Top 5 Best Solar Companies in Hawaii (2023 Reviews)
By Dan Simms /
Hawaii is one of the best places to go solar, with the average system paying itself off in just six years — half the national average — and then saving homeowners around $50,000 in energy costs thereafter.
Hawaii ranks 17th in the country for solar adoption, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).1 However, solar conversion is worth it for just about every Hawaiian, and systems provide more value than those in any other state.
Hawaii residents use less energy per month than property owners in any other state, which means system prices sit well below average.2 Plus, electricity rates in the state are the highest in the nation, leading to fast panel payback and massive savings over time.
Hawaii solar incentives and rebate programs are also robust and help bring down equipment costs and boost panel value. The upfront cost of converting to solar in HI is around $14,685, but the available federal and state solar incentives can bring that number down below $10,000.
In this guide, we’ll explain the process of converting to solar energy step-by-step so that you know what to expect along the way. You can use the links below to go right to a specific step for more information.
Step 1: What to Consider When Buying Solar Panels
Step 2: Getting a Quote from a Solar Provider
Step 3: Signing a Solar Contract
Step 4: What to Expect on Solar Panel Installation Day
Step 5: Final Inspection for Installed Solar Panels
Step 6: Permission to Operate (PTO)
Although going solar in Hawaii is more affordable than it is in most other states, the $14,685 average cost of solar panels in the area means you shouldn’t just jump into converting without assessing your home’s solar viability.
Your first step in determining if solar is a good investment for your home should be to figure out the size of the array you’ll need to offset your energy bills. You can get an estimate of how many panels you need by using our solar calculator.
This tool takes a few things into consideration, including the direction your home faces and tree coverage that casts shade on your roof throughout the day. If your system estimate is significantly larger than the average in the area — 5.5 kilowatts (kW) — then you can assume there’s some factor that’s detracting from your solar viability.
Tree coverage is an important consideration, but you should also look into the weather in your area. Hawaii sees around 240 days of sunshine per year, which is well above average.3 However, local conditions vary drastically, with places like Hilo on the Big Island getting well below the average amount of sun annually.4
Photovoltaic (PV) panels produce less power under cloud coverage, so homeowners in areas with less sunlight will naturally see lower levels of production and, therefore, fewer savings in the long run.
One of the most important things to consider when assessing how well-suited your home is for solar is your access to net metering, also called net energy metering or NEM. NEM is a policy offered by utility companies that credits you for the excess energy you generate and route to the grid. Future bills can be credited based on the credits you accrue.
The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) used to mandate NEM for all utility companies, but it no longer does. Instead, some utility companies opt to offer distributed generation tariffs, which are similar to net energy metering but often end up being less beneficial due to less availability and lower credit amounts in some cases per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of excess power.
We’ll list the NEM policies for the largest utility companies in the state below:
*Now operating under Hawaiian Electric
Your access to net metering will have a drastic effect on your long-term savings. The better your program, the more likely you’ll be to eliminate your energy bills and push your lifetime savings up.
The table below includes some solar statistics for the State of Hawaii and the U.S. as a whole. These should drive home just how valuable solar conversion is in your area, especially given the panel payback period and the lifetime savings.
|Hawaii State Average||United States National Average|
|Solar Power System Size Required||5.5 kW||9 kW|
|Typical Cost Per Watt to Install Photovoltaic (PV) Equipment||$2.67||$2.66|
|Average Total System Cost Before Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit||$14,685||$23,940|
|Average Federal Solar Tax Credit Value||$4,406||$7,182|
|Average Total System Cost After Federal Credit||$10,280||$16,758|
|Average Panel Payback Period||6 years||12 years|
|Average Lifetime Savings of Converting to Solar||$49,458||$22,379|
Provided you’ve determined that your home, in particular, is a good fit for solar system installation, you can now move on to figuring out how to pay for your equipment.
If you didn’t use our solar calculator to figure out what size system is right for your home, now is a good time to do so. You can then multiply the number of watts estimated for your property by the average price per watt for PV equipment in Hawaii — $2.67 — to get an estimate of what your total will be.
Remember, this isn’t necessarily the price you’ll pay for your system, as you can likely use tax incentives and rebates to bring your effective costs down. Additionally, one of the biggest upsides to going solar is that the equipment is expected to pay for itself and provide additional savings after that point, so the overall value will likely far outweigh the initial cost.
There are four primary financing options for PV equipment, which we’ll explain briefly below. Hawaii also has some state financing options that can help make going solar more affordable, and we’ll mention these further down.
As mentioned above, Hawaii has a few additional options for going solar that are state-specific. We’ll include a quick list of these options below:
When you’re choosing a payment option, we implore you to consider the panel payback period first. Options with no payback period will be the least beneficial over time, and options with shorter payback periods will save you the most in the long run.
Once you choose a payment option that fits into your budget, you can start looking for a solar provider that accepts that option. We’ll explain what to look for in a solar installer and how to contact them in the following sections.
Choosing an installer to handle your solar project is an intimidating process and is complicated by the fact that there are nearly 70 solar companies to choose from in Hawaii.10 We recommend doing some preliminary research on the providers in your area and looking for the following criteria:
Below is a short list of some of our top recommended solar installers in your area, all of which meet the criteria above:
You can get more information about these providers and why we chose them by reading our guide to hiring a reliable solar installer in HI.
Once you provide your contact information to a solar company, a sales representative should reach out to you in a day or two to discuss your expectations and property needs. You’ll be asked to provide a recent energy bill to confirm your average monthly consumption, and the rep should set up a roof inspection to be completed by a technician with the company.
