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Integrating Solar Heat into HVAC and Hot Water Systems Webinars

“Integrating Solar Heat into HVAC and Hot Water Systems” is the 6th webinar in the 2012 GreenPrisons.org series.

Source:

  • GreenPrisons.org – http://greenprisons.org/m/videos/view/Integrating-Solar-Heat-into-HVAC-and-Hot-Water-Systems

The UK Backs Off Plan to Drop Solar Thermal

Backers of solar thermal in the UK have spent the better part of the last six months lobbying their government to prevent solar thermal from being removed from the UK’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) program. The program is similar to the various tax and credit programs local governments in the U.S. offer for renewable energy installations. UK authorities were planning to drop solar thermal from RHI in 2017 so that money being spent to promote it could be invested elsewhere.

The Solar Trade Association led a coalition of lobbyists to convince UK officials to change their plans. The Association began their efforts in earnest with government consultation this past March, bolstered by the support of business owners opposed to the plan.

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The typical business owner installing solar thermal in the UK breaks even at about seven years with RHI incentives. In other words, it only takes about seven years for a solar thermal installation to pay for itself. Without RHI incentives, it could take three times as long. The Solar Trade Association and its army of lobbyists argued that eliminating solar thermal from the RHI would prompt business owners to avoid new installations.

Now that the UK government has agreed not to drop solar thermal, there are high hopes for significant expansion in the commercial market. The Solar Trade Association now expects to see the growth it was projecting prior to the March consultation, growth that could help the UK reach its target of 12% renewable heat by 2020.

The Government Incentive Question

Questions about whether government should subsidize solar thermal installations are not unique to the UK. We see the same kinds of things being wrestled with here. Only here, things are a bit more complicated due to the way things are regulated at the federal, state and local levels.

Energy credits are typically the domain of state governments in that utilities are regulated at the state level. However, it’s very common for counties and local municipalities to throw their own credits in as well. The question is always one of how much to spend on incentives and to whom those incentives should be offered.

Here at Solar America Solutions, we have proven that our patented SunQuest 250 solar thermal panel is so efficient and produces so much thermal energy, that systems we have installed have provided a return on investment of less than five years even without government subsidies. However, governments that commit funds to renewable energy demonstrate to the public their support of seeking replacement energy sources that do not rely on fossil fuels.

Solar Thermal in America

Solar America Solutions has been a leader in solar thermal technology since our inception. Here in America, the industry is more focused on commercial applications than residential, which is why our company concentrates on commercial buildings including prison facilities, healthcare facilities, office buildings, dormitories, hotels, and the like.

As solar thermal grows in this country, we are proud to be part of the industry. Our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector is the best of its type in the business, capable of providing up to 35,000 BTUs per hour per panel, across a ten-hour solar day. Combined with the right equipment and a well-designed installation, the SunQuest 250™ can provide nearly all the space heat and hot water a commercial building requires.

UK government and industry officials have come to realize how important solar thermal is to future renewable energy goals. That’s why they have changed course and are now agreeing to include solar thermal in their RHI program. We would do well to learn from their example. Solar thermal is just as important to the future of renewable energy in the U.S.

Sources:

1.Sun & Wind Energy – http://www.sunwindenergy.com/solar-thermal/solar-thermal-to-stay-uk-renewable-heat-incentive

Canadian Project Reaches 100% Space Heating Milestone

Canadian officials embarked on an ambitious solar project in 2007 intended to test the limits of solar thermal for district heating purposes. What they have learned in nearly ten years of operation has led to significant improvements that allowed the project to reach the incredible milestone of providing 100% of the space heat required by the project’s 52 energy-efficient homes. While Solar America Solutions has historically focused on commercial applications for solar thermal, we are nonetheless impressed by this accomplishment and recognize the value of district heating as a very viable solution in a residential setting.

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The Drake Landing Solar Community outside of Calgary consists of 52 rather spacious homes utilizing solar thermal for both space heat and hot water. Heat is provided via a district heating model that collects and converts solar energy to heat energy at a central location and then piped to homes on its circulation loop. What is not needed immediately is stored in one of two borehole storage tanks for later use. Hot water is provided on a house-by-house basis through individual solar powered water heaters and gas supplementation.

