FAQ’s for the Solarize Kauai Program

Q. What is Solarize Kauai?  

Solarize Kauai is a program to make it easy and affordable for residents and businesses to go solar—that is, to convert sunlight into electricity that we can all use in our homes and businesses. Solarize Kauai provides significant discounts off the cost of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, which is in addition to incentives from the state and federal governments (if applicable).   These discount grants come from the partners, manufacturers, and the installation companies who have agreed to give set pricing based on the bulk amount of homes installed at once.

Q. How long with this program be available?

We are bound by the certain dates as agreed with the manufacturers and installing companies as to the length of time they are able to grant the funding to pass along the discounted pricing.  If we hit our phase goals, and meet 150 homes per phase they will extend the program costs for us as long as funding is available.

Q. How do I know if my home is suitable for solar?

A. A solar professional will remotely determine if your home is suitable for solar energy.  This is able to be done with various computer model programs and satellite imagery that shows the current roof layout and obstructions.   The best location for a roof-mounted solar PV system is on the south and/or west-facing roof with little to no shading from nearby trees, chimneys or other obstructions. Any shading on the system can reduce energy output, so it is important to assess the locations of current trees and buildings around your home as well as that of other obstructions that may exist around your home in the future. Advances in panel and inverter technologies can allow homes with east or west-facing roofs and moderate shading to benefit from solar PV as well.

Q. Will the system produce electricity on cloudy and rainy days?

A. Yes, just not as much. It also all depends on the technology in the solar panels.  Under an overcast sky, panels will produce less electricity than they produce on a clear, sunny day.  We have made sure to specify only the highest producing panels in these specific situations.  After full review, it was determined that the SunPower products were the most advanced choice for the program.

Q. Will my system produce power if there is a blackout (KIUC loses power)?

A. Without a battery backup, grid-tied solar PV systems will not operate when the power grid is down. This safety requirement allows utility line workers to safely repair power lines during a power outage. You may choose to add a battery backup to your solar system to keep the lights on during a blackout. This could add an additional $8,000 and $16,000 to the cost of your system.

Q. Is battery back up included?

Not in the packages arraigned.  However, if you would like to have battery backup included please discuss this with the installation company and they can further guide you with your choices.

Q. How long will the installation process take?

A. From the day you apply for the program, to then signing an installation contract, it can take a few months before your solar PV system will be turned on. The physical installation of the solar system typically takes anywhere from two to three days, but the time it takes to order and receive equipment, secure permits or schedule your installation can vary.  Once installed, systems will need to be inspected by the county and utility. The installer will discuss the timeline with you when you sign a contract.

Q. What sort of maintenance is required?

A.  This depends on the program you choose to buy your solar.  If you choose to utilize the SunRun program, then maintenance and insurance are covered at no cost for a full 20 years.  If you choose to purchase your own solar system, all maintenance and insurance is the responsibility of the homeowner.  Solar PV systems require very little maintenance. Rain showers will generally take care of pollen and dust that fall on your solar panels. If your system is shaded by trees, you may have to trim and maintain branches to protect your system from falling limbs and to minimize shading and maximize production.

Q. What size system should I install?

A. Every home is different. As such, your system size will be determined by your roof space and electricity needs. On Kauai, system size is not limited, however it’s important that the historical on-site energy usage is used to calculate the proper “right-sized” system. The average residential solar system that is included produces approximately 5,100 kWh per year (14 kwh a day), but this could be too big or too small for your home. If you use certain technologies that are highly dependent on electricity, such as an electric car or air conditioning, you might require a larger system. Your installer will work with you to design a system with characteristics that will meet your specific needs.

Q. How will solar affect my home’s value?

Typically, solar systems add to a property’s value. This is due to the fact that once added to your home, there will be a minimal electricity bill. Thus, a solar PV system insulates you from rising electricity rates. Once the system has paid for itself, the electricity it generates is absolutely free! There is also the value associated with resale of your home which is valued more with having solar PV.

Q. How much will I save by installing a solar system?

A. Your savings depend on the size of the system you choose, your annual electrical usage, and when you use our electricity during the day.   To start, ask your solar design consultant how much electricity your new system is expected to produce on an annual basis and then compare that number to how much electricity your household uses to get an idea of how much you could save. As an example, a system that produces 15 kWh of electricity saves about $135 per month off your KIUC bill if you use that about of electricity during the daytime.

Q. Will I still receive a monthly electric bill after installing a solar system?

A. Yes. You will receive a monthly statement from your utility company as you always have, but the amount owed will differ depending on your solar output for that month. If your system generates more energy than you use during a given month, you will accrue credits for the excess from KIUC. These can offset electricity usage in months where solar output is less than your energy usage. This program is called ‘Schedule Q’. Even if your system entirely offsets your electrical usage, there is still a flat monthly fee to be connected to the grid.  The intent is not for homeowners to be making money from their over produced power but to cover their daily needs and greatly reduce their dependency on KIUC.

Q. Does homeowner’s insurance cover my system?

A. You should notify your insurance agent that you have added the solar PV system on your home. Typically there is  a small increase in your premium.  If you choose the SunRun program for your package, then insurance on the entire system is covered for 20 years.  This includes hurricane insurance as well.

Q. Are federal incentives available for my system?

A. The federal government provides a tax credit equal to 30% of your system’s total installed cost. This can be claimed on your 2016 tax return. So if you buy a system for $20,000, you would be eligible for a tax credit of $6000.  If you choose the SunRun program, SunRun is taking the tax credits in lieu of the homeowner however passing the savings forward to the homeowner immediately.

Please note: Solarize Kauai nor it affiliates are tax professionals and only provide information on what tax incentives are available.  It is the homeowners responsibility to talk to an accountant as to what will benefit them for tax credits and what they are eligible for.

Q. Are state incentives available for my system?

A. There is a 35% tax credit with a cap of $5000 for a system installed in Hawaii.  The math on systems of a greater size of 5KW can be tricky so you will need to discuss with the solar design consultant on what is available for the system size you choose.  If you do not pay Hawaii state income tax,  you cannot take the Hawaii Tax Credit, however you may be eligible for the Hawaii State Rebate which has a max of $3500.  If you choose the SunRun program, SunRun is taking the tax credits in lieu of the homeowner,  however passing the savings forward to the homeowner immediately.

Please note: Solarize Kauai nor it affiliates are tax professionals and only provide information on what tax incentives are available.  It is the homeowners responsibility to talk to an accountant as to what will benefit them for tax credits and what they are eligible for.

Q. Are there resources available to help me afford solar?

A. Yes. If you speak to a specialist at KCFCU (Kauai Community Federal Credit Union) or a financing group (bank) of your choice, they can recommend the best and least costly monthly payment program.  As an example, the PV loan program from KCFCU can offer a monthly payment of $85 per month on a 7 yr term if you borrow $6000.  So if your solar program eliminates $135 off your KIUC bill each month and you only have an $85 per month payment, you have saved $50 per month ($600 per year) without spending any of your own money.