Top 5 Best Solar Companies in Hawaii (2023 Reviews)
By Dan Simms /
Going solar can be costly, but there are a variety of federal, state and local incentive programs that can make the costs more manageable for Hawaii homeowners. In this guide, you’ll learn:
Yes, Hawaii’s mix of state, local and federal incentives make solar conversion significantly more accessible and affordable.
The cost of installing a solar energy system in Hawaii is already much cheaper than most areas of the country. The typical price of a solar power system in Hawaii is about $14,685, nearly $10,000 below the national average – primarily thanks to the small system size needed in the state. Most residents need a 5.5 kilowatt (kW) system to offset electric bills, compared to the average of 9.5 kW.
While converting to solar is more affordable here than in most other states, the price is still prohibitively high for many property owners. Thankfully, the state’s incentive programs are better than what you’ll find in most other areas of the country.
This is in large part due to the aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goal, which calls for 40% of the state’s energy to come from clean energy sources by 2030. The resulting perks can save you thousands on your already below-average conversion costs.
Below, you’ll find information about all of the benefit programs for photovoltaic (PV) solar energy systems available in Hawaii. We also include the average amount each perk can save you.
|Solar Incentives in Hawaii||Incentive Type||Description||Occurrence||Estimated Dollar Amount You Can Receive|
|Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC)||Federal||Provides a credit to your income tax liability for 30% of your entire conversion cost. This includes panels, batteries, inverters and labor.||One-time: The credit is calculated one time when you file your taxes after conversion. Unused credit can be carried over for up to five years in total.||$4,406, on average|
|Community Renewable Energy Program||State||Includes regulations that allow homeowners to access community solar. This includes a credit for all consumed energy.||Ongoing: Customers who enroll in community solar will continuously receive bill credits for the energy they pull from the community solar farm.||$19,116, on average (varies based on your monthly energy consumption and location)|
|Solar and Wind Energy Credit||State||Provides a massive tax credit amounting to 35% of your system’s equipment and installation costs, up to $5,000.||One-time: The credit is assessed once when you file your taxes after installation. Unused credits can be carried over to the following tax years.||$5,000, on average|
|GreenSun Hawaii||State||This is a solar financing option that helps keep interest rates and down payment requirements to a minimum when going solar.||One-time: Your savings will be assessed once when you apply to the program.||Varies based on your system size and the equipment you install|
|Green Energy Money Saver (GEMS) Program||State||This is a financing program for low-income households that makes solar energy systems far more affordable and accessible.||Ongoing: Savings can be assessed once when you enroll in the program. However, the actual savings will accrue over time.||Varies based on your monthly energy consumption and the system size you need|
|Net Metering||Local||Provides credits toward future electric bills for all excess energy your system generates and pushes to the grid. Net energy metering is NOT mandated in the state.||Always in Effect: Provided you apply and qualify for this perk, you will always be accruing credits when your system sends power to the grid.||Varies based on system size, monthly energy bills, your location, your utility company and more. This perk can help you approach an average lifetime savings of just under $50,000|
|Local Incentives||Local||Rebate programs and other incentives offered by utility providers, specific cities and other local entities.||Varies based on the perk.||Varies based on the incentive, your system size and your location|
The federal solar tax credit allows you to write off a large portion of the money you pay to install a solar energy system for your home. This program is made available by the federal government, and it offers some of the most significant short-term savings in the state.
The credit amount is currently equal to 30% of your installation costs, but this wasn’t always the case. It was originally set to be 30% from 2005, when the program was started, through 2021. Installations in 2022 were set to drop to 26% and those in 2023 to 22%. Initially, the program was to be abandoned in 2024.
However, in August 2022, Congress signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which bumped the credit rate for 2022 installations and 2023 installations back up to 30%. This retroactively included systems installed before August in 2022. It also extended the credit for 10 years. The new rate schedule is below:
The credit is applied to your income taxes owed and effectively brings down your conversion costs if you owe enough in taxes to take the credit. The credit amount averages around $4,406, or 30% of the typical $14,685 installation cost.
Claiming the federal credit is a simple process. You can follow the steps below when you’re ready to take advantage of this perk.
If you use a filing software like TurboTax, you won’t need to take these steps. Your tax software will ask whether you’ve completed a home solar project and guide you through the process of claiming the tax credit.
The federal tax credit is the most valuable perk in most states, and well worth filing for. In most states, this credit is the most beneficial solar incentive available – but Hawaii’s generous programs can sometimes overshadow it.
Still, the federal credit is massively helpful and can bring down your effective solar power system costs by an average of nearly $4,500. It takes just a few minutes to apply as well, so it’s well worth the time investment.