If you were to see an overhead shot of the neighborhood, you would see each home with a solar collector panel array mounted to the garage. The energy from those panels benefits every member of the neighborhood through district heating and hot water.

Natural Resources Canada has said that the system provided 100% of the required space heat for the 2015-2016 heating season. That is impressive, to say the least. The neighborhood system was originally intended to achieve a solar fraction of about 93% per year, but improvements to the system have helped Natural Resources Canada achieve the 100% milestone.

Sufficient Heating with Less Electricity

Drake Landing officials are obviously pleased with the results as well. For them, it is all about providing district heating at the lowest possible cost. According to project officials, solar thermal district heating uses 8 to 10 times less electricity than traditional heat pumps, which is important in a region that has year-round heating needs. Even in the midst of summer, district heat is still required in the Drake Landing community.

Officials are confident that the results they achieved during the previous heating season are repeatable. Though they aren’t saying whether they will reach 100% again this year, they are confident that they will start seeing repeat seasons in the future.

What It Means to Us

Here at Solar America Solutions, the importance of Drake Landing’s milestone is not lost on us. We have always believed that the potential of solar thermal for space heating and hot water is greater than anyone knows, which is what has prompted us to design and build our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector.

Every day, we are hearing more stories about the success of solar thermal for both residential and commercial applications. This motivates us to continue developing our own technology for the benefit of our customers. The further we can push the solar thermal envelope, the better we will be at meeting the needs of a world changing before our eyes.

We believe solar thermal is the future of renewable energy at multiple levels. Solar thermal already represents one of the most efficient and effective ways of generating energy for hot water and space heat on a property-by-property basis, and there is no reason to believe its potential for more widespread applications is limited. It’s a matter of simply scaling up the technology for size.

Our hats are off to Drake Landing and the impressive performance of their solar thermal project. After ten years of developing reliable renewable energy, they have proven that solar thermal both works and is commercially viable.

Sources:

1. Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/canada-solar-district-heat-meets-communitys-entire-space-heating-demand

Solar Thermal Proves Its Winter Mettle in India

One of the concerns people have about solar thermal as a means of providing effective space heat is its ability to produce during the winter months. In the U.S. Northeast, the upper plains, and certain parts of the Midwest, winter temperatures can easily dip below zero for extended amounts of time. Well, now we know that solar thermal can get the job done even in some pretty harsh conditions. Thanks to a test conducted in the mountains of northern India, solar thermal has proven its winter mettle.

The real-world test of the solar thermal system was conducted by the Indian Defense Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) at a troop shelter built at Chang La, a mountain pass that stands more than 17,000 feet above sea level. Moreover, tests were conducted during the winter months to see how well the system would perform in providing adequate space heat.

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Researchers set up the system to store solar heat during the daylight hours using a phase-change storage tank. The stored energy was then used to produce the heat necessary to keep the shelter warm overnight. Throughout the test period, the ambient temperature inside the 295-square foot shelter remained between 44 and 50° despite exterior temperatures that reached as cold as -22°.

Saving Oil and Diesel

DIHAR officials say there were some points during the test when a diesel generator had to be operated to compensate for temperatures below -22°. Those occurrences were mainly in the coldest months of January and February. Still, the evacuated tube design of the solar thermal system performed well because they rely on ultraviolet “A” (UVA) rays from the sun, not the warm infrared (IR) rays that are not effective in cold or cloudy conditions.

Under normal conditions, the troop shelter is kept warm with wood, diesel and paraffin oil burners. Heating the shelter in the dead of winter consumes hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel and oil every year. Researchers estimate that using the solar thermal system overnight could save as much as 10 liters of paraffin oil per day for every system installed.

Solar Thermal Suitable for Winter Climates

The solar thermal industry is very pleased with the results achieved by the Indian study. The study proves that our technology is more than suitable for winter climates, even when temperatures dip well below freezing. If an evacuated tube system can generate sufficient heat to keep a Himalayan shelter at 50° despite outside temperatures of less than -20°, imagine how well it might work here in the U.S. where most winter environments are not nearly as harsh

The key to the success of the Indian test was the evacuated tube design of the solar collector panels. Evacuated tubes, which happens to be the same technology the patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collector is based on, make for the most efficient collection and transfer of solar energy for both space heat and hot water.

