Call 317-688-8581 to discuss your renewable energy needs

Archive for the ‘Solar Heating’ Category.

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.

london

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

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.

Sources:

1. Armen Press – https://armenpress.am/eng/news/871429/solar-thermal-heaters-installed-in-correctional-facilities-in-armenia.html

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.

Sources:

1.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/mexico-second-solar-process-heat-case-study-copper-mining

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.

europe

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

Solar Thermal for Space Heat and Air-Conditioning?

We are intimately familiar with solar thermal energy being used to create space heat and hot water. In fact, our patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collector is one of the best tools on the market for designing solar thermal systems that pay for themselves in short order. But what about using solar thermal for air-conditioning? It’s possible, as evidenced by a brand-new project now underway in Nicaragua.

A report from Sun & Wind Energy magazine claims that a hospital in Managua, Nicaragua has ordered nearly $4.5 million in equipment and services from an Austrian company contracted to install a solar thermal plant on hospital grounds that will provide hot water and energy for air-conditioning. The project is being funded via a soft loan put together by a number of international partners. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization and National Cleaner Production Centre of Nicaragua are also involved in the development of the project.

SunQuest250

The target of the project is Hospital Militar Dr. Alejandro Dávila Bolaños, the largest hospital in Nicaragua with 400 beds. The ultramodern facility was opened in 2015 in Nicaragua’s capital with built-in plans to make it as energy efficient as possible as new technologies became available. Adding the solar thermal plant will be the first major upgrade to the hospital since it opened.

A Major Rooftop Installation

Solid is the Austrian company that has obtained the contract to install the system in Nicaragua. Plans call for a solar thermal plant with 4,450 m² of collector space on the roof of the hospital. If all goes according to plans, the completed installation will provide all of the hot water needed throughout the facility while also contributing significantly to air conditioning.

Solid may have won the contract in part because of their reputation and experience. They have been part of more than 300 projects globally, and their reputation for successful implementation of solar thermal technology most definitely precedes them. Project officials believe the Nicaraguan installation will not only save the hospital money, but it will also reduce its emissions by up to 1,100 tons of CO2 annually.

Adapting Solar Thermal to Air-Conditioning

The idea of using solar thermal as a power source for air-conditioning is not something we talk about a lot in this country. Applications here are mainly for space heat and hot water – primarily because the heat generated by solar thermal systems is easily transferable for these applications. However, adapting solar thermal for air-conditioning is no harder than adapting it to process heat.

For example, let’s say we designed a rooftop installation consisting of SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collectors, thermal heat exchanger units, and storage tanks. All of the thermal energy produced by the system could be transferred to space heating equipment or water heaters in a standard installation. But it could also be used to generate energy that would power air conditioners.

We are not privy to the details necessary to describe exactly what the plans are in Nicaragua, but we cannot imagine the system would be too complicated. Solar thermal energy production is flexible enough that it can be used in a wide variety of applications. Providing power for air-conditioning is just one of them and both adsorption and absorption chillers that convert heat to commercial air conditioning have been in use for many years. We would like to see solar thermal collectors being used as the primary heat source for that application on a more wide-spread basis.

We look forward to seeing how the Nicaragua project works out. According to Sun & Wind Energy, similar projects funded by international soft loans are planned for other parts of the developing world as well. Right now is a great time to be part of the emerging solar thermal industry.

Sources:

1.Sun & Wind Energy Magazine – http://www.sunwindenergy.com/solar-thermal/nicaragua-clinic-will-use-solar-thermal-energy-air-conditioning-water-heating

Canadian Project Utilizes Large-Scale Solar Thermal Heating

The projects we typically work on at Solar America Solutions involve individual clients looking to utilize solar thermal for hot water and space heat in commercial buildings. For example, one of our first projects was to install our SunQuest 250 solar collector panels and peripheral equipment in a new housing block at an Indiana correctional facility.

Though we are thrilled to be able to apply solar thermal technology on a building-by-building basis, we look forward to the day when solar thermal is applied to large-scale space heat and hot water needs. A revolutionary project now thriving in Canada offers a perfect example of what we are talking about.

canada

Drake Landing – Okotoks, Alberta

Take a trip up to the southern Alberta town of Okotoks and you’ll find a unique housing community known as Drake Landing. What’s so unique about it? The way the community receives its space heat. Thanks to a demonstration project sponsored by Natural Resources Canada, the average household in Drake Landing pays just $70 per month for space heat with very little need for supplemental energy from the grid. It is made possible by combining solar thermal with borehole storage.

