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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Cool Fix for a Hot Planet

Air Date: Week of

Hawaii’s water heaters go solar. Jessica Ilyse Smith reports.


GELLERMAN: Coming up –robosaurs roam the aisles of toy stores - dinosaurs get a new lease on life thanks to robotics – but first, this cool fix for a hot planet from Jessica Ilyse Smith.

SMITH: Hawaii is leading the race to use the sun's rays to heat household water. With so much sun, and nearly all its fuel imported, the state has much reason to put down the oil and soak up the sun.


Hawaii’s legislature has passed a measure requiring all new homes to have solar rooftop water heaters, beginning in 2010. This puts Hawaii in the lead for solar hot water. Most people in Hawaii have electric hot water heaters. And, unlike most other states, Hawaii gets almost 75 percent of its electricity from petroleum-powered plants. Water heating can account for nearly a third of a homeowner’s electric bill in Hawaii, so going solar could mean sizeable monetary and petroleum savings.

Each day several places within the state receive 450 to 500 calories worth of solar radiation per square centimeter. If that energy were converted to gasoline, it would roughly equal 15 gallons a day from the average-size rooftop. So, Hawaii has the potential to make a real dent in its reliance on fossil fuel.

Not everyone is happy with this move. Some people fear the bill could lead to a slew of hastily–built systems of poor quality. And, some are concerned solar heaters will drive up the price of housing. Even with these questions, this bill will bring much attention to sun-heated water.

For now, with some areas of Hawaii boasting up to 300 days of sunshine a year…it seems like the perfect place to go out and catch some rays.

That’s this weeks Cool Fix for a Hot Planet; I’m Jessica Ilyse Smith.



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