Aloha, Solar Power

Reader Contribution by Madeline Hyden

The state of Hawaii just passed a new law requiring all new homes to have solar water heaters installed starting in 2010. The bill, signed by Republican Governor Linda Lingle, will not allow building permits to be issued for homes that do not have solar water heaters.

Hawaii is the first state to require such a law and Hawaiian Electric Co. estimates that about 85, 000 households, or roughly 20 percent, already have solar water heaters installed. The law is a big move for a state that relies heavily on imported fossil fuels for 90 percent of its supply.

A traditional water heater is the most electricity-consuming appliance in a home and it accounts for about 40 percent of all home energy use, according to an article from the Associated Press. Solar powered water heaters reduce energy use by about 30-35 percent and with those savings the initial expense of the water heater can be paid off in three to four years, says MSNBC. Solar water heaters cost about $7000 on top of already sky-high Hawaiian mortgage costs, but supporters are confident that the benefits to the environment and foreign energy independence will be worth it.

Similar to a wind-powered town in Missouri, Hawaii’s new law takes the initiative in having its citizens partake in renewable energy practices, rather than just giving them the option. In January, Lingle announced the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, which seeks to have at least 70 percent of Hawaii’s energy come from renewable sources by 2030.

For those living outside the Aloha state, here’s an article on how to build your own solar water heater:

Build Your own Passive Solar Water Heater