Renewable energy ...how to get it done?

ikendu

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Jun 30, 2001
Messages
1,853
Location
Iowa
My wife and I just got back from our first ever trip to the Southwest. She's always been fascinated by cacti and wanted to see them "au natural".

It was a great trip. The weather was perfect (86 F, low humidity, sunny).

Here's the thing.

Living here in Iowa, I'm starting to look for a solar hot water heat contractor to put one on my roof. Domestic solar hot water is one of the easiest and quickest pay offs for solar energy.

In Tucson, we saw acres of new homes with cute, orange tile roofs. It looks like Tucson gets lots of sun, most of the time. But... I didn't see even one solar collector for domestic hot water. I'm sure the people in Tucson must take a lot of showers and wash a lot of clothes. They must all be doing it with natural gas or electricity near as I could tell.

Its not right. Solar domestic hot water would pay off really quickly in such a climate. Somehow, the way builders go after a low purchase price is causing home owners to lock themselves into an ever escalating cost for fossil fuel energy.

I'm not sure what would work to be better. I've heard an idea of setting up special mortgage treatment for such systems so that it just becomes part of the house. For builders to do this voluntarily would mean that their purchase price would look higher than a competitor's (which is why it is the way it is now).

Let's just pick a number of a 5 year payback (got to be better than that in Tucson). Anybody got ideas on how we could stop building brand new homes that miss out on the best solar technology out there?
 

Biker Bear

Enlightened
Joined
Sep 9, 2006
Messages
279
Location
The Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Sprawl
I totally agree with you. Those who hate any kind of regulation will disagree - but I think any new construction or major renovation in areas of the country that get plenty of sun should be required to have solar water heating systems.

Why require it? Because that levels the playing field. If everyone has to do it, it gets done; if it's optional, a handful of people will do it and everyone else will shun the "added cost" - even though such a system pays for itself.

And then there are "impulse" or "on demand" water heaters; they aren't suitable for all applications, but when they're a good fit, they can save lots of energy over a standard tank-type water heater.
 

Josey

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Jan 5, 2004
Messages
1,015
Location
NW Rainforest
There was a time when solar hot-water heaters were hitting the market and the emphasis was on engineering -- performance and reliability. Then Jimmy
Carter introduced very large tax benefits for people buying solar hot-water heaters. That legislation was well-intended, but what happened is that the industry began to sell the tax benefits rather than the product. Boiler room sales operations set up. Low-quality solar sytems were sold. The sellers of high-quality products couldn't compete on price, and that's the one criterion that Americans put above all else. Then Reagan took away the tax benefits and the industry collapsed. The poor systems quickly failed and the industry was set back for decades.

It is a shame -- dumb, really -- that all these roofs don't have solar PV collectors and hot-water collectors on them. But the problem is that almost all of the energy subsidies -- massive subsidies -- go to coal, oil and nukes, making it very difficult for solar products to compete. The leadership of this country has given us foolish energy programs, but it is a very difficult proposition to take subsidies away from people.
 

gadget_lover

Flashaholic
Joined
Oct 7, 2003
Messages
7,140
Location
Near Silicon Valley (too near)
It seems that regulation is the only way for the average person to accept the up front costs of solar energy. It's hard to look at an installation with a 15 year payback without thinking of all the other things that you could do with that money.

It's not helped by the tendency to think of the lowest energy bills in recent history and the longest payback at the same time.

I think I could sell my wife on it if there were some guarantee that the pricing structure for buying back excess power will stay the same for the duration of the installation. It's a 15 year purchase, but there is no assurance that net metering will still be available in 5 years.

A very popular saying among renewable enthusiasts is that it's much cheaper and easier to save a watt than it is to create a watt. Simple awnings, insulation, solar hot water preheating, heat pumps...... Many ways to cut the use.

I would not object to a law saying that all new homes must have PV panels and solar water heating installed.

Daniel
 

ikendu

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Jun 30, 2001
Messages
1,853
Location
Iowa
Hmmm...

So, we have to have standards (UL-like?) for systems to be sure they are well built and work properly. Maybe some kind of federal mortgage insurance or discount rate or...??? to lower the apparent price of the home with it's new, standards meeting solar domestic hot water heater?

Just think how thousands or millions of solar domestic hot water systems in sunny areas like Tucson would lower demand for natural gas and therefore lower the cost of heating homes for everyone! It would save Tucson home owners money on their hot water and everyone else money on their building heat.
 
Top