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