One important note: The federal tax credit can only be taken if you owe money on your income taxes. You won’t realize any savings if you don’t. However, if you can’t claim the full value of the credit all at once, you can push unused credit forward for up to five years in total. Provided you owe at least $880 per year in federal taxes over the five years following installation, you can get the maximum savings out of this perk.
Hawaii’s “shared solar” program is an innovative way for people to take advantage of solar energy benefits and savings even if they can’t install solar panels on their own roof. Instead, you buy a subscription to a solar energy installation owned by the community. You can save money on your energy bills based on how much solar power this shared resource can generate.
The availability and credits depend on which island you live on:
Estimating your actual savings depends on a few factors. Using the lowest credit rate of $0.15 per kWh and an average energy consumption of 531 kWh, that’s a monthly savings of $79.65 and an annual savings of $955.80.1 Using a 20-year enrollment average, that’s a lifetime savings of $19,116.
Provided you’re eligible for community solar, and there’s space in the program for you, you can follow the steps below to enroll.
We love to see community solar projects like this, for two reasons. First, they save residents massive amounts of money on upfront installation costs. Rather than paying the $14,500+ for personal rooftop PV panels, residents can instead pay a much smaller and more manageable subscription to reap the benefits of solar.
Second, they allow you to reap the benefits of solar without needing to install panels on your own roof. One of the biggest hurdles for some people is the appearance of the panels, and community solar remedies that.
This program is also great because it provides immediate energy savings. You won’t save as much over time as you would if you buy your panels or finance them, but the savings are still nearly $20,000 for a 20-year subscription.
Plus, enrolling in this program doesn’t take much work on your part, so accessing the benefits is a breeze.
The state solar tax credit in Hawaii is, in our opinion, the biggest perk available. It works similarly to the federal credit. You can write off a portion of your total system cost on your state taxes, helping you recoup your investment more quickly. At 35%, the credit rate is even higher than the federal solar tax credit, though it has a cap of $5,000.
Since most residents will pay $14,685 for their systems, the typical credit will max out at $5,000. This incentive is also available for small businesses going solar. System sizes cap out at 5 MW.
Much like the federal credit, the state keeps the application and approval process easy and straightforward. You can follow the steps below to take advantage of this perk.
Again, many tax preparation software programs will help guide you through the process without needing to print out the form.
State tax credits for installing solar systems are increasingly rare, so we’re especially thrilled to see such a massive credit available in the Aloha State. If you only have time to file for one incentive, we recommend you make it this one. Not only does it provide an average potential savings of $5,000, but the application just takes a few minutes to complete.
Just like with the federal credit, it’s crucial that you understand that this perk is only accessible if you owe money on your taxes. It’s not a rebate, so you’re not guaranteed to be able to take the full amount. However, unused credits can roll over to future tax years.
GreenSun Hawaii is a solar loan program that provides accessible and affordable financing to solar customers. It includes below-average interest rates and minimal down payment requirements to make solar conversion an option for everyone. The exact terms depend on the lender through which you access the program.
It’s difficult to say how much this perk can end up saving you, as everyone’s terms will differ. Your monthly savings are also based on energy consumption. We’d estimate that the typical lifetime savings after the loan is paid off would come out to around $40,000.
Enrolling in this PV loan program is simple, though eligibility varies. You can follow the steps below to see if you qualify and begin taking advantage of the program.
Since solar installation is expensive even in Hawaii, loan programs like this are hugely beneficial. We’d love to see a more streamlined approach available to finding participating lenders, like a lender search.
However, since the program makes clean energy more widely available and is offered by many banks and credit unions throughout the state, we’re still huge fans of this perk.
The GEMS program is a financing option afforded to low- and moderate-income households looking to convert to solar. It provides a low-interest loan with no down payment requirement. The monthly payments are included in your utility bills for easy payment, and the total amount you pay per month is expected to be less than normal.
In addition to PV equipment, these loans can be used to purchase solar water heaters and other energy efficiency equipment.
If you are eligible, claiming this perk requires a formal application. You can follow the steps below to enroll.
Step 1: Go to the program website, which is hosted by the Hawaii Green Infrastructure Authority.
Step 2: Click on “Homeowners” or “Renters” in the “Apply Now” box on the left side of the screen. Choose whichever option applies to you.
Step 3: Click on “Click Here to Apply Online” to apply online, or scroll down for a printable application.
Step 4: Complete the application process. You’ll need to verify your income and provide some additional personal information, as well as information about your home.
Step 5: A program administrator will connect with you to let you know if you’ve been approved or if you need to provide additional information. Once you’re approved, you can choose an eligible vendor and proceed with the installation process.
