California solar thermal incentives officially extended until 2020

california solar thermal bill

After Gov. Brown’s signature last week, California’s solar thermal incentives are officially extended, much to the delight of CALSEIA and the state’s solar industry.

“Using California’s warm sunshine to do something as simple as heating water is sensible for our state and a key way to protect public health, clean up our air, and support local good-paying jobs,” said Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), author of the bill. “I am pleased Governor Brown signed into law the extension of this important program.”

AB 797 extends the existing California Solar Initiative (CSI)-Thermal program for two years to 2020, seamlessly continuing the natural gas rebate program for homes, businesses and commercial swimming pools, such as at schools and community centers. The bill targets half of the funds for low-income housing and buildings in disadvantaged communities. It also expands eligibility for these rebates to homeowners in the San Joaquin Valley who currently use propane or wood to heat their water.

“The California solar thermal market is growing, especially in the multifamily housing sector – with 32% annual growth between 2015 and 2016 in annual natural gas savings,” said Kelly Knutsen, Senior Policy Advisor of the California Solar Energy Industries Association, a cosponsor of AB 797. “Governor Brown has been a long-time champion of clean energy and solar thermal technologies, and we applaud both Governor Brown and Assemblymember Irwin for their leadership in building California’s clean energy economy.”

Solar thermal Q&A: What are the trends in 2017, and how does an installer get started?

“A major challenge to meeting our state’s climate goals – and one that not enough people are talking about – is that we have to heat our homes, businesses and schools without relying on dirty fossil fuels. Solar thermal fits the bill, while reducing our energy bills at the same time,” said Michelle Kinman, Clean Energy Advocate with Environment California, which cosponsored the bill. “We thank Governor Brown and Assemblymember Irwin for their leadership on encouraging low-carbon heat energy for cleaner air for all Californians.”

To date, solar thermal projects installed under the CSI-Thermal program reduced natural gas use across the state by over 6 million therms each year, equal to the annual amount of natural gas used to heat water for nearly 34,000 homes.

The new law states that the California Public Utilities Commission “shall implement program changes in phases, if necessary, to enable seamless continuation of the availability of rebates, and the administration and promotion of the program, as of January 1, 2018.”

— Solar Builder magazine

California solar thermal incentive bill heads to governor’s desk

California assembly

Timed perfectly with Solar Power International, the California Legislature passed AB 797 last week. With the bipartisan vote in the Assembly of 45-19 and the Senate’s bipartisan 30-10 vote last Tuesday, the bill now heads to the Governor for his signature. The bill extends consumer incentives for solar thermal technologies that heat water and air using the sun’s energy, reducing natural gas use in homes and buildings. The bill is part of the state’s ongoing efforts to meet the greenhouse gas reduction goals, improve air quality, and support economic development.

AB 797 would extend the existing California Solar Initiative (CSI)-Thermal program for two years to 2020, seamlessly continuing the natural gas rebate program for homes, businesses and commercial swimming pools, such as at schools and community centers. The bill targets half of the funds for low-income housing and buildings in disadvantaged communities. It also expands eligibility for these rebates to homeowners in the San Joaquin Valley who currently use propane or wood to heat their water.

“The California solar thermal market is growing, especially in the multifamily housing sector – with 32% annual growth between 2015 and 2016 in annual natural gas savings,” said Kelly Knutsen, Senior Policy Advisor of the California Solar Energy Industries Association, a cosponsor of AB 797. “Assemblymember Irwin is a clean energy champion for all Californians, and a strong leader for helping low-income and disadvantaged communities gain access to clean energy technologies to lower their energy bills.”

Vote here for the 2017 Solar Builder Project of the Year

“A major challenge to meeting our state’s climate goals – and one that not enough people are talking about – is that we have to heat our homes, businesses and schools without relying on dirty fossil fuels. Solar thermal fits the bill, while reducing our energy bills at the same time,” said Michelle Kinman, Clean Energy Advocate with Environment California, which cosponsored the bill. “We thank Assemblymember Irwin for her leadership and starting this important conversation on low-carbon heat energy.”

Solar thermal projects installed under the CSI-Thermal program reduced natural gas use across the state by over 5.8 million therms each year, equal to the annual amount of natural gas used to heat water for over 32,00 homes. The program has offset over 31,000 metric tons of CO2(eq) annually, comparable to taking over 6,500 cars off the road each year.

— Solar Builder magazine

Sun Bandit solar water heating, storage system qualifies for Solar Thermal Rebate Program

The PV-powered solar water heating and storage system, Sun Bandit by Next Generation Energy, has qualified for the new, higher incentives associated with the California Solar Initiative (CSI) Solar Thermal Rebate Program.
Close to $109 million in incentives is currently available to drive solar adoption: $92.6 million for general market, natural gas-displacing projects and $16.3 million for qualifying low-income single family and multi-family projects.

The aim is to help California 1) reduce the carbon emissions that come from fossil fuel-fed power plants, 2) increase solar savings for businesses and consumers 3) and create jobs for contractors and energy professionals throughout the state.