Evacuated tubes are glass tubes with an enclosed absorption surface surrounded by a vacuum. That surface absorbs solar energy which is transferred to a thermal liquid to be then sent to a heat exchanger for heat extraction. Extracted heat is either used immediately for space heat or hot water or forwarded to a highly insulated storage tank for later use.

Solar thermal space heat built around evacuated tube solar collector panels has proven up to the task in harsh winter environments. It has worked so well that DIHAR plans to begin installing the systems in several hundred buildings. All being well, what they have learned will improve the technology worldwide. In the meantime, there are a lot of buildings here at home that would benefit from a solar thermal solution for space heat and hot water.

Sources:

1.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/india-vacuum-tube-system-pcm-storage-tank-heats-troop-shelter

Nicaragua Says Yes to Solar Thermal Air Conditioning

When you think solar thermal, you typically think about space heating and hot water. So what would you say if we told you about a project in Nicaragua in which solar thermal will be used for air conditioning? Indeed, Nicaragua’s largest hospital complex just finalized an agreement this past September that will result in the installation of a monstrous 14,000+ square foot system to provide hot water and subsidize air conditioning.

The hospital is a 400-bed complex that broke ground in 2015. Some two years after the fact, hospital operators will be able to flip the switch on the new solar thermal system and immediately start saving a ton of money. They will spend upwards of $4 million on the system; the total building project is estimated to eventually cost $125 million.

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Liquefied Gas Savings

Designers have created a system that will use energy from the solar thermal installation to provide nearly 100% of the hospital’s hot water and up to 40% of the air-conditioning. The hot water would normally be supplied by liquefied gas, which can be very expensive in Nicaragua, leading engineers to focus mainly on the hot water solution. As for the air-conditioning, solar thermal will supplement an existing electrical system.

They expect excess energy not consumed by hot water needs to be redirected in a way that reduces the load on the electric compression chillers that will handle the bulk of the air-conditioning. At peak efficiency, engineers expect solar thermal can contribute to between 30% and 40% of the energy needed.

To make solar thermal usable for air-conditioning, heat energy has to be used to generate the electricity compressors and chillers need to operate. One way to do that is through steam. However, officials in Nicaragua say that steam is the one thing not being replaced by solar thermal. Exactly how engineers intend to utilize the solar thermal installation is not known yet, but they will likely direct excess heat energy into an adsorption chiller system, much like a propane refrigerator uses.

The Potential Is Huge

At Solar America Solutions, we are always excited to hear about projects like this one. It shows us that the potential for solar thermal is enormous if engineers just put their minds to coming up with new ways to use it. A few years back, we published a blog post about a group of enterprising college students who developed an ingenious way to use solar thermal for air-conditioning without generating electricity. These are the kinds of ideas that are driving the technology forward.

Meanwhile, solar thermal is being used around the world to provide heat, hot water – and, yes even air-conditioning – in the largest of commercial buildings. Property owners are quickly waking up to the fact that solar thermal is incredibly efficient and cost-effective. Furthermore, a system utilizing evacuated tube collector panels is usable for nearly any kind of installation thanks to its high heat output with a remarkably small footprint.

Solar America Solutions’ patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collectors are the most efficient collectors in the industry. With just a very small footprint required on a rooftop or land area, one of our solar thermal solutions can generate as much as 65% of the energy needed for your building’s hot water and space heat.Over the years, we have installed our systems in prison cell blocks, university dorms, and even a Midwest poultry operation.

Hospital officials in Nicaragua are impressed enough with the benefits of solar thermal that they’re willing to spend $4 million on it. They are doing it because they know it will work. So what’s stopping you?

Sources:

1.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/nicaragua-soft-loan-fund-eur-4-million-project

Can Solar Thermal Be Harnessed for Sports and Leisure?

One of the first projects involving the Solar America Solutions patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collector was a system installed at a correctional facility in Indiana. The project was designed to save Indiana’s correction department a significant amount of money by providing space heat and hot water for a new cell block. Since then, we have installed systems in a number of other commercial buildings. Expanding beyond our usual scope, we are looking into projects in which solar thermal can be harnessed for the sports and leisure sector.

