Californians across the Golden State have additional incentive toconsider solar water heating installations in 2010.
This past January,the state Public Utilities Commission approved $350 million in rebates for citizens who install solar hot water systems in their homes.According to experts, the solar hot water rebates could reduce the costof purchase and installation by 15 to 25 percent. While solar electric— or photovoltaic systems — often get more attention, solar waterheating systems are less expensive and can save a lot of energy.
The California solar hot water rebate program is merely a snapshot in the landscape of incentives that make up the California Solar Initiative (CSI),the driving force behind the state’s solar energy ambitions. Theprogram is part of a still larger Go Solar California campaign, builton 10 years of state solar rebates.
Under the program, CSI will disburse $250 million in funding toreplace natural-gas-powered water heaters, and another $100.8 millionto replace electric-powered water heaters, with solar hot water heatersthroughout the state. An additional $25 million will be awarded to helplow-income consumers access the solar water heating option. All buyersmay also take advantage of the 30 percent tax credit given by thefederal government for solar installation.
The extensive funding for the program comes at an uncertain time forthe state, which has been battling both a budget crisis and highunemployment. In January, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reportedthe California unemployment rate at 13.2 percent. Evenso, solar-interest companies are confident that funding will bringworthy returns on several fronts.
The California Utilities Commission expects the funding to result inthe installation of systems that could displace as much as 585 milliontherms of natural gas (equivalent to placing water heaters in 200,000single-family homes) and 275.7 million kilowatt-hours of electricityeach year. That’s a lot of saved electricity that would otherwise needto be generated with conventional sources, like natural gas, hydro,nuclear and coal.
According to the advocacy group Environment California,the solar hot water program could translate to more than 3,000 newCalifornia jobs, a drop in natural gas demand by 5 percent and a dropin wholesale gas prices by 35 percent.