In 1975, the City of Santa Clara established the nation's first municipal solar utility. Under the Solar Water Heating Program, the Santa Clara Water and Sewer Utilities Department supplies, installs and maintains solar water heating systems for residents and businesses. In addition, the city has also installed solar energy equipment for a number of its own facilities.
Solar equipment is available from the city for heating swimming pools, process water and domestic hot water. The hardware (solar collectors, controls and storage tanks) is owned and maintained by the city under a rental agreement. The renter pays an initial installation fee and a monthly utility fee. For solar pool heating systems, the installation cost is $1,125 plus $50 per panel. For solar domestic hot water systems (multi-family), the amount varies; the typical installation fee for a system that serves 10 dwelling units is approximately $7,500. There is a monthly service charge for all systems based on the number of panels. Pool systems are billed a monthly service charge for six billing cycles per year (generally from April to September), although the system is available for use all year.