After the inspection is completed, the design team will start designing a system for your home and energy needs. Once that’s completed, your sales rep will connect with you again to give you a formal solar proposal and discuss the information contained within it.
Your proposal is the formal quote for service for your home, and it should provide the following:
We typically recommend all solar customers get a few quotes from different companies to compare. While this can be time-consuming, you can often save money doing this by finding a better value. Some companies will price match, too, which can leave you with a higher quality system for less.
All solar panel systems include panels and inverters to convert your solar energy to usable electricity. Some solar customers also opt for add-on products to expand their systems’ capabilities or make them more valuable. Below are some common add-on products seen in Hawaii that you might want to be included in your solar quotes.
When you’ve chosen a solar installer you’re comfortable with and that has terms you agree with, you can proceed with signing the contract for the installation. We’ll explain what to look for in your contract and what to expect once you sign in the following sections.
One of the first things we recommend you look for in your contract is the information on your warranty coverage. Solar warranties are offered on three different things: panel efficiency, the equipment and the workmanship. We recommend looking for all three.
After you sign your solar contract, you should expect to wait between four and six months before your panels are installed and fully functional. There are a few things that affect this timeline, including the following:
It’s unlikely that weather will cause delays in installation since Hawaiians enjoy sunny weather for most of the year.
The permitting process is an important step in solar conversion. Filing for permits should be completed by your panel installer, but you will be responsible for any permitting fees incurred. The fees vary based on where you live and the permit requirements instituted by your local municipality.
For example, the City of Honolulu on Oahu bases the building permit cost on the total construction cost of your home solar system. The base cost is $12, plus $2.20 per $100 worth of work.13 Given the average installation cost in the area, that comes out to around $333.
Hilo and Waipahu in Hawaii County have a convenient online application program for expedited permit processing.14 Unfortunately, the county doesn’t publicize permit cost information, so you’ll need to have your installer file for the permit and relay the fee to you.
You can also check your solar proposal, as this should contain all of the permit fees expected for your installation.
Your installer should also be filing for interconnection for you. Interconnection is what governs how your solar energy system interacts with the electric grid, and it’s what allows energy to flow back and forth based on how your energy production compares to your consumption. As you might have guessed, it’s required to take advantage of net energy metering as well.
Every utility provider in Hawaii will have a slightly different process for applying for interconnection. Most will have an online application and won’t charge for submitting it.
All companies operating under Hawaiian Electric — including HECO, MECO and HELCO — use an online portal for interconnection applications that your installer can access.15 There is no fee to apply.
KIUC has a printable application that your solar provider can fill out and submit.16 There is also no fee charged for applying for the service.
The application, approval and inspection process required to be interconnected to the power grid will take some time and will lead to longer installation and connection timelines. Even if it takes weeks for the process to conclude, it’s worth the wait. Interconnection lets you access net energy metering (if available), which is one of the most valuable solar incentives in HI.
Solar installations in Hawaii take between three and six hours, which is faster than average due to the relatively small array size needed to offset Hawaiian’s energy usage. It could take longer if you have add-on products that need to be installed as well. Your installer should show up early in the morning and will work through the afternoon to get your system installed and connected.
One of the most common questions we get from Hawaii residents is, “do I need to be home for solar panel installation?” You should plan on being home all day when your panels are being installed. Your technicians will need interior access to your home to complete the installation and connect the panels and inverters to your electrical panel.
Some installers will schedule the inspection with your power provider on the day of the installation, which can extend the timeline by a half hour or so. This inspection is required for interconnection in most cases, so it’s sometimes scheduled for the installation day to expedite connection to the grid.
The permits that your installer opened for solar power system installation will need to be closed out before they expire. Open permits can prevent a buyer from financing your home if you go to sell, and they can also lead to violations in some cases. Closing the permits is a necessary step for legalizing your system.
Your installer should schedule the final inspection with your building inspector. Some inspectors will just do an exterior inspection, while others will need interior access. If access is required, your installer will facilitate the scheduling of the inspection so that you can meet the inspector for access.
There is no fee for the initial inspection, but you might incur a re-inspection fee if you miss your original appointment.
After the inspections are done, you’ll be the only one to continue monitoring your system. Some panel manufacturers — like SunPower and Tesla — offer free mobile apps for solar monitoring that you can use to confirm your panels are producing power as they should. You can ask your installer about solar monitoring apps or software on the installation day.
The last step before your panels can be connected to the grid and start generating electricity for your home is to get permission to operate (PTO) from your energy provider. This requires an inspection completed by a representative from the company to make sure your system is connected properly.
As mentioned before, some installers will schedule this inspection on the installation day to save time, but others will wait until the installation is wrapped up. The inspection is usually only an exterior one, so you won’t need to be home for it to provide access.
After the inspection is done, you’ll get PTO, and you can officially activate your system. You should ask your installer how to turn on your system and how to shut it off in case of an emergency. You can also ask about solar monitoring if your technician hasn’t discussed it with you already.
Lastly, you should have emergency contact information for your electric company on hand in case you run into any major issues in the future. In case of an electrical fire or life-threatening system malfunction, you should call 911 and then your energy provider’s emergency number. We’ll list the numbers for some of the more popular power providers below for reference.
Finally, the hard work is done! At this point, your system should be generating power for your home, which means your carbon footprint will be reduced. You should also see energy savings start to accrue, which will go toward paying off your installation costs. Over time, these savings should add up to close to $50,000.
You’ll also see a return on investment if you sell your home after converting. Solar panels increase your property value because buyers see the benefit of not paying the unusually high energy prices in the area. On average, your home value should go up by around 4.1%.17
Comparing authorized solar partners
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