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Posts tagged ‘Air Conditioning’

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.

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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

Yes – Solar Thermal Can Even Be Used for Air Conditioning

At Solar America Solutions, we love to talk about the versatility of solar thermal energy production. We use the principle of solar thermal to produce cheap and efficient hot water and space heat for our clients across the country. However, that is not all solar thermal can do. Believe it or not, the technology can be used to create more efficient and cost-effective air conditioning units.

The idea of using solar thermal for air conditioning purposes may seem contrary at first consideration. Nevertheless, when you stop and examine how it is being done, it makes perfect sense. As an example, a company in Hawaii recently tested a newly designed two-stage compressor that takes advantage of solar thermal energy. This system has been designed in a way that increases efficiency as the temperature rises.

The two-stage compressor uses energy from the sun to expand refrigerant in the second stage. Refrigerant expansion is necessary in order to draw heat out of warm air. Where a conventional air-conditioning compressor uses electricity to heat and expand refrigerant, the solar thermal compressor uses energy from the sun. A combination of warmer temperatures and sunlight allows for faster expansion of the refrigerant, thus saving more money by requiring less electricity.

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Using solar thermal energy for air-conditioning on a small-scale is still several years off. Designers and engineers are still working on scaling the technology to make it practical for smaller residential and commercial applications. Nonetheless, the principle is proven to work. It is exciting to us because we are seeing more ways to utilize solar thermal energy every day. We believe solar thermal is the renewable energy source of the future – an energy source that will eventually become the most dominant option among all renewables.

What We Do

Solar America Solutions concentrates on providing space heat and hot water solutions for government buildings, agricultural operations, hospitals, etc. Our systems are built around the SunQuest 250 solar collector panel, which, we are proud to say, is the most efficient and productive panel of its kind available today. We have designed the SunQuest 250 to take advantage of the efficiency of evacuated tubes to transform the sun’s ultraviolet rays into useful energy used for heating a thermal transfer fluid. This fluid can then be used to generate space heat and hot water.

On one of our projects, we installed a system to replace an aging boiler system at a poultry operation in the Midwest. The owners were so impressed that they asked us to come back when they expanded operations into a new facility. Solar thermal now provides all of the hot water they need for egg washing.

On another project, we were contracted to install solar thermal technology for a cellblock at an Indiana correctional facility. Corrections officials were so impressed with the savings they have decided to continue working with Solar America Solutions on several more state prisons.

Solar America Solutions is proud to be part of this cutting-edge industry. We work with dealers and distributors around the country to provide our clients with reliable and cost-effective solar thermal solutions for commercial applications. We can design and install a system for your new building, or replace an aging hot water or space heating system in your existing building.

Keep in mind that the efficiency and productivity of solar thermal pays for itself within 3 to 5 years without government subsidies. The money you will save on your monthly utility bills will be money that can be spent elsewhere. If you would like to learn more about solar thermal for your building, contact Solar America Solutions today.

Solar Thermal Technology to Be Used for Air Conditioning?

As you are probably already aware, Solar America Solutions uses solar thermal technology to provide space heating and hot water for our customers. In so doing, we have developed the most efficient and cost-effective solar thermal collection unit ever built. Our SunQuest 250 evacuated tube collector can produce heat energy at 475°F. However, could that heat energy also be used for air conditioning?

If research being conducted by students and faculty at Florida’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is any indication, it can. Their experiments have shown it is possible to use the heat generated from a solar thermal unit to drive the heat absorption process necessary for refrigeration. It may sound counterintuitive, but it really does work.

The research team built a prototype 300W system that captured the sun’s rays using parabolic mirrors. That energy was then fed to a concentrated collector where it was used to drive a compressor. The team has already built a refrigeration unit similar to the air-conditioning you would find on an RV. The next task is to take the knowledge gleaned from the proof of concept design and scale it up. They hope to eventually build a one-ton air-conditioning unit capable of adequately handling up to 500 ft.² of space.

The main difficulty with the current design is that it only works in areas where direct sunlight is readily available. There is no getting around the fact that parabolic mirrors require ample amounts of direct sunlight. What’s more, the system is nearly useless on overcast days or during the overnight hours. To solve this problem, the team will also be developing a high-capacity storage system alongside their larger air conditioner.

Evacuated Tube Design

When we set out to design our SunQuest 250 solar collector unit, we did so with the understanding that we needed something that would work even in the absence of direct sunlight. We came up with an evacuated tube design capable of achieving two important goals:

  • Efficiency – The bane of existence for most solar energy systems is the lack of efficiency. Evacuated tubes are highly efficient; these allow for nearly all of the generated heat to be used by the system – with no moving parts.

 

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  • Ultraviolet Collection – In addition to our evacuated tubes, the collector materials we use absorb energy from ultraviolet rays. That means the SunQuest 250 does not require direct sunlight to operate at peak performance. The system works quite well even on overcast days.

Like the team at Embry-Riddle, we also wanted our system to be usable during the overnight hours. Therefore, where our customers require it, we install solar tanks with built-in heat exchangers for extra capacity. The tanks store excess thermal energy that can be used either during off-peak times or to keep the system running at night.

Even as we continue working to make the SunQuest 250 even better than it is now, our customers are already enjoying tremendous savings that will enable most of them to pay for their systems within 3 to 5 years, or even less! We have installed the SunQuest 250 to provide space heating and hot water for agricultural operations, prison cellblocks, college dormitories, and more.

We look forward to seeing whether the Florida research team can produce a commercially viable solar thermal air conditioner. In the meantime, we will continue to develop our own technology to provide cost-effective and efficient space heating and hot water for our customers.