- Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO) has told state lawmakers it plans to offer community solar (aka solar gardens) for its customers. Solar gardens are an increasingly popular option across the U.S. that allows electricity customers without suitable roofs to invest in larger-scale solar projects and receive a pro-rated bill credit for power sent to the grid.
- While all HECO customers will benefit from the community solar’s peak demand shaving, those who choose to invest in the gardens will get bill credits that mirror residential solar owners' net energy metering returns. They will also benefit from state and federal tax credits. Investors’ total return will not match those of residential system owners, however, because HECO or its contractor will be responsible for operations, maintenance and for siting the solar.
- HECO included the community solar proposal in the revised 2014 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) it just filed with the Public Utilities Commission. The IRP promised to triple rooftop solar and take the state to 65% renewables by 2030.
HECO is not the only organization pushing for community solar in Hawaii. Last year, a group of Democratic legislators in the State Senate proposed Senate Bill 2934, which prompted supports for community solar. That bill failed to get out of committee, but sponsors say they are working on a similar bill for 2015 and is getting input from solar advocates for improvements.
Blue Planet Foundation Executive Director Jeffrey Mikulina said community solar is necessary to get more utility customers involved in renewables.
Hawaiians who install solar can get a state tax credit worth 35% of the system's cost, up to $5,000, and a 30% federal tax credit.