Two Tanks: The SolPak system employs two water heating tanks, using a conventional storage or tankless unit only when needed to supply domestic hot water.
Courtesy Stone Panels Two Tanks: The SolPak system employs two water heating tanks, using a conventional storage or tankless unit only when needed to supply domestic hot water.

Valley Electric Associ-ation (VEA), an electrical co-op serving 17,000 homes and commercial buildings in the southern tip of Nevada and into Arizona, is partnering with Rheem Manufacturing to offer the utility’s members access to the new SolPak solar thermal domestic hot water system as an alternative to a grid-powered water heating.

VEA will offer homeowners zero-percent financing amortized across their utility bill (and eligible for a federal tax credit through 2010) to install Rheem’s new SolPak system, which consists of one or two roof-mounted solar thermal panels and a 50-, 80-, or 120-gallon storage tank, depending on the home’s size and hot water needs.

Like many utilities in recent years, VEA is encouraging more efficient energy use among its customers, from off-peak-demand consumption, remote smart meters, and, to a lesser extent, alternative and renewable sources. “Our members are asking about alternative energy options, and this program saves money, adds jobs [via local SolPak installers], and has environmental benefits,” says CEO Thomas Husted, who will make up lost revenue from lower electricity demand and the no-interest financing by selling renewable energy credits derived by the program.

The partnership with VEA represents the next step for Rheem’s reintroduction of solar hot water systems after mothballing a similar line in the mid-’80s. SolPak is a complete package of components for a standard sloped roof installation. “It’s a fragmented market [for components], and this is a turnkey solution,” says Rheem’s Jeff Mahoney. Since introducing the system in May, he says, more than 80 have been installed across the U.S.

For a list of utilities offering various energy-saving incentives, check out Edison Electric Institute, the national association of domestic shareholder-owned electric companies, at www.eei.org.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Phoenix, AZ.