of course they also sell and install solar panels, as well as offering an array of solar related services. Their website is overall very informative and well designed- see for yourself at https://www.solarhelphawaii.com/. The Better Business bureau considers them an A+ company, and they only have 1 complaint registered with the BBB, which is a dispute over a quote a customer received for how much a service call would cost compared to how much they ended up owing. They have two reviews on the BBB site as well, one 5 star and one 1 star. The 1 star says the customer tried to call the company two days in a row and did not get a response or a return call despite leaving a name and number. 

The next company I looked at was Hi Power Solar, in business 11 years and located at 98-723 Kuahao Pl Unit A13 Pearl City, HI 96782. With 61 reviews on Yelp they currently have a 4.5 star rating, and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Their founder, Ron Romero, has worked in the solar industry since 1982, and his son, Cruz, serves as vice president of the company. Anther Romero, Chase, serves as another vice president of the company, though his relationship to Ron is not clear. They offer the standard array of solar services, and their website lists in detail what they do and what they’re capable of, as well as offering several links to financing agencies available to the customer. They list several customer referrals on their website as well. For more, see the somewhat disorienting website for yourself at https://hipowersolar.com/. With 6 customer reviews on the Better Business Bureau website, they have a 3.7 rating out of a possible 5 stars. One of the 1 star reviews they received was for the long wait time a customer was experiencing to get a replacement part, and the company pointed out that they had no control whatsoever over the shipping supply chain. The other 1 star review came from a customer who says the company failed to honor their warranty by not monitoring the performance of their solar panels and failing to replace faulty ones in a timely fashion. Their three complaints on the BBB site followed similar paths- customers unhappy about performance issues with their system not being addressed by the company and warranties not being honored. One customer complaint contained the following quote, “I received a Call from *** ****** The owner of Hi-power solar and he was yelling and swearing at me, calling me a liar and at one point he threatened me with physical bodily harm, and stated that he wasn’t going to service my solar system any longer, and hung up on me. I then notified the Honolulu Police Dept. and filed a complaint”. The company responded to the complaint and made no denial of the claim above. Don’t tick Ron Romero off, apparently. To see the whole exchange for yourself, visit https://www.bbb.org/us/hi/ewa-beach/profile/solar-energy-design/hi-power-solar-llc-1296-53045870/complaints. 

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The third company I examined was Photonworks Engineering, located at 1234 South King St Honolulu, HI 96814. Founded by Tim Johnsson, with 12 reviews on Yelp they currently have a perfect 5 star rating. They hold an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and currently have no complaints or reviews listed with that website after 12 years in business (though their website, https://photonworks.com/, claims 18 years). Their website is excellently designed with links to their various services, customer testimonials and pictures of their installations. They also make a point of showing off the projects they have done for the government at https://photonworks.com/government/. 

Summary:

Let’s play a game- When I say “Hawaii”, what comes to mind? I don’t claim to be a mind reader but I’d be willing to bet “the beach” popped into your head at some point there. And how does that beach look when you think about it? If you said “cloudy, gray and cold”, congratulations, you’re a weirdo. Most people are going to say “sunny and warm”. And that’s what we’re here to talk about- the sun. 71% of days in Hawaii are “sunny”, the second highest percentage in the United States. So if you’re interested in alternative energy sources for environmental reasons or just to lower your electric bill, it’s hard to imagine a better route to go in Hawaii than solar. 

Overall the decision to adopt solar power in Hawaii is not a difficult one. The difficult part could be finding a company to service your area, depending on where you live, since there are a limited number of companies out there and given the geography of the state you may not have a company in your immediate vicinity.