Each of the homes in the Drake Landing community has a detached garage with a roof covered almost entirely with solar thermal flat plate collector panels. Those panels work 365 days a year, whenever the sun is up collecting infrared energy from the sun and Okotoks, it is one of the sunniest places in Canada. Had the developer known about the patented SunQuest 250® evacuated tube solar thermal panels from Solar America Solutions, these systems would have been even more efficient and required fewer panels because they draw their solar energy from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and are effective even on cold and cloudy days.

A thermal transfer liquid inside the solar collector panels converts energy from the sun into heat. That heat is transferred to the community’s energy center where it is extracted with a heat exchanger before the liquid returns to the panels. Extracted heat is stored underground in a network of 144 boreholes. It is retrieved and used for space heated as needed.

Incredible Results Thus Far

To say that the Drake Landing project is a huge success would be to state the obvious. Drake Landing’s system has consistently provided more than 90% of the heat the community’s 52 houses need during the winter since it was completed in 2007. Over the last several years, the system has provided 98% of the heat.

The linchpin of the system is its borehole storage. Engineers have created a storage model that is so efficient that it can store enough energy on summer days to heat the entire community throughout the winter season. The combination of stored energy and what is generated by the system during shorter winter days is more than enough to virtually eliminate any need for space heat generated from natural gas.

No Further Proof Needed

Those of us in the solar thermal sector have long known that storage is the biggest challenge to taking solar thermal to the next level.But the project in Canada changes everything.

From what we can tell, no further proof is needed to demonstrate that solar thermal can be implemented on a large scale to provide entire communities with heat and hot water. Solar thermal is incredibly efficient and cost-effective, especially when deployed using the right equipment. A good example is our SunQuest 250® solar collector panel, which just happens to be the most efficient panel in the industry. We would love to see it put to use in a project like Drake Landing here on American soil.

Sources:

  • CBC – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/solar-thermal-energy-community-alberta-drake-landing-1.3436178

Minnesota Community an Example of Solar Efficiency

The temperature in rural Pine River, MN was near zero at the time this blog post was written. The cold temperatures and often overcast skies are such that most people do not consider the state a hotbed for solar power. But reality says otherwise. One need only take a look at the Pine River community to understand that solar is alive and well in an environment known for its cold and harsh winters.

Traveling the country roads of Pine River is an experience that includes plenty of pine tree stands and herds of cattle in the fields. But every now and again a clearing reveals a traditional ranch house with a surprising feature: a solar panel array on the roof or in the adjacent yard. Solar energy is so popular in this part of Minnesota that a local nonprofit known as the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) gives tours of area homes to show skeptics what is possible.

Property owners in the area use a combination of different solar technologies to achieve their purposes. For example, solar thermal is used to generate space heat and hot water to reduce dependence on grid energy. Some of the local homeowners have systems that are so efficient that they can completely shut off their traditional electric water heaters for 5 to 6 months of the year.

SunQuest 250

Understanding Solar Capacity

Most of us do not consider Minnesota a great place for solar installations because of its relatively high northern latitude and heavy winter storms. But according to RREAL, Minnesota has solar resources equal to that of Houston, Texas. The trick is harvesting the resource in the best way possible for both commercial and residential use.

To understand this, consider our SunQuest 250 solar collector panel. It is one of the most powerful and efficient collector panels in the industry, capable of producing up to 35,000 BTUs per hour. What you may not know is that the evacuated tube design of our panel is so efficient that there is almost no waste. Furthermore, the materials we use in the collector unit do not require direct sunlight to work. Rather, they rely on ultraviolet rays, readily available regardless of temperature and plentiful even in cloudy weather.

This means that one of our solar collector panels performs up to expectations even on cloudy and overcast days. Systems like this, operating in Pine River can convert sun energy into heat throughout the daylight hours, then use that heat to deliver hot water and space heat.

Supplemental and Replacement Energy

It is true that Minnesota experiences incredibly harsh winters that often include subzero temperatures. In the midst of a frigid winter, a traditional flat panel solar thermal system is unlikely to produce enough space heat and hot water to completely disconnect from the grid. But it with new technological breakthroughs, like the SunQuest 250 from Solar America Solutions, a significant supplement is offered that can reduce a property owner’s energy bills considerably.A SunQuest 250 solar thermal system can be a complete replacement for grid energy for hot water and heating needs or at least reduce the fossil fuel requirement by more than half. That translates into some serious savings.

What property owners are doing in Pine River can be done all over the country. Solar thermal can be used to provide space heat, hot water, and process heat for both commercial and residential structures.

Here at Solar America Solutions, we concentrate on commercial projects in the agricultural, education, healthcare, and government services sectors. Our systems have been installed in numerous states, providing green energy for hot water and space heat at government facilities, dormitories, industrial buildings, and more. We would be happy to discuss your project to see if we can provide an effective and affordable solution for your property.

