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Hospitality Sector Embracing ‘Mature’ Solar Thermal Technology

Solar America Solutions has been on the leading edge of solar thermal technology since the introduction of our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector panel in 2011. Over the years, we have installed our systems across multiple commercial sectors including agriculture, education, and government. We are thrilled that the hospitality sector is now getting on board with solar thermal for both hot water and space heating.

The hospitality sector has come to understand how cost-effective solar thermal solutions are for providing hot water at hotels and resorts where it has often been a key budgetary and maintenance concern. Solar America Solutions is once again leading the way, as evidenced by a great story just published by Glenn Hasek in a recent edition of Green Lodging News.

Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead installation

Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead installation

Hasek’s article discussed how hotels and resorts are taking advantage of the sun’s potential as an energy source to heat water for on-site consumption. Hasek specifically mentioned hotels in Haiti, French Polynesia, and the U.S. He also contrasted the difference between the evacuated tube technology, like the technology Solar America Solutions utilizes, and more traditional flat-panel collectors.

Evacuated Tube Technology Now ‘Mature’

The title of Hasek’s article implies that solar technology is now mature enough for widespread adoption within the hospitality sector. If that is the case, and we believe it is, the maturity being spoken of here is not in the sense that solar technology has had to overcome a lot of technical problems to be useful. Rather, it is mature in the sense that people are more willing to use it than in the past, despite the fact that the science behind it has been well understood for decades.

In the case of our solar thermal collector, the science behind evacuated tubes is nothing new. When we adapted the evacuated tube paradigm for our design, we knew from the start it would work – and work well. Evacuated solar thermal tubes are highly efficient machines capable of harnessing energy from the sun and creating heat energy from it with very little loss.

From our earliest installations at an Indiana corrections facility and an Ohio poultry operation, we knew evacuated tubes were the way to go for space heat and hot water in commercial buildings. Evacuated tube collectors are incredibly efficient and they require a very small footprint. They even work on cloudy and overcast days as well as the coldest winter days because they utilize ultraviolet rays rather than the sun’s infrared rays.

The Grand Hyatt Atlanta

To illustrate the maturity of solar thermal, Hasek discussed our installation at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead last summer. We installed a 20-panel system on the roof of the 439-room hotel to provide hot water for both public consumption and to supplement the hotel’s aging boilers.

According to hotel management, guests used to call with complaints about hot water on a regular basis before installation. In the 10 months since, the hotel has not received a single complaint. Furthermore, the boilers only need to be fired up on weekends and during extremely busy periods. This implementation at the Buckhead, Georgia Grand Hyatt has also resulted in a 60% reduction in their natural gas cost.

Both the hotel and Solar America Solutions expect the solar thermal system to last more than two decades. The hotel believes it will recoup its investment within three years, saving a tremendous amount thereafter.

While there is a place for flat-panel solar collection in the vast universe that is renewable energy, we believe evacuated tube technology is far superior for many reasons. The hospitality industry is coming to understand that as well. Solar America Solutions will continue developing both the technology and our relationship with the hospitality sector in the hope that solar-powered hot water systems will become a mainstream, viable option for hotels and resorts around the world.


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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 series.


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Net-Positive Solar Thermal Installation Shows Potential

There is an ongoing debate over the proliferation of solar thermal technology as opposed to its photovoltaic cousin. As you may already know, critics of solar thermal have been playing its funeral dirge for years now. Yet the technology still continues to evolve and thrive as evidenced by a project recently profiled by HuffPost Canada, a project that shows the potential of innovative solar thermal designs.

The installation was designed for a combined garage-residential suite in Calgary, Alberta. Homeowner Tom Jackson wanted to convert his rather sizable garage into a dual-space unit that offered him workspace along with a residential suite he could rent out. At the start of the design phase, he was determined to use solar technologies to create a net-positive structure. He succeeded.

SunQuest 250

PV Alone Was Not Enough

Jackson’s original concept called for a PV installation that would generate all the electricity needed by the suite. But that strategy proved insufficient for creating a non-positive structure. There was still the pesky issue of space heat and hot water, a major source of energy consumption. Since, Canadian homes devote as much as 70% of their total energy usage to heating, PV alone was just not going to cut it.

Jackson decided on a solar thermal installation that would provide all the space heat and hot water needs. He integrated the system with electrically-powered heat pumps that could keep the system’s thermal liquid at the optimal temperature without sacrificing heating potential.

