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Hawaii Goes Solar

Hawaii signed into law a bill that requires all single-family homes built after Jan. 1, 2010, be equipped with solar or other energy-efficient hot-water systems. The mandate is the first of its kind for any state.

Currently, when a solar hot-water system is installed, the homeowner receives a 35 percent state tax credit. Once the law goes into effect, existing homeowners will still get the credit, but, for new homes built after 2009, the credit will not be available.

Other changes may be ahead, too. According to HECO, the 30 percent federal tax credit is set to expire at the end of 2008, and it’s uncertain whether or not it will be extended. HECO’s $1,000 rebate program will continue through June 2009, until a third-party administrator—who may or may not offer that particular rebate—takes over. Rick Reed, president of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, which opposed the bill, says, “If the Feds fail to act, the new Hawaii homebuyer in 2010 will bear the full cost of a system that is now cost-shared by the state of Hawaii, utility companies and the federal government. This is a significant change in the policy compact … that has made Hawaii the national leader in solar water heating installations.”

Hooser says that, although it costs $5,000 to $7,000 to install a hot-water system in a new home, this expense will be part of a mortgage, and that the electricity savings reduce the cost of owning a home by $500 to $600 annually. “This is money that will go back into the local economy rather than be spent on an electric bill and effectively exported to purchase oil to generate electricity,” says Hooser. “When multiplied over the approximate 5,000 new homes built in Hawaii every year, the economic benefits are significant.”

 

The Solar Roofs law is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by upwards of 10,000 tons annually from avoided electricity use .


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