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Majority of Americans See Benefits of Solar Water Heating, Feel Growth of Solar Water Heating Industry Creates Jobs and Deserves Government Support

New national poll shows positive perception of solar water heating systems, need for more information about affordability and reliability.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) today released new national polling showing strong public support for solar water heating systems and the perception that solar water heating helps the economy and create jobs. The independent poll conducted by Gotham Research Group showed 74 percent of Americans agree that the solar water heating industry will produce jobs and help the U.S. economy. Positive perceptions of solar water heating systems exceeded negative perceptions by more than 10 to 1 (48 percent to 4 percent). More broadly, solar energy is considered the energy source most deserving of U.S. government support.

Solar heating and cooling technologies capture the sun's heat to provide energy for water heating, pool heating, and space heating and cooling. These technologies, which can be used for residential, commercial and industrial applications, displace the use of electricity, natural gas, and in some regions, home heating fuel.

"This poll confirms what we've seen around the country. The solar water heating industry is creating stable, good-paying installation and manufacturing jobs and helping to put our economy back on track," said Monique Hanis, SEIA spokesperson. "We also learned that while the public supports solar, the industry needs to continue educating customers on the benefits of these increasingly affordable and reliable energy solutions that reduce utility bills for thousands of homeowners."

"The solar water heating sector is providing economic opportunities for small companies like ours from coast to coast to manufacture and market solar water heating equipment," said Rex Gillespie, Director of Marketing at Caleffi North America Inc., a manufacturing company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "We added several employees, nearly doubling our size since 2006 - that's the kind of growth this economy needs."

"Solar is an increasingly affordable and reliable energy source for homeowners and businesses," said Gordon Handelsman, Chief Marketing Officer of EchoFirst, a manufacturer in Fremont, Calif. "Solar is rapidly becoming a mainstream energy solution for more and more homeowners and companies - solar systems come with complete and comprehensive warranties, yet typically require less maintenance than their furnace or air conditioning systems."

Today, there are enough solar water heating systems installed in the U.S. to serve 1.5 million homes. In 2010, 35,464 solar water heating systems and 29,540 solar pool heating systems were installed, heating a total of more than 65,000 homes, businesses and pools, according to SEIA(R) and GTM Research's U.S. Solar Market InsightTM: Year-in-Review 2010. The solar heating and cooling sector contributes to the U.S. solar industry's role as a net global exporter, comprising 9 percent ($400 million) of the industry's overall domestic value.

"Despite a down economy, 2011 is on schedule to be Heliodyne's highest grossing year ever since we began manufacturing 35 years ago," said Michael Stough, spokesperson for Heliodyne, a manufacturer in Richmond, Calif. "Since then, thousands of solar water heating systems using our products have been installed in homes and businesses across the U.S. and have been operating for decades. It's a true testament to the reliability of solar hot water technology."

"Dollar for dollar, solar water heating is the best value in solar," said Ed Murray, president of Aztec Solar Inc., an installer company based in Rancho Cordova, Calif. "Homeowner systems generate most of a family's hot water supply and we are seeing growth of large-scale commercial applications. Laundromats, cafeterias, dormitories and restaurants are beginning to catch on to the financial and environmental benefits of solar water heating."

Key Survey Findings:

  • Three out of four (74 percent) Americans agree, "the growth of the solar water heating industry will produce jobs and help the American economy."
    • 80 percent of Northeastern residents, 78 percent of Midwestern residents, 69 percent of Southern residents, and 73 percent of Western residents agree with this statement.
    • 65 percent of self-identified Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, and 83 percent of Democrats agree with this statement.
  • Positive perceptions of "solar water heating systems" exceed negative perceptions by more than 10 to 1 (48 percent to 4 percent).
  • Solar energy is now considered to be the energy source most deserving of U.S. government support - outdistancing natural gas, oil, nuclear, and even wind energy.
  • 63 percent of Americans believe solar energy can be used to heat water, heat buildings, cool buildings, heat swimming pools, and produce electricity.
  • 46 percent say they would either be "extremely likely" (6 percent), "very likely" (9 percent), or "somewhat likely" (31 percent) to consider installing a solar water heating system in their own home.
  • "The cost of purchasing the system" (72 percent) and "the cost of maintaining the system" (56 percent) are the top two concerns for residents in all regions and across key demographic/partisan groups.

The findings of the survey are based on polling conducted from June 23 - 26, 2011, among a representative sample of 1,013 U.S. adults, age 18+. The margin of error on the total sample of 1,013 is +/- 3.1 percent. Survey was conducted independently by Gotham Research based in New York.

ABOUT SEIA(R)
Established in 1974, the Solar Energy Industries Association(R) is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry. Through advocacy and education, SEIA(R) is working to build a strong solar industry to power America. As the voice of the industry, SEIA(R) works with its 1,000 member companies to make solar a mainstream and significant energy source by expanding markets, removing market barriers, strengthening the industry and educating the public on the benefits of solar energy.

Background Resources:

Public Perceptions of Solar Water Heating Systems report - Oct. 17, 2011

U.S. Solar Market InsightTM: Year-in-Review 2010 Executive Summary - March 2011

U.S. Solar Trade Energy Assessment - August 2011

Solar Heating & Cooling Technologies Fact Sheet

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