Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles The Garden Island will publish this week on candidates for the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative Board of Directors.
KAPAA — Bill Peterson, a candidate for the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative board of directors, is passionate about rooftop solar.
He isn’t talking about the large-scale solar panels that have been placed on ag lands. His focus is on small systems that can be installed on roofs of businesses and homes.
“We have plenty of sunshine, but not enough solar capacity to cover our needs,” he said.
Rooftop solar not only provides people with low-cost, clean power, it also gives the island more areas to store it, he said.
KIUC needs to focus on energy storage, not generating it, Peterson added.
Storing energy on roofs makes sense because land isn’t taken to make room for large solar-powered plants. Instead, KIUC would be using structures that already exist, he said.
“Why lease more agricultural land and expend limited financial resources building large scale solar installations when there are thousands of rooftops available already,” he said. “Rooftops already linked to the grid, just waiting for someone to install panels and take advantage of the clean environmentally sustainable energy that shines down on Kauai everyday.”
Peterson, 67, and his wife installed rooftop solar on his Kapaa home last May. While it was an investment, it has since cut his electric bill in half, he said, and the system will be paid off in five years.
Because rooftop solar saves energy and is cost effective, it is a step in the right direction, he said.
“It’s the smart thing to do, for our environment and in terms of economics,” he said.
Peterson, a retired IT manager of a Los Angeles-based company, has never served on the board before. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for in passion, he said.
“It’s an interesting period in history for rooftop solar, and I want to have some impact on the direction where KIUC is going with it,” he said.
Peterson moved to Kauai from California in 2007 to take care of his ailing father. He said he became interested in running for the KIUC board because he wanted to see Kauai take better advantage of the resources on the island.
“You can’t live on Kauai and not realize the potential for renewable energy here,” he said. “It seems silly to import oil to run generators when we have abundant resources.”
For Peterson, that abundant resource is the sun. But KIUC has to come up with better ways to finesse the rooftop solar project, he said.
The biggest issue facing KIUC is how to determine who pays to maintain the electrical grid, he said.
“In a lot of places, the grid is operated by one company, and electricity is delivered from somewhere else,” he said. “As we go into more renewables, we are going to see a problem with who pays to maintain the grid.”
One of Peterson’s ideas is to divide the cost of the grid by the number of customers using it.
“It comes down to everyone paying for their fair share,” he said.
Another part of the plan is to balance the cost between high- and low-paying customers, he said, by looking at low- or no-cost loans.
He said he’d like to see a day where anyone interested in having rooftop solar will have the ability to purchase one.
“KIUC is doing wonderful things,” he said. “Little Kauai has the opportunity to be a model for the rest of the world and I hope to be part of the conversation.”