March 1, 2016

Bill Would Ban Big Solar in Hawaiian Neighborhoods

A bill to prevent large commercial solar operations from setting up shop in residential neighborhoods is moving ahead at the Hawaii state Legislature.

The measure by Naalehu Rep. Richard Creagan advanced to the House Committee on Agriculture with amendments this week. Some testimony focused on the downsides of restricting solar energy development in a time when green power sources are needed more than ever. But other testimony highlighted the need to protect residential areas from commercial solar projects that could damage ambiance and property values.

House Bill 2636 would put a 25-kilowatt cap on solar generation projects located on land that is zoned agricultural but also serves as a residential area. Creagan introduced the bill in response to outcry from residents of Hawaiian Ocean View Ranchos, who oppose a plan by SPI Solar to place 30,000 solar panels on 26 lots in and around that subdivision.

The solar farm is allowed outright on agricultural land under state law designed to foster alternative energy. However, that agricultural designation includes several large subdivisions in Ka‘u and Puna, potentially places homes and vast expanses of panels at odds with each other.

Under modifications to the bill, its provisions would apply only to the Big Island and larger solar projects could still be allowed, but only with a special permit from the county.

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