Solar power contributes to 25% of the renewable energy generation of electricity on the islands. It is currently eliminating the need to burn approximately 2.8 million barrels of lowsulfur fuel oil and 137,000 tons of coal.These numbers do not even take into consideration the cost of transporting the oil and coal from the mainland to the islands. A recent number stated that 40,717 photovoltaic systems had been installed in Hawaii. Solar capacity has more than doubled every year since 2006. Hawaii has a goal to use 70% clean energy by 2030, 40% of that renewable energy. In 2012 during daylight hours, up to 5% of power on Kauai came from a renewable source. The trend certainly seems to be turning away from imports and turning to more local resources.
Some of the popularity of solar energy systems may be attributed to government subsidies and state tax breaks. Hawaii residents that install a system receive 35%, or $5,000 maximum, back on their tax. That is the second highest incentive program in the U.S., after Louisiana. The biggest incentive, however, may be the relationship between the consumer and the utilities. Currently, there is a system in place by which customers with solar panel systems may sell the energy they do not consume back to the utility for something like its full value.
There have been several significant challenges to the widespread use of solar energy in Hawaii. For a while there seemed to be an overconcentration of panels and a glut in panel production. One of the issues seems to be a need to form connections between the grids island to island. The good news is that Hawaii was the first state to reach grid parity for photovoltaics in the U.S. Grid parity occurs when an alternative energy source can generate electricity at a cost that is less than or equal to purchasing power from the electricity grid. Grid parity signifies that Hawaii's solar energy program is a contender for widespread development with little or no government subsidy. In other words, solar energy in Hawaii is profitable.
The Enduring Sun
The sun may be Hawaii's ultimate resource. For decades the abundant sun made the islands a destination for tourists seeking to soak up some of Hawaii's warmth. Now the islands' own residents are using the sun to fuel their daily lives and protect themselves against rising and debilitating energy costs. Solar energy and wind energy are two ways in which people may tap into natural and renewable power sources to improve their quality of life.