Solar water-heating industry cools off
Arizona utilities have been battling with rooftop solar-electric companies over rates, and the solar water-heating industry is suffering serious collateral damage.
Solar electric systems, or photovoltaic solar panels, generate electricity for homeowners. Solar water heaters use the sun’s heat to warm water, saving the electricity or natural gas that otherwise would be used for hot showers and washing laundry and dishes.
The state’s three largest utilities — Arizona Public Service Co., Salt River Project and Tucson Electric Power — have all targeted solar electric for higher rates, but their proposals don’t affect solar water heating. In fact, the electric companies, as well as Southwest Gas, continue to offer large rebates for customers who replace electric or gas water heaters with a solar water heater, something they stopped doing for solar-electric systems.