Spectacular Results Achieved

So how did it work? Quite well. In fact, on most days the system generates more than enough heat to keep the space warm. Plenty of hot water is always available too. Any extra heat is transferred to the main house as supplemental heat. Jackson estimates that his investment in both systems will be completely paid off within 20 years.

Amazingly, Jackson’s installation has eliminated the need for natural gas. The combination of a state-of-the-art solar thermal system, extra insulation, a metal roof, and triple-pane windows has made his garage suite the envy of the neighborhood. His combined systems do so well that he generates more energy than he can use during the summer months. During the winter, the entire garage suite is heated entirely by solar thermal with enough excess heat to supplement the main home.

Solar Thermal Right Solution

While Solar America Solutions has not historically focused on residential installations, we have developed and are in the process of introducing, a very viable residential package that the average plumber or “do-it-yourselfer” can install. For that reason, we thought it important to talk about this Calgary installation because it demonstrates that solar thermal is the right solution for space heat and hot watereven in residential applications. It cannot be argued that, from the standpoint of ROI, carbon emission reduction, and long-term durability, solar thermal is far superior to photovoltaic.

Average estimates suggest that solar thermal can provide up to 70% of a structure’s space heat and hot water under normal conditions. Under optimal conditions, the amount could be even more. That makes solar thermal the right solution for your commercial building, and even for your home.

If you are looking to save on space heat and hot water, there is no better alternative than solar thermal. Furthermore, there is no better solar thermal provider than Solar America Solutions. We are an industry leader offering customers the patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector panel capable of developing up to 35,000 BTUs per hour and output temperatures as high as 500° F.

When you choose a Solar America Solutions installation, you are choosing a system that can pay for itself in five years or less. You are choosing a system based on a proven evacuated tube solar collector panel that relies on ultraviolet rays to generate heat energy. You are choosing a system that requires just 21 square feet of installation space per collector panel.


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Solar Thermal Already Goes Beyond Electricity

A professor at Australia’s Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources at Adelaide University was recently quoted as saying, “if we want to tackle the greenhouse gas emissions problem, we have to look beyond just electricity.” His comments were made in relation to a research project investigating the possibility of using solar thermal to replace electricity in mineral processing. Well, we have good news: solar thermal already goes beyond mere electrical generation.

Professor Graham Nathan is absolutely correct in principle. We have to look at every possible use of solar thermal if the technology is ever to reach its full potential. But it is important that we make one thing clear: generating electricity is not the only thing we are doing with solar thermal technology.

It is true that large solar thermal power generation plants exist in both the U.S. and elsewhere. It is also true that most of these plants use mirrors to concentrate solar energy on boilers that generate electricity by powering steam turbines. But the model used by these power plants does not constitute the only way to use solar thermal power. Solar America Solutions does something that is completely different but equally important.


Space Heat and Hot Water

Solar America Solutions was awarded a patent in 2015 for our SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector panel. In awarding the patent, the government recognized the uniqueness of our technology along with the benefits it offers for renewable energy. In short, there is no other panel in the industry that does what the SunQuest 250™ can do.

When we install a system featuring our panels in a commercial building, that system can often generate all the space heat and hot water needed during the daylight hours. With appropriate storage on-site, unused energy can be preserved for use once the sun goes down. More importantly, a Solar America Solutions system can pay for itself in five years or less.

Another remarkable thing about our solar thermal solutions is that they do not require a huge amount of space to be cost-effective. One of our 25-bulb collectors offers 88 square feet of absorption space in an area that is just 3′ x 7′. A single collector is capable of developing 35,000 BTUs per hour and output temperatures upwards of 500° F. That is a lot of raw power in a very small space.

The SunQuest 250™ solar collector panel is the key to a highly efficient space heat and hot water system. Combined with our peripheral equipment and storage solutions, a Solar America Solutions system can significantly reduce the amount of money spent on thermal energy.

The Solar America Advantage

One last thing we want to point out is the advantage our customers have after installing a Solar America Solutions system. Unlike photovoltaic solutions and solar thermal based on concentrated solar panels (CSPs), our systems don’t rely on direct sunlight for energy absorption. We utilize an absorption material that collects energy from ultraviolet rays. That means the SunQuest 250™ continues absorbing and transferring energy even on cloudy days and does not need to “track” the sun.

