Hawaii Reaches Solar Thermal Milestone

When the Kuo Family of Makiki installed a solar water heater in their home, they got more than an efficient, inexpensive source of hot water. The Kuo’s have been honored by HECO for installing the 20,000th residential solar water heater under the program.

Honolulu, Hawaii – June 12, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] Since 1996, Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) and its neighbor island subsidiaries — Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) and Maui Electric Company (MECO) — have been encouraging homeowners to install solar water heating systems by offering rebates to help defray the installation costs. “With three teenagers, purchasing a solar system was the perfect choice,” said Mrs. Grace Kuo. “We don’t run out of hot water and we ‘re seeing the savings in our electric bill.” In recognition of the milestone, the Kuo Family received a US$500 check presented by Karl E. Stahlkopf, HECO’s senior vice president for energy solutions and chief technology officer. “This milestone highlights a six-year program which has put Hawaii out in front as the nation’s leader in per capita use of solar energy,” Stahlkopf said. “Hawaii has benefited significantly. Customers will save nearly US$90 million on their electricity bills over the life of their systems. And our environment benefits from the savings of 1.35 million barrels of imported oil, enough to power Honolulu for two months.” The Kuo’s are part of a growing trend in Hawaii. Today, almost one in four single-family homes (or about 60,000 homes) uses solar as the primary water heating system. The Kuo’s gift comes in addition to the US$750 rebate HECO provides to cover out-of-pocket costs for all those who retrofit their homes by installing solar water heaters using authorized contractors. For most people, hot water from a conventional heater is the largest part of monthly energy use. Solar systems use the heat of the sun to replace most of the electricity needed to make hot water. A well-designed and properly sized solar water heater can reduce the cost of heating water by 90 percent for an average family. HECO and its neighbor island affiliates have developed the largest, most successful solar water-heating program in the nation. Since 1996, customers of HECO, HELCO and MECO have installed more solar water heating systems in support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Million Solar Roofs Initiative than any other state. HECO, MECO and HELCO annually obtain about seven percent of electric sales from renewable sources, compared with a national average of only two percent. In addition to HECO’s US$750 rebate to help cover out-of-pocket costs, many customers qualify for a 35 percent Hawaii State Energy Tax Credit. A post-installation inspection is performed by HECO to ensure a system is installed to HECO’s stringent standards. Further, the City and County of Honolulu and HECO have formed a new partnership to make it easier for low-to-moderate income homeowners and landlords to install solar water heating systems on their properties. The program, called the Honolulu Solar Roofs Initiative, offers seven-year loans at zero and two percent financing (depending on income levels) to cover the cost of solar installations. The low-interest loans are available for single-family homes, condominiums, and co-ops. To qualify, landlords have to rent their properties to tenants who fall under the low-to-moderate income limits set by the City.

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