Good if it passes.

8:33 pm – March 16, 2012 — Updated: 8:33 pm – March 16, 2012

Bill would allow small-scale energy production on farms

Hawaii’s ag land can already be used to grow crops for biofuel, for solar energy production and for wind farming.

Now, farmers using the land for agricultural purposes may be allowed to install small-scale renewable energy systems, under a proposed bill the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously passed Thursday afternoon.

House Bill 2150 would allow installing photovoltaic, biogas or other small-scale, renewable energy systems, as long as the energy generated is “solely for use in the agricultural activities of the fee or leasehold owners of the property.”

Rep. Jerry Chang, D-South Hilo, Waiakea Kai, Kaumana, Keaukaha, introduced the bill. Farmers approached him requesting the measure, he said.

“The original intent was just for photovoltaic,” Chang said. “Because we’ve got so many energy systems, we shouldn’t just (limit it).”

The measure specifies small-scale systems, he said, because “most everything is small scale on the Big Island.”

Each county’s permitting requirements for any kind of energy system remain in place, Chang said.

The measure will also benefit farmers who do not have access to the electrical grid on their property, he said.

Department of Agriculture Chairman Russell Kokubun said, in written testimony provided to the Senate committee, he supported the measure, at least in concept.

“The Department of Agriculture supports efforts to reduce costs to bonafide farmers,” Kokubun said.

But, he noted, the Legislature has allowed energy systems to be located on agricultural lands.

The bill has also been referred to the Senate’s Energy and Water, Land and Housing committees.

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