That advantage is further enhanced by an evacuated tube design that is highly efficient. Evacuated tubes allow for very little heat loss under normal conditions; our use of evacuated tubes makes our systems among the most cost-effective in the industry.

We are thrilled to know that researchers in Australia are looking for ways to harness solar thermal energy for mineral processing. We have no doubt they will come up with a more than adequate solution. In the meantime, we want to remind readers that solar thermal already goes well beyond power generation.


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Are Building Codes the Path to Solar Thermal?

If there is one thing we could change about the solar thermal industry in America, it would be the hesitance of people to get on board. There are lots of reasons to explain the less-than-enthusiastic response to solar thermal and other renewable energy solutions, but along with those reasons, we have to have some workable solutions. For example, do building codes represent a path to more widespread adoption?

Building codes have been used for generations as a means of requiring builders to meet minimum standards of quality, efficiency, and safety. It is optimistic to think that new building codes mandating solar thermal would fly in the U.S., but they appear to be working elsewhere. Panama is but one example.

SunQuest 250

Panama’s Sustainable Construction Standard

Panama has been making a concerted effort to embrace sustainable energy construction since 2015. Along with a National Energy Plan that sets out an ambitious goal of 70% renewable energy consumption by 2050, lawmakers have also created what they call the Sustainable Construction Standard Guide for all new buildings.

The guide is the result of a government resolution aimed at reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions in new buildings by 15% within the next year. Lawmakers are looking for a 20% reduction after two years. They believe solar thermal heating will be key to meeting their objectives.

Meeting the goals has involved Panama’s national government pushing local municipalities in the past to incentivize solar thermal for heating and hot water. They say financial incentives are supported by estimates that healthcare facilities can reduce their energy consumption by more than 5% while hotels could reduce energy used for heating by more than 19%. Hotels can derive at least 50% of their hot water from a solar thermal solution as well. Due to the world-class efficiency of our U.S. patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal panels, we have seen even higher fossil-fuel energy reduction at installations across the United States.

Unfortunately, some local governments have been reluctant to incentivize. New building regulations may take that option away. As the thinking goes, an unwillingness by local authorities to incentivize renewable energy leaves it to the federal government to force things through new building codes.

The Savings Are Real

The general mood here in the States is one that bristles against government mandates of any kind. That is completely understandable in a country that takes immense pride in freedom and independence. Still, countries like Panama are mandating solar thermal and other renewable energy solutions because studies have consistently shown the savings are real.

It turns out the average payback period in Panama is 2.6 years for hotels and three years for healthcare facilities. Payback can take between six and 15 years for residential buildings. This suggests that while mandates for residential buildings may be somewhat less advantageous for Panamanian homeowners, those same mandates are unlikely to harm clearly attractive for commercial applications like manufacturers, universities, hotels and healthcare facilities.

No, building codes that encourage the use of solar thermal for space heating hot water are not popular in the U.S. But that does not mean there is no viable way to incentivize property owners to invest in the technology. State and local governments are already actively incentivizing through subsidy programs to help cover the cost of solar thermal projects. As such, the average Solar America Solutions installation can be paid for within five years or less. That is a payback period our customers can definitely live with.

Solar America Solutions is proud to be an industry leader in solar thermal technology for commercial applications. Our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector panel is one of the most efficient and productive panels in the industry. If you’ve been thinking about a solar thermal installation for your commercial building, we invite you to learn more about the SunQuest 250™.


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Solar Thermal: It’s All About the Collector Panels

Solar America Solutions is not the only company in the U.S. offering solar thermal for space heat and hot water. But we are one of the leading players, as evidenced by the patent we obtained for our SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector in 2015. Why should you care about the SunQuest 250™? Because when it comes to solar thermal, it is all about the collector panels.

In recognizing our patent achievement, patent counsel Victor Indiano remarked that he knew our collector panel was “a winner” the moment he saw it. He went on to explain that many of the technologies in our industry do not live up to manufacturer claims. Our collector panel is different. Not only does it do what we say it does but it sets the standard for all others to follow as well.


Spend Your Money Wisely

If you are thinking about a solar thermal installation for your commercial building, spend your money wisely. You can invest in an inferior system with substandard solar collector panels, or you can invest in a Solar America Solutions SunQuest 250™ system. Just remember this: it is all about the collector panels.

