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Bill heats up talk of solar water systems

The Assembly measure offers incentives for using the sun's energy instead of gas or coal. Utilities fear they could lose millions of dollars.

May 29, 2007|Margot Roosevelt | Times Staff Writer

There are signs that momentum is building for solar water heating, especially with mounting opposition to proposed liquid natural gas terminals.

A pilot program, sponsored by the Public Utilities Commission, will subsidize 750 installations in San Diego beginning this summer.

Today, homeowners and businesses are wary of the upfront costs of solar heating. But "the legislation will create a large enough market that prices will drop and it will become cost-effective in time," said Bernadette Del Chiaro, an energy expert for the advocacy group Environment California who helped draft the bill.



Here comes the sun

The United States lags behind many countries in the use of solar energy to heat water.

Heating water with solar energy

Percent of each country's total hot water generation produced by solar energy in 2005

China: 62%

Rest of the world: 17%

EU: 13%

Japan: 6%

U.S.: 2%

Typical system

Generally, solar water heaters work either by heating the water directly or via a heat-transfer fluid. Hot water is stored in a tank until needed.

Rooftop collector

Storage tank or backup heater

Solar-heated tap water

Source: Environment California Research and Policy Center

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