Sources:

  • Brainerd Dispatch – http://www.brainerddispatch.com/news/3934539-here-comes-sun-solar-power-shines-snowy-tour

Solar Thermal Prefabrication: The Wave of the Future?

There is something exciting going on in the solar thermal industry in Germany and Belgium. In an effort to contain costs and encourage more installations, several manufacturers have developed prefabricated solutions that can be delivered, installed, and connected in a very short amount of time. Creating prefabricated systems has even created a secondary benefit of making it possible to manufacture large systems with collection area capacity of up to 1970 ft.².

The prefabricated systems are known as container systems because of the way equipment is shipped and installed. Building a container system begins by consulting with the customer to find out what the needs are. Once the size and scope of a particular system are determined, everything is built and tested at the factory. The finished product includes the necessary collector panels along with a container holding the solar water heater and all of the associated hydraulic equipment.

Building prefabricated solar thermal solutions has already proved successful in a limited number of early installations. One of the German manufacturers supplied a system for a lodge in Kenya; a system that delivers water for both guest and staff accommodations through a rooftop installation in which the collector panels and container sit side-by-side.

SunQuest250

Manufacturers of the systems claim that solar thermal prefabrication offers a number of substantial benefits that could drive the industry forward:

  • Standardization – Standardization is generally seen as a good thing in manufacturing. It results in more opportunities for more manufacturers, interoperability of systems and replacement parts, and lower costs due to manufacturing efficiency.
  • Easy Installation – Prefabricated solar thermal solutions are relatively easy to install, mainly because all of the engineering has already been completed at the factory. In some cases, systems can be installed and turned on by facility staff – without a need for any extra help from manufacturers or installation specialists.
  • Modularity – Some of the new prefab systems are fully functional with solar collector areas of up to 1970 ft.²; others utilize smaller areas. But in either case, prefabricated systems are modular. This means it is possible to create systems that include thousands of square feet of collector space with numerous containers all connected to provide a complete solution.
  • Turnkey Solutions – Lastly, the prefabricated solar thermal system is a turnkey solution that can be implemented with very little effort on site. The system can be delivered and installed on the customer’s schedule, without interrupting other things, and immediately turned on for instant production.

Prefabrication seems a logical next step as the solar thermal industry seeks to make greater inroads into the commercial market. We all realize that any need for solar thermal in residential construction will first have to be supported by commercial applications. Manufacturers need those commercial contracts to provide the financial foundation that will allow them to pursue residential in the future.

It will be interesting to see how popular prefabrication becomes over the next several years. Manufacturers in Belgium and Germany are already banking on it, making plans to create some of the largest modular systems ever made. We believe any success they enjoy will eventually motivate U.S. manufacturers looking to increase their own market share. Prefabrication is just another trend that is leading to the solar thermal wave of the future.

At Solar America Solutions, we are proud to manufacture one of the most efficient and powerful solar collector panels in the business. Our SunQuest 250 collector panel would be ideal for any modular or container system designed for a large commercial project. We invite you to contact us at 317-688-8581 for more information.

Sources:

  • Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/germanybelgium-container-solutions-standardise-commercial-solar-thermal-systems-0

States Investing in Solar Thermal in Greater Numbers

Ask the average American to explain solar energy applications for small businesses and homes, and he or she is likely to immediately think of photovoltaic (PV) systems that convert direct sunlight into electricity. Chances are he or she has never heard of solar thermal energy, let alone understanding how it can be used to provide inexpensive space heat and hot water. Solar thermal in 2015 is where PV was 20 years ago, in in terms of consumer knowledge. However, it is light years ahead in terms of efficiency, productivity and usefulness. States are recognizing this in greater numbers, leading them to invest in solar thermal by way of tax incentives.

Minnesota is a good example of state investment. The Land of 10,000 Lakes recently decided to renew a solar incentive program that provides tax breaks to both small businesses and residential homeowners willing to invest in solar installations. The state Department of Commerce program known as the “Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program” has already funded more than 340 projects in its first year of operation. The state hopes to see the same level of success, or better, for 2015.

One of the most important parts of the Minnesota program is that it offers incentives in two ways. First, business owners and residents can take advantage of tax credits to be applied toward solar installations. Second, anyone in the program who generates excess electricity can earn up to $.30 per kilowatt-hour. Combined with energy bill savings, it could add up to quite a bit of money.

