by Susan Kraemer
[ Originally published on Clean Technica ]
When the 30% tax credits as cash grants were instituted with the American Recovery Act, I was doing solar estimates for a small solar start-up in California. I was surprised to find that the 30% solar tax credit (available as a cash grant for businesses) was available for solar thermal - only when it was not used for heating swimming pools. Heating water for showers, dishes, radiant heating system in buildings with solar thermal was eligible, but swimming pools were excluded.Yet I found that heating the swimming pool was the greatest need that the apartment owners I was contacting had, and it was such a staggering source of greenhouse gas emissions, that I wrote up my suggestion that “like heating apartment pools” should be instated as the measure we use when we say doing something is like taking some number of “cars-off-the-road” to “measure” carbon reduction.
For example, the Maintenance Supervisor at The Bay Street Apartments in the East Bay told me that every month, $6,000 of his $11,000 a month gas bill went just to keeping this relatively tiny swimming pool at the sort of modest temperature that apartment pools are kept at. Hot water for all the apartments in the complex took less gas than this tiny swimming pool.
My estimate for an Apricus system for Santana Row came in at $227,790, and $1, 256,373 money saved over 25 years (not spent on gas, which if its average annual cost rise -of 9% a year till this year- were to continue over the next 25 years would have been an estimated $2,473,605.)
The greenhouse gases saved over the twenty five years came to 90,000 tons of carbon.
Although the apartment complex was eligible for a utility rebate in my utility district (PG&E) based on the (in this case) 13,045 therms saved in the first year, they were not eligible for any other incentives, (although Southern California was looking into expanding solar thermal incentives at that time).
This is the kind of money and greenhouse gas emissions that apartment complexes are literally pouring into pools, for heating that evaporates into the cool night air every night. It is probably one of the biggest energy waster we have. I am sure that it is costing community swimming pools a similar amount.
Commercial pools at hotels and motels, health clubs, municipal pools and school pools would all be covered. Approximately 189,000 commercial pools nationwide use fossil fuel or electricity to heat an estimated 27.25 billion gallons of water nationwide. If the heating systems were replaced with solar water heating systems, 1.23 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions avoided annually.
Senator Feinstein’s measure [with Sen. Merkley D-Ore.] would extend the 30% solar tax credit which is set to expire in 2010, and expand it to include solar thermal for commercial and community swimming pools, and also would expand it to include manufacturing equipment needed to manufacture solar water heating systems.
Currently, no US manufacturer of solar water heating is a major player. China dominates the solar hot water heater sector, with Kyoto Accord nations coming right up behind China, (and the already climate-changed Australia where the Apricus is made), having already beaten the US to solar hot water industry dominance.
If this bill were included in the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act climate bill in the Senate (CEJAPA), it really would do a tremendous amount for clean energy jobs and American power, starting to develop a solar hot water manufacturing industry in this country.
Summary of the solar thermal legislation
- Commercial pools are common at hotels/motels, health clubs, and schools. Approximately 189,000 commercial pools nationwide use fossil fuel or electricity to heat an estimated 27.25 billion gallons of water. If the heating systems were replaced with solar water heating systems, there would be 1.23 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions avoided annually, which is equivalent to taking 237,000 cars off the road. California has 26 percent of all commercial pools in the U.S. and could significantly reduce pollution by widely adopting solar hot water heating.Extend the Treasury Grants Program until 2012: The program allows renewable energy developers to take grants, or payments, from the Treasury department instead of claiming tax credits in order to help build projects that require a great deal of capital upfront. The program is set to expire in 2010, but experts believe this deadline is well before most large-scale renewable energy projects would be ready to begin construction or tax equity markets would be primed to rebound. The Feinstein measure would extend the program until 2012.