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Live on the Big Island Blog

Your Big Island Real Estate resource, by Annette Mejia

Big Island Real Estate Saves the Planet: Residential Solar Energy

A bit of honesty for those considering buying Big Island real estate: there are a thousand reasons to buy on the Big Island, but there’s also one negative.

Importing energy to Hawaii is costly. Which means, of course, residents take the hit on their monthly energy bill—often paying between three and four times more than on the mainland.


But Hawaii and the Big Island are resourceful places.

Hawaii has more rooftop solar panels per capita than any other place in the country. On the Big Island, unlike other locations in the US, solar panels aren’t just for diehard environmentalists.

In fact, one study conducted this spring shows that a whopping 94% of Hawaii residents support rooftop solar energy!

Searching for properties for sale on the Big Island? Wondering if you should be looking for a property with a residential solar system, or exploring your options for installing solar panels or solar water heaters down the line?

Here are some things you should know:

Just How Much Can I Save with Solar Energy in Hawaii? 

The short answer is, it depends.

The issue of solar energy is in constant flux in our state and on the Big Island. Every day brings a new squabble between HECO (the Hawaiian Electric Company), the solar energy industry, and the Public Utilities Commission—and a new set of regulations.

HECO claims energy circuits have become overloaded by solar energy, and has instituted a lengthy proposal and regulation process that has left some people with solar panels they spent a small fortune on, but no grid connection for using those panels. The Public Utilities Commission and the solar industry is fighting to change this.

But, speaking more generally, the cost to install a residential solar system is $15,000 – $25,000 after the rebates and incentives offered up by the Hawaii and federal governments. It sounds like a lot of money. However, your average energy costs over 25 years in Hawaii will likely total $50,000+, making this a wise investment in the long-term.

These numbers also make Hawaii the only state in the US where solar energy costs are less than traditional energy costs.

One more incentive not calculated in these figures? They increase home values!

Will I Be ABLE to install solar?

If you are purchasing within a planned community or subdivision, you might run into a snag when installing solar, however.

Some subdivisions have set limits to how many homes can install solar panels.

There is a maximum number of homes allowed to have solar within each neighborhood/subdivision. Once that number is reached, no more homes within that neighborhood or subdivision are allowed to have solar.

By consulting one of many Hawaii solar installers they will be able to tell you if your neighborhood is at it’s maximum number of homes for solar and will assess each resident’s individual needs and offer the most efficient, cost saving solutions for the home.

If solar is important to you and you are looking at properties for sale in subdivisions, check for these limits and determine whether the subdivision has hit its max for solar-powered homes, as many have.

The Long and Short of It

It may be a couple of years, but on the Big Island, we’re optimistic that soon installing solar panels and solar water heaters will be…if not easy and painless, easier and less painful than it is right now. And the savings to both your wallet and our environment will be more than worth it.

In the meantime, you may want to wait it out and see what develops as the Hawaii Electric Company releases their newest energy plan this month.  I’ll keep you in loop!

For more information about Big Island real estate in general, or to start your search of Big Island properties, contact me, real estate agent Annette Mejia! I’m happy to help.

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