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According to a UK company known as Stokvis Energy Systems, there is considerable potential in sports and leisure. They estimate that as much as 30% of the total running costs of a typical UK sports and leisure facility is devoted to energy. And much of that energy goes to space heat and hot water. Stokvis is committed to introducing solar thermal to the UK sports and leisure sector.

The Potential of the Sun Is Extraordinary

In our worldwide push for renewable energy sources, it is surprising that more attention hasn’t been given to solar thermal. Indeed, ask a person on the street about his/her impressions of renewable energy and this individual will likely mention creating electricity from wind turbines and solar photovoltaic (PV) panels as the main contenders. What many people don’t know is that solar thermal is more efficient and cost-effective for a variety of needs, especially for space heat and hot water.

According to UK-based Modern Building Services (MBS), the surface of the sun boasts temperatures of nearly 10,000°F; temperatures at the core could be as high as 59 million degrees. MBS says that the amount of solar energy that reaches the earth in just 30 minutes is roughly equivalent to all the energy humanity consumes annually. That’s a lot of energy.

What makes solar thermal systems so attractive is that it is the most efficient way to harness solar energy that we know of. Take our very own patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collector as an example. Now in its third generation, it is 96% efficient. That means there is very little energy waste when converting solar energy into usable heat energy by way of a thermal transfer liquid. Just one of our solar thermal collectors can produce up to 35,000 BTUs and output temperatures as high as 400495°F.

We’ve learned how to harness the tremendous power of the sun to eliminate the need for fossil fuels for producing hot water and space heating. And as our technology improves, we don’t doubt for a minute that the potential applications for solar thermal will only grow. That potential can easily be put to use for sports and leisure.

Your Sports Facility Could Benefit

Solar America Solutions focuses on solar thermal installations for commercial buildings. One of our systems is the ideal renewable solution for your sports and leisure facility whether you are building from the ground up or looking to upgrade or replace an existing system. And rest assured you don’t need an excessive amount of roof space to enjoy the benefits of solar thermal.

One of our solar collector panels requires just a 3′ x 7′ surface area for installation, yet it provides 88 ft.² of absorption space. In other words, we can produce a lot of heat energy in a very small area. By setting up the right number of panels and connecting them to the peripheral equipment we supply alongside our collectors, we can give you a highly efficient system that will pay for itself within 3 to 5 years. Now that’s how you generate energy savings for your facility.

Sources:

1.Modern Building Services – http://www.modbs.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/16256/Renewable_energy_at_your_leisure.html

Setting the Solar Thermal Example in Argentina

The solar thermal industry is always looking for new ways to introduce our technology to property owners who would benefit from less dependence on fossil fuels for space heating hot water. Perhaps a more efficient solar thermal installation at the White House might help. A similar installation in Argentina seems to have done a great deal to encourage property owners there to invest in solar thermal.

The Argentine government has been hard at work drafting and approving legislation to promote solar thermal among commercial and residential property owners. Along with financial incentives and mandated solar water heating systems for public buildings, the government has been searching for other means to encourage property owners to adopt solar thermal. Argentine president Mauricio Marci eventually made the decision to order a 260-liter system to be installed in his home in Olivos.

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The company responsible for installing the system explained to the media that they experienced a 50-fold increase in solar thermal inquiries just as a result of the publicity alone. Sales have doubled as well. In October, the company sold 600 systems, which will exceed anything they have done in the past should the robust sales continue. Prior to the presidential installation, the company averaged about 3,000 systems annually.

Other solar thermal companies are doing very well in Argentina as well. As many as 15,000 new solar thermal systems have been installed in each of the last two years, according to some estimates. More importantly, the installations are saving consumers money.

Energy Prices out of Control

It’s easy to see why solar thermal is gaining popularity in Argentina when you look at the cost of fuel in that country. Largely subsidized by government to this point, energy prices are expected to increase as much as 500% in some cities as the government phases out subsidies. The result has been one of property owners looking for alternative sources of energy before their utility bills start going up.

Solar thermal is one of the best solutions for space heat and hot water. A well-designed and promptly installed system can generate more than 60% of the space heat and hot water a commercial building requires. Right now, Argentina is focusing on solar thermal for public buildings in an attempt to reduce energy consumption at the commercial level. But it looks like more widespread adoption is occurring organically.

