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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.

argentina

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.

british-rail

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/

Technology Just Keeps Making Solar Thermal Better

Solar America Solutions is focused on providing space heat and hot water solutions for commercial buildings. Our patented SunQuest 250®™solar thermal collectors are the perfect collector panels for commercial applications. Still, that does not stop us from paying close attention to industry news in order to stay abreast of what is happening across the entire industry. For example, a Spanish company has figured out a way to incorporate solar thermal with slate roofing tiles for residential purposes.

According to TreeHugger, a company by the name of Cupa Pizarras has developed a new solar thermal system that utilizes slate roofing tiles along with collector plates and storage batteries that can supply a household with hot water, space heat, and even supplemental heat for swimming pools. While the idea is far from being adopted on a wide scale for residential purposes, it holds a lot of potential.

SunQuest250

How the System Works

Natural slate has been used as a roofing material for centuries. It is extremely durable, very attractive, and does an excellent job of absorbing heat. Homes with slate roofs tend to stay cooler in summer and warmer in the winter because of the thermodynamic properties of the material. Those properties are what made engineers at Cupa Pizarras decide to use slate for their new solar thermal system.

In a typical installation, a roof is first covered by collector plates, which are themselves connected to a system consisting of storage batteries and heat exchangers. The collector plates are then covered with slate roofing tiles. As energy from the sun warms the tiles, the plates underneath collect the heat and transfer it to the storage units.

Heat exchangers within the system take that heat energy and use it for other purposes. In some installations, heat goes directly from the roof to the swimming pool during the summer months and is redirected indoors for space heat during the winter.

Solar Thermal Just Works

So what is it about this idea that excites us so much given that we do not do residential applications? In one word, potential. Every time a new technology like this is developed, it is further evidence that proves solar thermal just works. The concept is so incredibly simple: heat energy from the sun is collected and transferred to solar collector panels and specially designed storage units. That heat energy can then be used to do virtually anything we might have used fossil fuels for in the past.

For example, one of our first installations involved a rooftop set-up at an USA-based correctional facility’s inmate housing unit. We were able to supply space heat and hot water for that facility by simply taking advantage of what the sun naturally offers. The state corrections department was so pleased with the installation that they contracted with Solar America Solutions for additional installations.

The advantage of solar thermal over other kinds of renewable energy use is efficiency. Our patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collector is a perfect example of that efficiency. Because it is based on a highly efficient evacuated tube design, there is very little heat loss between collection and transfer. Nearly all of the energy our panel collects from the sun goes right into the system.

There is no way to tell whether Cupa Pizarras’ solar thermal solution will be widely adopted across Europe. But we can say that ideas like theirs are creating the technologies that are leading solar thermal forward. With every new idea, there is more evidence that solar thermal is one of the best and most promising technologies for sustainable energy development.

Sources:

1.TreeHugger – http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/solar-thermal-system-integrates-invisibly-slate-roof.html

3 Russian Airports Going Solar Thermal

We are always looking for new ideas for implementing solar thermal technology capable of producing adequate space heat and hot water. So we were intrigued to learn that three airports in Russia will be fitted with solar thermal systems in the very near future. The Russian project is being headed up by Basel Aero, a company that operates multiple airports throughout the country.

Solar Thermal World reports that Basel Aero installed a similar system at the Sochi airport just prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics. Apparently, the installation was successful enough that the company now plans additional installations at three airports near the Black Sea.

The Sochi airport was furnished with 132 solar collector panels provided by a German manufacturer. The panels created an estimated 304 m² of additional collector space that combined with existing collectors to create a system that can provide as much as 85% of the airport’s hot water during the summer and 25% in the winter.

SunQuest 250

Thus far, Basel Aero has not said how big the solar projects for the other three airports will be. But we know from personal experience that the right kind of design and implementation can have a very significant impact on the amount of energy used to generate hot water and space heat. If they do the right things, those airports will notice a big difference right away.

Plenty of Commercial Applications

We are always excited to hear about projects like the Russian airport project. Being experts in the field of solar thermal collection, we know what kind of potential this technology holds, both now and for the future. We also know that there are plenty of commercial applications that would benefit from highly efficient solar thermal energy production.

Here in the U.S., solar thermal installations for commercial applications tend to focus on the following areas:

  • Space Heat – Solar thermal collector units convert sun energy into heat which can then be transferred through an interior forced air or hot water heating system to keep buildings warm. A properly designed system is capable of supplying all the space heat a commercial building would need. The most efficient space heating system is radiant floor heat that circulates water heated by solar through PEX tubes in the concrete floor slab.
  • Domestic Hot Water – Solar thermal technology can also produce a significant amount of hot water very quickly and efficiently. That water can be used for lavatory purposes, kitchen purposes, or to power industrial processes. Thermal transfer fluid is circulated from the solar panels through heat exchangers that in turn transfer the heat to a boiler or hot water heater, reducing the amount of fuel needed to achieve target temperatures.
  • Industrial Process Heat – One of the more exciting areas that seem to be growing right now is solar thermal process heat. By using energy from the sun, we can generate heat that that eliminates or significantly reduces fossil fuel generated heat used in industrial processes.

There really are few limits to what we can accomplish with solar thermal for space heating and hot water. And as the technology improves, new ways of using it will be developed. Already we are seeing exciting advances in storage capacity that will eventually make it more practical to utilize solar thermal generated energy around the clock.

At Solar America Solutions, we are especially proud of our patented SunQuest 250® solar thermal collector, now in its 4th generation. The SunQuest 250® is arguably the most efficient solar thermal collector panel on the market capable of output temperatures in excess of 400°F and generation of up to 35,000 BTUs per hour. It also has a limited footprint of just 3′ x 7′, making it possible to get an awful lot out of a relatively small rooftop installation.

We hope the Russian project goes as well as engineers anticipate. If it does, they may motivate airports here in the U.S. to look more seriously at solar thermal. We have plenty of collector panels to accommodate any new projects.

Sources:

1. Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/russia-basel-aero-plans-solar-installations-three-airports-near-black-sea