How important are panels? A recently completed study in Germany provides the answer. Researchers analyzed the total cost of solar thermal installation for process heat applications. And although the peripheral equipment used for process heat production is somewhat different from the equipment we use to produce hot water and space heat, the solar collector panels are the same.

Researchers discovered that the biggest single cost of solar thermal installations is that of obtaining collector panels. They further found that there were drastic swings between prices offered by providers. Those price swings accounted for the unreliable pricing structures for building new solar thermal processing plants.

On average, 34% of the cost of a typical solar thermal installation in Germany is consumed by collector panels. For systems in excess of 100 square meters, collector panels consume 43% of the budget while smaller projects dedicate roughly 29% to collector panels.

There is no hard data to make an accurate comparison between Germany and the U.S. However, our own experience suggests a comparable situation here. The largest cost of a solar thermal installation tends to be in the collector panels. That being the case, you might just as well invest in the best panels in the industry if you want to achieve the best results.

The Future of Renewable Energy

To date, Solar America Solutions has installed solar thermal systems for space heat and hot water at buildings ranging from state prisons to college dorms. Through combined efforts with our partners, we have helped improve an egg washing operation in Ohio and create a heated sand mass radiant heat solution in Wisconsin. Our system has been installed in large scale manufacturing processes, state and federal corrections facilities, universities, major resort hotels, etc. We have even provided free occupational training to help inmates learn a marketable skill in anticipation of their eventual release.

For us, solar thermal is more than just a means to a successful business. It is the future of renewable energy in America. Solar thermal is a highly efficient way to convert the sun’s powerful ultraviolet rays into usable heat thermal energy for generating hot water and space heat, all while creating ZERO carbon emissions.

Our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector is based on evacuated tube technology that minimizes heat loss. The collector material we use inside our tubes absorbs energy from ultraviolet rays, so collection continues even on cloudy and overcast days. Lastly, one of our 25-bulb collectors requires just 21 square feet of installation space.

When it comes to solar thermal, it’s all about the collector panels. Invest your money in the SunQuest 250™ collector panel from solar America solutions.


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Andalusia, Spain Brings Back Renewable Energy Support

Solar America Solutions is just one of many companies around the U.S. actively supporting government incentives for renewable energy initiatives. Proof of the critical nature of incentives to help propel the proliferation of sustainable energy and carbon emission reduction can be found in examples all over the world, including southern Spain.

The Andalusia region of southern Spain has long been that country’s hottest market for renewable energy – including solar thermal. In the few years leading up to and including 2015, more than 1.1 million square meters of solar collector area were installed in Andalusia. That accounts for just under one-third of Span’s total solar energy footprint.


Things changed when the Andalusian government started cutting back on incentives in mid-2015. The cuts led to a 12% drop in installations the following year. According to sources, Spain saw 50,000 fewer square meters of installation in 2016 as compared to the year before. The good news is that the Andalusian government agreed to restore incentives earlier this year.

The incentives apply to a full range of renewable energy options, solar thermal included. Solar thermal installations are eligible for incentives of up to 85% of the total cost of installation. Even on the low end, a 30% incentive could be enough to push the buyer over the edge.

Prioritizing Our Goals

When you look at the situation in Andalusia, it quickly becomes apparent that incentive programs are critical to encouraging people to invest in renewable energy. It also becomes apparent that a loss of incentives is enough to cause interest in renewable technologies to fall drastically. So it appears to be a matter of prioritizing our goals.

Solar America Solutions provide solar thermal systems for space heat and hot water in commercial buildings. In a perfect world, our customers would have the money up front to invest in new solar thermal solutions. But quite often they don’t. Moreover, obtaining financing to install a solar thermal system is not necessarily as easy as it sounds. Without incentive programs in place, it’s often just easier to stick with what is already there.

If our national priorities include reducing dependence on fossil fuels and reducing carbon emissions, are we willing to put our dollars behind it? That is the real question. Federal and state agencies have long provided incentives to encourage certain kinds of behavior among businesses and consumers. Applying incentives to renewable energy projects is in line with such a strategy. Is solar thermal important enough to support through robust incentive programs? We believe it is.

A Self-Paying Solution

The Solar America Solutions system is built around our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector panel. Just one of our panels is capable of producing up to 35,000 BTUs per hour with output temperatures of nearly 500° F. The savings realized through a solar thermal system are enough that the average business can completely recoup its investment within 3 to 5 years, with government incentives included. Take those incentives away and the payback period is extended.