We Need a Good Example

Solar thermal in Argentina has the benefit of exploding energy prices to help drive it. Here in the U.S., energy prices have dropped dramatically in recent years creating an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ problem for solar thermal in many cases. We need a good example, a strong example the public can look at to see how beneficial solar thermal can be.

Over the years, Solar America Solutions has installed space heat and hot water systems incorporating our patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collectors in various types of commercial and public buildings. We know how efficient the technology is. We know how much money our clients save by adopting solar thermal in place of fossil fuels. We firmly believe that if there were a way to put solar thermal at the forefront of the energy discussion, more property owners would take a serious look at it.

Perhaps a more efficient solar thermal installation at the White House would do the trick. But since that’s not likely to happen, our industry needs to find other ways to get the word out. The more solar thermal is adopted as a preferred renewable energy source, the better off we will all be.

Sources:

1.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/argentina-presidents-system-order-and-planned-energy-price-hikes-boost-solar-thermal

UK Rail Station Experimenting with Solar Thermal

At the Birmingham International railway station in the heart of England, millions of passengers every year make their way through a vast concourse on their way to and from their trains. That concourse includes restaurants, cafés, shops, public seating areas, and restrooms. It is now getting an energy upgrade thanks to a pilot program designed to test the viability of solar thermal for providing the hot water the rail station needs to operate every day.

The Birmingham pilot is a little bit different in that initial plans don’t call for the solar thermal system to be the exclusive provider of hot water to the station and its tenants. Instead, the solar thermal system will preheat water coming in from the city’s main supply before sending it on to the rail station’s dual gas-fired boilers that will finish the job.

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That said, a successful test of the system may lead engineers to switch exclusively to solar thermal and use the gas fired boilers only as a supplement when necessary. But that decision is still some time in the future. For now, they want to see how well solar thermal works for the purposes they have intended.

Using Evacuated Tube Solar Collector Panels

Like all other highly efficient solar thermal systems, the star of the show in Birmingham are the ten evacuated tube solar collectors mounted on the rail station’s roof. These collectors absorb solar energy from ultraviolet rays, then transfer that energy to a thermal liquid. The benefit of this system is efficiency. An evacuated tube loses very little energy in the transfer process, so almost all the energy absorbed is sent into the system.

The heated thermal liquid is forwarded to a heat exchanger where heat energy is extracted before returning to the collector panel. Extracted heat can either be stored or used immediately to heat water. In principle, the system is rather simple.

Engineers in Birmingham have decided to use their system to preheat a mains water supply that enters the property at roughly 10°F. Water temperature should be as high as 95° before leaving the solar thermal system on the way to the gas-fired boilers. They will increase the input temperature of the water to 140°. But here’s the thing: the solar thermal system should be able to push the main water to 140° or higher during the warm summer months all by itself, eliminating the gas-fired boilers.

Throughout the pilot program, a heat meter will keep track of the system and analyze its benefits and financial savings based on the UK’s Renewable Heat Incentive program. If the system proves successful – and there’s no reason to believe it will not – we can easily see similar systems installed at rail stations around the country.

Solar Thermal Is Where It’s At

For years, our focus for solar energy has been on systems that convert sunlight directly into electricity. While these systems have proven their worth in some areas, they have not proven to be as efficient and cost-effective as solar thermal for space heat and hot water. In short, solar thermal is where it’s at.

The Birmingham International rail station is on the verge of learning how beneficial solar thermal can actually be. But they are by no means the first. Here at Solar America Solutions, we have already been part of numerous installations at all kinds of commercial and government buildings. Throughout the U.S., countless property owners have come to realize that the best way to provide space heat and hot water using renewable energy is to go solar thermal.

Sources:

  • Modern Building Services – http://www.modbs.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/16265/Railway_station_trials_solar-thermal_for_DHW_.html

Indian Project Shows Promise for Solar Thermal Process Heat

A rather extensive project in India designed to measure the cost effectiveness of solar thermal technology for process heat has shown good promise through more than a dozen case studies. The project, known as SoPro India, is a partnership between the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and the German Agency for International Cooperation.

