Installation Considerations for a Photovoltaic System on the Big Island

Congratulations, you have a nice sunny roof and you are serious about getting a solar electric system installed this year. Here are some things to consider as you begin your journey to going solar. If after reading this, you have more questions, please reach out to ProVision Solar at 808-969-3281. Or find us at provisionsolar.com.

Solar panel racks installed on roofPre Installation

A Photovoltaic (PV) project must be approved by both Hawaiian Electric and the Hawai’i County Building Department before construction begins. You will need a Hawai’i County building permit and an electrical permit to install a PV system. You will also need a conditionally approved interconnection agreement from Hawai’ian Electric before you start to build. PV projects can take four to six months to completely navigate the jurisdictional requirements. Once the paperwork is in hand, it is usually a short time like a few days to a week to install the PV system. At ProVision Solar, we will do all of this for you. You only need to provide us with a couple of signature pages and we will do the rest. Simple and easy.

Your Roof—is it ready for PV?

Before any design or engineering is done for your permits, we will do a comprehensive site analysis including an evaluation of the condition of your roof. Most roofs are ready for solar but if there needs to be some reinforcement, we can provide guidance on how to proceed or do the work ourselves. Every drawing we do is reviewed by a licensed architect and then stamped for submittal to the building department. If minor repairs are needed or re-roofing is in the plan, there is plenty of time to get this done before install day.

Electric panelYour Electric Panel

Your new PV system will be connected to the main electrical panel at your house also known as your electrical service entrance. This is typically where your meter is located. It is where the utility company and your home connect. Most electrical services do not require work but occasionally the service needs to be upgraded for modernization reasons or simply for safety and code reasons. The evaluation of your electrical service is included in the initial site visit. If the house needs a service panel upgrade to accommodate the PV, this can usually be done by your solar contractor and does require an additional permit and inspections by the County electrical department. Panel upgrades are generally simple and cost between $250 and $500. This work can be done concurrently with the other permitting. All electrical work is reviewed and stamped by a licensed electrical engineer. The stamped drawings for your new service are submitted by ProVision Solar to the engineering department at Hawaiian Electric and approved by them. Then an electrical permit is required by the Hawai’i County building department. This is all handled by your solar contractor.

One last Step before Permits

A PV system has a 40 year life and it is important that you are absolutely happy with the design and look of your PV system. To make sure everybody is on the same page, we will request your review and approval of our drawings of the locations of the solar panels and the associated equipment. It is always easier to change something when it is still on paper and before it goes on the roof.

Post Installation

Once your PV system is installed, there will be three inspections: Two from the building department (building and electrical) and one from Hawai’ian Electric. Once inspections are passed, you will get a new bi-directional electric meter installed by Hawai’ian Electric at no cost to you. Inspections and getting your new meter may take up to 60 days. Once it’s done, you may energize your new PV system and start saving money while reducing your carbon footprint. A knowledgeable consultant from ProVision Solar will come back to the house to train you on the operation and maintenance of your solar system. Technicians and your sales person will be available Monday through Friday to help you with any additional questions or concerns you may have after the system is activated. We are locally owned and operated with a dedicated service team so providing timely assistance post-installation is assured.

Warranties

The components of your solar system come with warranties to give you peace of mind that your equipment is covered for years to come. ProVision Solar will be there to service any warranty issues and you may pass the warranties along to a new owner, should you decide to sell your home.


About the Author

Kim Keahiolalo has been working in the fields of energy efficiency and renewable energy since 2004. She is an author and an advocate of clean energy technology and energy consumption reduction through efficiency. Kim has been with ProVision Solar since 2012 and has a BA in Environmental Studies from Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, CA.