Keeping incentives in place makes one of our solar thermal solutions a self-paying solution after just a few years, typically less than five and often as little as three. And once a system is fully paid for, a building owner enjoys nothing but ongoing savings for the life of the system. That means less money spent on grid energy, fewer fossil fuels being burned for hot water and space heat, and less stress on the environment.

Andalusia did the right thing by reinstating its incentive program. There are lessons to be learned from them, both here and abroad.


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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.


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.


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Solar Thermal Perfect Choice for Correctional Facilities

Solar America Solutions is proud to have worked with corrections officials  across the country to install solar thermal solutions in various correctional facilities. Our installations have made it possible for corrections departments to save money on their energy bills by harnessing solar energy to provide space heating and hot water. In short, solar thermal is a perfect renewable energy option for correctional facilities.

What we have accomplished is not isolated only to the United States for that matter. Armenia offers an excellent case in point. A recent press release from Armenia’s justice ministry reveals that solar thermal installations have been deployed at seven different correctional facilities in the Eastern European nation.

Cell House

Detailed information about the installations wasn’t made available, but justice ministry officials say that they should save an average of 50% per institution as a result of deploying solar thermal. Along with their report on the installation, Armen Press published a couple of pictures showing solar thermal collector panels installed in rows outside of one of the correctional facilities.

The pictures show four rows of five collector panels each. Though we cannot accurately say what the capacity of each panel is, what we have seen in the pictures looks to be fairly typical for the industry. There is also an image showing the interior mechanics deployed to convert solar energy into space heat and hot water.

Correctional Facilities Offer Great Environment

Solar America Solutions offers solar thermal installations for all kinds of commercial buildings, including office buildings, dormitories, hospitals, and so on. We are especially pleased to be able to work with correctional facilities because they offer an optimal environment to showcase the potential of solar thermal.

By their nature, correctional facilities contain a lot of wide-open spaces that have to be accommodating to the needs of those institutions while still being efficient. Furthermore, the mechanics required to provide space heat and hot water have to fit in confined spaces and be relatively easy to service. Solar thermal provides everything correctional facilities need in a package that generates significant energy savings over time.

Using our own installations as an example, we fitted a 200-bed cell block at Wabash Valley Correctional Institution in Carlisle, Indiana with 15 of our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collectors and the additional equipment necessary to utilize them. Our installation now supplements the hot water and space heat required by the cell block. Our Ohio project is even more ambitious.

In Chillicothe, Ohio we outfitted eight 200-bed cell blocks with 400 patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collectors for space heat and hot water. Corrections officials have been extremely pleased with the results of our equipment and installation.

Efficiency and Production

The secret to effective solar thermal is twofold: efficiency and production. Beginning with efficiency, it is fair to say that there isn’t a single energy technology on the planet capable of 100% efficiency. But solar thermal utilizing evacuated collector tubes is very close. Evacuated tubes suffer very little heat loss in the short amount of time it takes to convert solar energy into heat. Our own collector panels are based on an evacuated tube design.

As far as production is concerned, a single Solar America Solutions collector panel can produce up to 35,000 BTUs per hour in a package with a footprint of just 3′ x 7′. Within that small area, we can get just about 88 ft.² of absorption space using 25 evacuated tubes. Our technology has proven to be the perfect choice for correctional institutions.


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Solar Thermal Is a Process Heat Machine in Mexico and Chile

One of the first installations we ever worked on at Solar America Solutions involved fitting a poultry farm with a solar collector panel array and peripheral equipment to be used to power a second egg washing machine for their operations. Though that installation was technically for hot water only, you could make the case that we were providing process heat. Since then, we have worked on a number of projects directly involving process heat.

Given our involvement in solar thermal for commercial applications, you can understand how pleased we were to learn of a successful project in Mexico involving solar thermal process heat from mining operations. Yes, solar thermal technology is not limited exclusively to generating space heat and hot water for commercial buildings. It has many more applications limited only by the imagination of designers and engineers.

SunQuest 250

The Mexican project, which was based on a similar project installed in Chile in 2013, provides process heat for copper mining. The project consists of 39,300 m² of solar collector space and a 660 m³ storage tank. Installation was completed in early September. Project officials expect the installation to provide nearly all the process heat needed by the mine.

