Skyline Innovations has been named to the California Solar Initiative’s short list of official solar hot water system data providers -- making it eligible for rebates.

Certified program performance data providers supply the information on which the California Solar Initiative (CSI) program bases rebates aimed at driving growth in the under-exploited solar water heating (SWH) sector.

Skyline is only the seventh company to earn CSI certification. The others are DECK Monitoring, Enovity, McKinstry Essention, NegaWatt Consulting, SunReports, and TEVA Energy. Of them, only Skyline and TEVA are SWH system specialists. DECK and SunReports are solar energy system monitoring specialists. Enovity, McKinstry and NegaWatt Consulting are engineering and data verification services providers.

Metering capability comes from a combination of water system components and a data system. “This certification,” Skyline spokesperson Sandra Lee said, “is validation of the component parts Skyline obtains from third-party providers and of its proprietary reporting system, which channels data through cloud servers to the company’s operations center dashboard.”

The basic measurements these companies provide to CSI are the system’s water flow, in gallons per unit of time, and the temperature change in the system’s water, in degrees Fahrenheit. “We know how cold the water was when it came into the building, and we know how hot the water was right before it went into customer’s water heater,” Lee said. “That shows how much the sun heated the water.”

Multiplying by the gallons of water that flowed through the system quantifies the energy consumed. That energy quantity can be translated into units of therms or kilowatt-hours and used to calculate how much the solar hot water system displaces annually, Lee explained.

Sunnovations CEO Matt Carlson recently explained further details of SWH system metering technology to GTM.

The CSI Solar Thermal program began in 2010. Participating utilities are Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas, Center for Sustainable Energy and Sempra Energy. Rebates are provided per therm for SWH systems installed in buildings with natural-gas-heated hot water and per kilowatt-hour for buildings with electricity-heated hot water. The rebates can be as high as $2,719 for a residence and up to $500,000 for a multi-family or commercial property.

Fewer than 100 large commercial buildings have taken advantage of the program, according to Lee. This suggests a wide-open market opportunity for SWH system providers.

Monitoring of the multi-family and commercial category is crucial, Lee explained. Those participants in the larger size categories that opt in to metering can often earn a 10 percent higher rebate after a year of monitoring than the estimated rebate based on calculations from CSI program assumptions.

Buildings with systems larger than 250 kilowatt-therms are required to be metered.

A system owner can get the full amount of the ten-year rebate when the SWH system is put into service or can opt for a 70 percent down payment and get the balance after one full year of performance data is provided to the CSI-Thermal program administrator.

Systems are typically designed to provide 60 percent or more of the hot water consumed by a building, Lee said. An advantage of an SWH system over a rooftop PV solar system, she added, is that it stores the hot water it collects in the building’s tank and can therefore be dispatched on need, even after the sun goes down.

Backed by natural gas utility WGL Holdings (WGL) and venture capital, Skyline has pioneered third-party-ownership (TPO) financing of SWH systems. A commercial or multi-family residential building can obtain a guaranteed 15 percent to 40 percent water heating bill reduction, according to Lee, by having Skyline investors fund an installation.

Skyline recently closed a further $2 million in mezzanine VC funding and a partnership deal with AMCAL Housing, a California affordable housing developer, that is expected to result in eleven commercial-scale SWH system installations.