By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The Hawaii County Council will revisit its electricity code later this month to address complaints from contractors.
Hilo Councilman J Yoshimoto said he is introducing legislation to repeal a requirement that a building permit, as well as approval from an architect or structural engineer, be needed for the installation of solar panels on residences.
The bill, he said, is scheduled for the Sept. 18 Public Works and Parks and Recreation Committee meeting.
The requirements, approved unanimously by the council in July 2011, have become unpopular with electrical contractors.
Yoshimoto said in retrospect the rules may go too far and questioned whether an architect and engineer are needed.
“Public safety is always important,” he said, adding the county also needs to be “practical” with its regulations.
Several contractors interviewed by the Tribune-Herald last month said the rules unnecessarily increase the cost and wait times for getting approval from the county Public Works Department.
One of those contractors, Kaleo Chung of Walters Electric, welcomed Yoshimoto’s bill.
“It’s a good thing,” he said. “I’m glad the council is going to step in.”
Public Works Director Warren Lee told the Tribune-Herald last month that the rules, which he said went into effect last November, help ensure public safety by checking the integrity of structures they are going to be placed on. He couldn’t be reached for comment on the bill Thursday afternoon.
Contractors also need an electrical permit.
Lee said last month that approval for solar systems takes between 28 and 30 days. It took 14 days last year on average, he said.
The building permit requirement may not be the only cause.
The Public Works Department has also seen a significant increase in applications for solar. The department received 1,100 permit applications for the installation of solar systems this year as of July 31. It received 972 last year.
But the building permit requirement is also not helping, Chung said.
“Once they remove that, the county can get back to business as normal,” he said.
Honolulu and Kauai counties also require building permits for solar installations.
Chung, who does work in those counties, said the permits don’t go as far as to require approval from an architect or engineer.
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.