Learning from the Previous Example

Installation at the La Parreña mine in central Mexico was completed in partnership with the Gabriela Mistral mine in Chile. That earlier project was completed in 2013 and has since produced some 142,000 MWh of process heat for mining operations. However, there is a distinct difference between the two. The project in Chile is large enough to be considered an independent Energy Service Company, requiring it to be managed by a third-party partner. The Mexican installation is far smaller. The mine operators themselves can manage it.

Getting back to the solar thermal installation in Chile, it operates at a near break-even pace. In other words, the 142,000 MWh produced by the installation is almost identical to the amount of energy the mine has used over its 35 months of operation. What goes into the system goes out nearly entirely. It should also be noted that the plant generates a minimum of 80% of its own power at any given time. They have to if they want to avoid government fines.

How It All Works

The solar thermal technology deployed at the mines in Mexico and Chile is based on the same principle we use here at Solar America Solutions. Solar energy is captured by a collector panel that immediately converts it to heat energy and transfers it to a thermal liquid. That thermal liquid is then circulated through a heat exchanger before going back to the collector panels.

Heat from the exchanger can then be distributed in any number of ways. For the mining operations, it’s used mostly for electrolytic refining. In other industrial applications, it could be used to wash down equipment or parts, concentrate liquids, dry materials, or even wash eggs as demonstrated by our poultry farm project.

The potential of solar thermal is really limited only to space constraints. For the typical commercial office building, a rather small number of patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collectors installed on the roof would be sufficient for hot water and space heat. More area would obviously be required for industrial applications requiring space heat, water, and process heat.

For more information about solar thermal technology or our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector, please feel free to contact us anytime. We believe the future of renewable energy resides in solar thermal, and we want to get you on board right away.


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Simplicity Is Key to Solar Thermal Installation in Denmark

As a leading player in America’s solar thermal industry, we have heard all the arguments against renewable energy. The sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow, and there is no way to depend on renewable sources to the same degree we can depend on fossil fuels. Well, officials in Marstal, Denmark have heard the same criticisms. That hasn’t stopped them from generating more than half of the heat required by a town of 2,300 via solar thermal.

Marstal is just one of a small number of communities occupying space on Aero Island off the southern coast of Denmark. It is a community that has long lived according to the dictates of the sea. It is a community that has long depended on nature to supply its most basic needs. So when they decided to embark on a solar thermal project to provide district heating, they were determined to make it work despite the region’s reputation for frigid weather. And work it does.


On the outside of town is a field with more area than six football fields, filled with solar thermal collector panels. Those panels are connected to a network of underground pipes through which flows water used to provide central district heating. The panels collect solar energy, then transfer it to a thermal liquid that is circulated through a heat exchanger. The extracted heat is then transferred to the water circulating through the system.

Year-Round Space Heat

So far you haven’t read anything that would suggest this installation is unusual. Still, you might be wondering how Marstal manages to generate 55% of its heat in an environment that gets limited sunshine during the winter months. They deployed a simple solution that has proven very effective. The Marstal heating project does not rely on anything other than an insulated, underground tank that holds water heated by solar thermal panels.

That’s right; something as simple as burying an insulated tank stores enough heated water to provide more than half of the space heat the town needs year-round. Obviously, it would be better to have a storage solution that could provide 100% of the heat, but that solution is not yet available. In the meantime, a system that provides 55% of the heat is remarkable. Even more impressive is the fact that it puts no additional strain on Denmark’s electrical system.

Denmark is a nation in which roughly 60% of the structures are connected to district heating. This is motivation for Danish officials to figure out how to provide cost-effective centralized heat without having to depend on fossil fuels. They have found that solution in solar thermal.

If They Can Do It in Denmark

It’s not unusual for us to hear that solar thermal is impractical for year-round space heat and hot water. We beg to differ. What many people don’t know is that our patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collector doesn’t need direct sunlight in order to be effective. That’s why it generates energy even in the dead of winter.

Our solar collector panel utilizes evacuated tube technology along with an absorption material that captures ultraviolet energy instead of direct sunlight. That means our collector panel is absorbing solar energy even on cloudy and overcast days. With a properly designed system including efficient storage, an installation based on our patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collectors can provide virtually all the hot water and space heat for your commercial building. If they can do it in Denmark on such a large-scale, we can certainly do it for your building as well.


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