An insider’s view of the solar mandate
Though he's in an industry that promotes the use of solar technology, Rolf Christ, owner of R&R Solar Supply, is not a big fan of making them mandatory.
Senate Bill 644 mandates the installation of solar water heaters on all new homes built after Jan. 1, 2010.
While original drafts also sought a reduction in state tax credits from 35 percent to 20 percent for existing homes, and to 15 percent for all homes built after 2010, the latest draft leaves out changes to the tax credits.
Christ, who is also vice president (and former president) of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, has testified that the state should mandate solar-ready homes, rather than pre-installed solar water heaters, on all new construction.
Part of the reason for this is that he believes the current system of incentives is already working -- and should be allowed to keep working.
"It is our goal and the goal of the solar industry in Hawaii to promote and increase the use of solar to heat water and maintain our high industry standards," he said.
But, he asks, why fix something that isn't broken?
If developers were required to build solar-ready homes -- which can be done for less than $500 each -- that would definitely make an impact, he said.
Christ defines solar-ready as: A space for the heater in the home that is at least six feet tall, with a minimum floor space of 34 inches by 34 inches, copper lines, and 120-volt outlet in the heater area in case the solar system uses an AC pump.
Homeowners should be able to choose the solar water system that matches their needs, as well as quality, type and warranty. Typically, a homeowner now can choose between two or more contractors for the installation of a solar water heater.
Standards developed by Hawaiian Electric Co., with input from the plumbing and solar industries, have kept the quality of Hawaii's solar systems above the rest of the nation, he said.
Why not provide more, rather than fewer, incentives for homeowners to install solar water heaters. The system of incentives Hawaii has in place now is already working, according to Christ.
"We have a mature industry in Hawaii," he said.