SoPro India started with the installation of solar thermal systems at 27 locations around the country. Among them, 15 locations were chosen as case studies for measuring the effectiveness of the solutions in providing cost-effective process heat. The 15 facilities cover different sectors from food processing to textiles to manufacturing.

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According to Solar Thermal World magazine, the case studies demonstrated efficiency of 20% that would lead to a return on investment (ROI) of between two and three years. The ROI can be shorter or longer, based on future energy prices for fossil fuels. Nonetheless, an ROI of three years is pretty standard for solar thermal.

Solar Thermal for Process Heat

The installations we concentrate on at Solar America Solutions tend to be geared toward providing space heat and hot water for commercial buildings. But we have been involved in some process heat installations as well. They are very similar in terms of both theory and practice.

In a process heat installation, our SunQuest 250®™ solar collector panel collects solar energy using evacuated tube technology. That energy is transferred to a thermal liquid that runs through the system and into a heat exchanger where it can be extracted.Harvested energy can then be stored or used immediately for process heat.

The only difference in a space heat or hot water scenario is that the harvested energy is used for different purposes. The process of creating that energy is the same. This is what they are doing in India as well. For example, two of the case studies in the SoPro India project are as follows:

  • Himachal Dairy – The dairy uses a system consisting of a heat exchanger and several collector circuits set up in parallel. A 20% efficiency rating was achieved with very little modification from the original design. However, engineers believe they can boost efficiency as high as 40% by optimizing the flow of thermal liquid on both sides of the heat exchanger.
  • Synthokem Labs – The installation at this facility provides both process heat and hot water. Separate collector fields are used for both, though engineers are thinking of increasing efficiency by combining them into a single circuit.

Solar Thermal World reports that investors are happy with the current 20% efficiency and ROI. As such, there are no immediate plans to modify the systems to achieve a higher efficiency. But 40% is certainly not out of the question. Perhaps the success that SoPro India has demonstrated thus far will motivate engineers to modify current systems and design future installations with a higher efficiency rating.

Solar Thermal for Your Building

Back here at home, Solar America Solutions continues to lead the way in developing effective solar thermal solutions for commercial buildings and industrial enterprises. Our industry-leading SunQuest 250®™ solar collector panel has set performance standards the rest of the industry is working to catch up to. Our panel is capable of output temperatures in excess of 400°F and up to 35,000 BTUs per hour.

A Solar America Solutions system is perfect for commercial buildings because it has an extremely small footprint compared to its high output potential. For more information about how solar thermal can save your commercial building or enterprise money, feel free to contact us.

Sources:

1. Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/india-process-heat-system-monitoring-shows-fair-performance-room-improvement

German Company Takes Solar Thermal Shopping Online

It would not be unusual to assume that solar thermal and online technologies, being relatively new in the grand scheme of things, easily coexist in the same marketplace. This is not necessarily true. Take a German company that recently began allowing customers to shop for solar thermal installations online, as an example. Their business plan seems to be drawing some consternation from skeptical installers who think the online model might hinder business.

Vaillant is a German company specializing in the manufacture of boilers and heating equipment. Their new online sales platform makes it possible for customers to shop and compare without ever having to visit a showroom or call to speak with a representative. But there are a couple of catches.

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First, critics of the system say it is not easy to understand. Customers have to go through a two-stage process that includes a rather lengthy questionnaire designed to determine what kind of heating system they are looking for. Customers can also choose a particular price range.

The second catch is that the prices shown on the platform are only rough estimates based on current retail prices in the customer’s given market. Before any purchase is made, an installation specialist has to visit the premises to create an accurate estimate. Vaillant will be working with licensed installers to handle estimates and installations in local areas under their brand.

A Model That Could Work

Despite concerns that the online model will stifle competitiveness among local installers, it is a model that could work well once all of the details are ironed out. We can see it being especially attractive to millennials and younger baby boomers who have already shown an affinity for shopping online. Comparing without leaving home is pretty attractive.