Combining Technologies

Minnesota’s solar incentive program is a bit unusual in that it rewards consumers for generating electricity – in addition to providing tax incentives for solar installations. To make the best use of this type of program, participants can combine technologies to provide maximum output. The place to start is a solar thermal installation for space heat and hot water.

minnesota

Businesses and homes in Minnesota are prime candidates for solar thermal thanks to their cold winters. The solar thermal installation can provide plenty of space heat and hot water throughout the year, reducing the consumption of fossil fuels and grid-based energy significantly. A PV system can then be installed to augment the electricity needed in the structure. Excess energy can be returned to the grid to further reduce overall costs.

What We Do

The program offered by Minnesota is just one example of how the states are promoting solar energy solutions for small businesses and homes. At Solar America Solutions, we concentrate on solar thermal applications for commercial buildings. For example, one of our first projects involved the installation of a roof-mounted system at an Indiana correctional facility. Our system reduced the institution’s total energy bill by providing more than 50% of the space heat and hot water for a cellblock. The state corrections department was so impressed by the results that they are looking at contracting with us for future installations.

The idea behind solar thermal is to utilize energy from the sun to heat a thermal liquid, which can then be used to generate space heat and hot water. It is significantly more efficient than PV technology because there is very little loss of solar energy. What’s more, systems designed around our SunQuest 250 evacuated tube solar collector panel produce heat even on cloudy and overcast days and is not impacted by ambient temperatures.

The future of solar thermal is already here. We encourage you to check with your state to see what sorts of incentives exist for solar thermal installations. Solar thermal could be the perfect energy saving solution for your business, even without government incentives, because of its efficiency levels that exceed 96% efficiency.

  • Sources:
    SC Times – http://www.sctimes.com/story/news/local/2015/01/02/minnesota-solar-incentive-program-takes-applications/21219217/

Solar Thermal Not Catching on in Some States: Are Subsidies to Blame?

In the state of Minnesota, the 2014 subsidies for new photovoltaic installations have long since been exhausted. The fund for solar thermal subsidies still has $120,000 remaining, leading government officials to extend the program through the end of the year despite the previous deadline having already passed. So why the disparity? Could it be that subsidy inequities are to blame?

As with many other states, subsidies for solar thermal in Minnesota are subject to strict regulations that limit equipment manufacturers, installers, and even eligible geographic areas. In a day and age where natural gas and even propane is so affordable, businesses and individual consumers would rather continue using it for their space heat and hot water needs rather than investing in renewables. Those who do choose to invest in alternative energies tend to put their money into heavily promoted photovoltaic instead.

Made in Minnesota (MiM) program coordinator Kim Harvey says she would love to see more consumers take advantage of the funds MiM has available. She specifically mentioned agricultural operations using propane to heat barns during the winter. She said that solar thermal could go a long way toward supplementing winter propane and natural gas use, which, for agricultural purposes, can be significant.

Harvey went on to say that, qualifying commercial projects in Minnesota can receive rebates of up to $25,000 for the installation of solar thermal. MiM Is hoping to receive enough applications through the end of the year to use up the remaining money left in the fund for 2014. The program is making the money available for both commercial and residential applications.

solar-subsidy

Solar Thermal vs. PV

The subsidy inequities are likely just one contributing factor slowing down the adoption of solar thermal in states such as Minnesota. However, a misunderstanding about the differences between solar thermal and photovoltaic (PV) is also likely adding to the problem. We believe more people would be willing to embrace solar thermal if they understood the principles and efficiencies it brings to the table.

As you know, PV technology converts direct sunlight into electricity that can then be used for a variety of purposes. It is a useful technology for direct electrical generation, but it is highly inefficient and not nearly as cost-effective as it needs to be for a reasonable return on investment.

Solar thermal relies on energy from the sun to heat a thermal transfer fluid. That transfer fluid can then be used to generate space heat, provide hot water needs, or, even provide energy needed to power cooling systems. At Solar America Solutions, we concentrate on meeting space heat and hot water needs.

The advantage of solar thermal over PV is efficiency. According to PVEducation.org, the most efficient PV cells on the market works at just over 21% efficiency. The average cell used in the U.S. for commercial and residential applications is 16% to 20% efficient. By contrast, the SunQuest 250 from Solar America Solutions operates at over 94% efficiency.

We achieve such a high efficiency rating by using advanced evacuated tube technology. Evacuated tubes suffer very little heat loss, so almost all of the energy captured from the sun goes directly to providing space heat and hot water. Making the SunQuest 250 collector panel even more attractive is the fact that it uses ultraviolet rays rather than direct sunlight.

Solar America Solutions has already designed and installed systems for agricultural operations, prisons, educational facilities, and more. We would appreciate the opportunity to explain how solar thermal can be put to work for you. Solar thermal can save you tremendous amounts of money on your monthly energy bills.