In California, the expansion of an existing incentive program means commercial pools can now take advantage of nearly $80,000,000 in rebates through the gas utilities. With a substantial reduction in upfront costs, installations of solar heaters on commercial pools are expected to increase throughout the state.
Though the U.S. Solar Industry is no stranger to incentive programs, one particular application – swimming pool solar heating – has traditionally been excluded from receiving such subsidies. Thanks to an amendment of the existing California Solar Initiative Rebate Program, multi-family residential and commercial properties are now eligible to receive a rebate for installing a solar pool heating system. Aquatherm Industries, Inc., the largest U.S. manufacturer of solar pool heaters, expects significant growth in the California commercial sector thanks to the CSI-Thermal Rebate Program.
Originally signed into law in October 2012, AB2249 was the piece of legislation that paved the way for eligibility of commercial pool heating in the program. However it wasn’t until January 2014 that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) began accepting applications. In the six months that has passed, over $1.3 million in program funding has been appropriated to pool heating projects.
Molly Friar, Sales & Marketing Manager for Aquatherm Industries, Inc., a manufacturer of solar pool heaters located in Lakewood, New Jersey, says she expects installations under the program to increase exponentially, now that the first projects have been inspected.
“When details of the program were first released, feedback from those involved in the industry resulted in some delays. Unfortunately, that resulted in a lack of confidence amongst contractors in promoting the program and, subsequently, a slow start.” Friar believes the program has begun to gain traction, now that the CPUC has begun issuing incentive checks.
“Over 50% of applications for incentive money were submitted in May and June alone, with 80% of all current reservations having been submitted in the second quarter.”
The CSI-Thermal Program is funded by the ratepayers of several major gas utilities, including PG&E, SCE, SoCal Gas and SDG&E. A total of $80,000,000 in incentive money exists for thermal technologies, which includes domestic solar water heating, solar pool heating, and solar space heating/cooling. The rebate program is tiered, and steps down once dispersed incentives cross a certain threshold.
Though the program expires in 2017 if funds are not used, Friar cautions those who are waiting. “The fact is, the incentive money is already being used, and the contractors and facilities that act first will secure the highest rebates.”