CSI officials say Californians can slash their water heating bills by up to 75% using solar technology. CSI’s Solar Thermal Program offers cash rebates of up to $4,366 on solar water heating systems for single family residential customers. Multi-family and commercial properties qualify for rebates of up to $800,000. The incentives are in most instances combinable with a 30% federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC*), which can cumulatively reduce up to 75% of system purchase and installation costs.

Rebates are processed through CSI program administrators covering four distinct California areas: the Center for Sustainable Energy in the San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) service territo-ry; [Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), who serves 5.2 million households and businesses in the northern two-thirds of California; Southern California Gas Company and Southern California Edi-son (SCE).

Incentives are calculated based on a variety of factors, including system size, climate zone, azimuth, tilt, system back-up and annual average access. Use this CSI Incentive Calculatorto determine your potential solar savings with a Next Generation Energy Sun Bandit solution.

Solar thermal Q&A: What are the trends in 2017, and how does an installer get started?

“California is not only a global solar leader, but a hotbed of global technology innovation,” said Sun Bandit parent Next Generation Energy’s COO Lori Beedon. “CSI’s recognition of Sun Bandit’s patented ‘wire to water’ technology offers Californians a new breed of simplified, aesthetically-superior solar water heating and storage solution with multiple storage and back-up capabilities. And Sun Bandit eliminates the mechanical and freezing issues that have plagued old-school solar thermal for decades. Sun Bandit’s qualifying for CSI rebates affords businesses and consumers a menu of fresh new options to accelerate solar water heating adoption in the Golden State.”

— Solar Builder magazine

CyboEnergy debuts an inverter air conditioner (no batteries required)

CyboEnergy has released a family of off-grid and on/off-grid CyboInverters that can run Inverter-Air-Conditioners (IAC) without batteries.

“Inverter-Air-Conditioners (IAC) are becoming more popular,” saud CyboEnergy CEO George Cheng. “They can start with small amounts of surge power; therefore, our special off-grid CyboInverters can run these air conditioners with just solar panels. No battery is required. We believe off-grid solar air-conditioning has huge market potential in many parts of the world where the electric grid is poor or there is no electricity.”

CyboEnergy

Solar panels and CyboInverters can be installed on the roof with “plug-and-play” installation. The AC output wire runs down to connect to the IAC. Since the system is so simple and easy to install, the total system cost is affordable, especially as the solar panel price has dropped substantially.

There are a few configurations that are possible here.

  • 4-channel 1.2-KW off-grid CyboInverter that directly connects to four 250W to 330W solar panels with MC-4 connectors. It can run a 9000 to 12000 Btu IAC.
  • An off-grid CyboInverter Twin-Pack that connects to eight solar panels and can run an 18000 to 24000 Btu IAC or multiple smaller IACs.

Most off-grid inverters on the market require batteries to operate. This battery-less solar air conditioning system is unique, cost effective, and can work in high temperature and high humidity areas.

Solar thermal Q&A: What are the trends in 2017, and how does an installer get started?

— Solar Builder magazine

Ice Energy cooling, energy storage system achieves world record efficiency

The Ice Bear 20 home cooling and energy storage system from Ice Energy has achieved a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of 14.56 when operating like a conventional AC unit, and when operating in its ice cooling mode using stored ice, an unprecedented Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) of 150 — more than three times greater than the next best rating, which is a geothermal system with an EER of 46.

Ice Bear explained

Ice Energy

The Ice Bear 20 is a hybrid system, able to create cooling just like a conventional air conditioning unit, as well as to create, store and deliver cooling in the form of ice. The Ice Bear 20 is based on Ice Energy’s award-winning Ice Bear 30 energy storage system for commercial and industrial air conditioners, but unlike the Ice Bear 30, completely replaces the conventional home AC unit. The system cools the home 24/7 to the temperature set by the homeowner, and for four hours can eliminate 95 percent of the electricity load by cooling with ice.

The Holistic Home: We peer into the future of home energy generation, usage

“The Ice Bear 20 is unlike any other home cooling system, combining the best of conventional AC technology with Ice Energy’s thermal energy storage technology,” said Mike Hopkins, CEO of Ice Energy. “There currently are no energy efficiency standards for a product of this kind, but we decided to put it to the test and engaged a leading accredited third-party lab to perform the industry standard AHRI SEER rating test. We were delighted to learn that when tested as if it were a conventional AC unit, the Ice Bear 20 achieved a SEER of 14.56, higher than required anywhere in the U.S. — a remarkable accomplishment given that there’s much more to an Ice Bear 20 than a conventional AC unit.”

Large-scale manufacturing of the Ice Bear 20 is set to begin this summer to fulfill contracts already in hand for utility-sponsored programs in California and Massachusetts. Later this year the product will be made available directly to homeowners in certain regions, including California, Hawaii, Australia and the Middle East. In California, net of applicable rebates, it will cost less than a conventional AC unit, save homeowners hundreds on their utility bills, and if they have solar PV, also store their solar energy.

— Solar Builder magazine