Imagine a platform whereby the solar thermal customer could compare different equipment choices along with installers and designers. Competition tends to result in better pricing and service, potentially opening the door to more opportunities for consumers. On the other hand, competition can be stifled if the online platform provider restricts access to certain equipment manufacturers, dealers and installers.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the German program over the next 12 to 18 months. If Vaillant can make it work well, keeping both consumers and installers happy, there is no reason the same idea would not work elsewhere. Perhaps we are on the verge of seeing solar thermal become as widely adopted online as any other product in the digital marketplace.

Solar Thermal Is Cost-Effective and Efficient

We can see a lot of potential in offering solar thermal installations via an online shopping platform if, for no other reason, the fact that the internet makes it a lot easier to quantify the efficiency of solar thermal in ways consumers can understand. Through graphics, comparison charts, etc., companies could offer overviews of their equipment side-by-side with their competitors. Customers could easily see how different systems stack up against one another.

Done right, it could be a viable platform for our SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collector panel. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Comparative shopping platforms are not as big here in the U.S. as they are in Europe, so it’s better that we wait to see how the German platform works out.

In the meantime, we invite you to contact Solar America Solutions for more information about solar thermal technology for your commercial building. Our systems can provide more than adequate space heat, hot water, and process heat at an affordable cost that will save you money for years to come. We invite you to check out our website’s Energy Savings Calculators on our home page and get a preliminary estimate of what our system can save you on an annual basis (www.solaramericasolutions.com).

Sources:

1.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/germany-vaillant-establishes-end-customer-online-platform

Australian Scientists Reach Solar Thermal Record

Scientists at the Australian National University have set a new record for solar thermal efficiency and in so doing have set the bar for future solar thermal development. According to various news outlets, the researchers were able to achieve 97% efficiency in converting solar energy into steam power. Earlier this year, the same researchers achieved a 34.5% efficiency in converting solar energy directly into electricity.

The Australian National University is well known for its excellent work in the field of solar energy, so few were surprised by their most recent accomplishment. That’s not to say there was no skepticism during the development of the project. In fact, some of the researchers were skeptical that the solar collector panel used to set the record would actually meet the projections engineers made when designing. But all turned out well in the end.

In this particular setup, the scientists used a giant, dish-shaped reflector to concentrate the sun’s energy on a high-powered collector unit, which heated up water and created steam to power an electric generator. Researchers attribute their high efficiency to the design of the dish reflector.

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Why This Is Important

What the researchers in Australia have done is essentially the same thing we do at Solar America Solutions – at least in principle. The two main differences are the fact that they are dealing with large scale power generation meant to replace coal-fired and natural gas plants while we focus on rooftop installations for hot water, industrial process water, and space heat, and the fact that they are using a giant dish where our patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collectors have an exceptionally small footprint.

What we share is the vision to use powerful solar energy to generate thermal energy that can be used for any number of purposes. This is why the Australian project is so important. It proves that solar thermal is incredibly efficient when harnessed in the right way and using the right equipment and strategies. Efficiency is indeed its greatest asset.

When you convert solar energy directly into electricity, there are some inherent limitations in both conversion and application. So while the 34.5% efficiency achievement earlier this year (2016) is impressive, it pales in significance when compared to the 96% efficiency we have achieved with solar thermal. When you are converting solar energy into commercial levels of thermal energy, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Hot Water, and Space and Process Heat

Australian researchers are looking at high-capacity power generation using solar thermal. Here at Solar America Solutions, we focus on commercial applications that provide hot water, space heat, and heated industrial process water. We are helping our customers save money by reducing the amount of outside energy they have to purchase to meet their needs. And we’re doing it with our patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collector that is among the most efficient evacuated tube collectors on the market.

Where hot water and space heat are the focus, Solar America Solutions installations are perfect for hotels, office buildings, dormitories, government buildings, hospitals, educational institutions, and more. As for process heat, there are almost no limits. Wherever steam or hot water is used to drive industrial equipment or processes, solar thermal can be deployed. One of our earliest installations was at a poultry farm that required process heat and hot water for egg washing.

The future of solar thermal looks very bright thanks to the ongoing efforts of researchers and product developers. We look forward to seeing what the Australian researchers come up with next, even as we continue to develop our solar thermal technology here in America. If 97% efficiency is possible, how much closer can we get to 100%?

Sources:

New Atlas – http://newatlas.com/solar-thermal-record-anu/45027/