This financing program is a great option for low-income individuals who could otherwise not afford to convert to solar but want to improve their home’s energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint. It provides easy access to clean energy, and there’s a lot to be said about that.
However, there are some downsides to this program. First off, the application process is a bit long and approval can take some time. Second, since the loan payments are added to your utility bills, you cannot transfer ownership of the panels without paying off the system. This can make your home less appealing if you plan to sell before you complete the payments.
As such, we only recommend this perk to customers who absolutely cannot afford to go another financing route. We also don’t suggest it unless you plan to live in your home for the entire loan term.
Net metering — also called net energy metering, or NEM — is a billing policy that tracks energy you pull from the grid and send to the grid from your solar panels. The policy mandates that your local electric company credit you for all excess power you push to the grid. The credits you earn during overproduction can discount your bills when you consume more than you generate.
Net energy metering used to be mandated by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (HIPUC) for all electric companies in the state, but it is no longer. There are distributed generation tariffs available for several utility companies, but limitations to the number of participants apply. These are based on where you live and your energy company.
The limits are as follows:
These system capacity limits are well above what just about any residential customer would install and won’t apply to most systems on residential properties.
Net energy metering can be incredibly beneficial in Hawaii because of the high electricity rates in the area. It’s crucial that you take advantage of these programs if they’re available to you.
The estimated savings enjoyed from NEM are difficult to calculate because they fluctuate based on many factors. However, the average lifetime energy savings in the area using this program sit just under $50,000.
We should also mention that net energy metering policies have been getting downgraded in many other states, especially as they reach their RPS goals. It’s possible that distributed generation tariffs and net energy metering offered by local electric providers will also get discontinued, although there are no plans in place for that to happen.
Enrolling in net energy metering just requires a simple application submitted to your energy company. It doesn’t take long at all, but the process is more or less automatic for most residents because installers typically complete the application on their behalf. You can follow the steps below to make sure you take advantage of this perk.
Net energy metering is one of our favorite policies. It’s useful in any state, but especially in areas like Hawaii, where the cost of electricity is so high. Since energy prices are nearly triple the national average in the area, customers will see about three times as much value from this program as residents in other states.2
NEM is also a great perk because enrollment is automatic for most solar adopters. Even if your installation company doesn’t handle the process for you, it’s straightforward to do it yourself and doesn’t take much time.
Best of all, NEM can help push your lifetime savings close to $50,000 in the area, and that’s after it helps pay off the total cost of converting your home to clean energy.
The federal and state perks are enough to convince many homeowners in the area to go solar, but there are additional incentives available to some residents from local utility companies and municipalities. We’ll include a quick list of the local incentives below.
So far, we’ve discussed all of the incentives available in your area, including those offered by the federal government, state government and local municipalities. Not all of these perks are equally beneficial, so we’ll include a quick list of our favorite solar incentives in Hawaii below.
We believe the Hawaii energy tax credit is the most valuable perk available in the area. It holds an average value of $5,000 for solar customers, and the effective savings can be enjoyed in as little as a few months from the installation date. With such a large and more or less immediate value, this is the single most crucial perk to take in the state, in our opinion.
In most other states, we’d list the federal credit as the next most important incentive. However, net energy metering is so wildly valuable in the area because the state has the highest electricity rates in the entire country. NEM maximizes your lifetime energy savings using solar and pushes average savings close to $50,000. Unfortunately, it’s not available to everyone, but those that have access can benefit greatly.
The federal credit is another important incentive to take advantage of. The average value this perk provides in the state sits around $4,500, and, just like the state credit, it can be realized just a few months after installation. This perk is also quick and painless to apply for, and it’s available to all taxpayers.
As of right now, it appears that the incentives currently available will remain stable for the foreseeable future. There are no plans in place for the perks to be discontinued or improved.
Below, we’ll provide answers to some of the questions we get asked most often by residents in your area.
Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) are credits you can earn for all energy generated by your panels. The credits can be sold for a profit as long as there is an active market for the certificates in the state.
Unfortunately, there is no local active market, so SRECs cannot be earned or sold.
At this time, there is no plan in place for solar incentives to improve in the next two years. The state is progressing nicely toward its RPS goals, so we don’t expect there to be a need for new perks to be offered.
Most importantly, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) increased the federal credit rate to 30% for installations occurring in 2022 and 2023. It also pushed the expiration date for the credit program from 2024 to 2035.
Additionally, the IRA improved incentives available for purchasing electric vehicles (EVs).
beneficial in the next two years. However, the distributed generate tariff program does have eligibility limitations, and the tiers included in the original plan will lead to a decreased credit rate for energy as more customers enroll.
As such, it’s possible that the credits earned by new applicants in two years will be lower than they are now.
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