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Posts tagged ‘Evacuated Tubes’

Innovative Project in Romania Shows Potential of Solar Thermal

An innovative Romanian project recently discussed at the annual Renexpo South-East Europe fair in Bucharest has many people in the solar industry talking. The project, designed and built around a residential setting, shows the potential of solar thermal to radically change the way buildings are heated.

Romania’s Geoterm used the Bucharest gathering to present Casa Solaris, a revolutionary residential home constructed using a number of renewable energy products. The heating and hot water systems were designed around the company’s solar thermal system. This system offers a number of revolutionary designs worth noting.

Wall and Ceiling Heating

When designing Casa Solaris, Geoterm took the unusual approach of creating a heating system built into the walls and ceilings. The concept is similar to radiant floor heating in that there are no fans or ducts involved, but it is remarkably different in the amount of power needed to operate the system. Geoterm estimates their system can properly heat a home throughout the year with an annual energy consumption of just 50 kWh per square meter.

Wall and ceiling heating is based on the idea of providing heat through a larger surface area while using less energy at the same time. When you consider the average room has four walls and a ceiling, it is easy to understand how much more efficient such a system would be as compared to even a radiant floor system or especially conventional forced air heating.

Bucharest

The second revolutionary design demonstrated by the Casa Solaris project comes by way of a storage system installed in the ground underneath the structure. Excess energy not used during the summer months is sent to the storage system for use during the winter. Employing some basic principles of physics allows the system to provide plenty of heat during the winter without the need for a heat pump. It also reduces the tendency to waste excess energy produced during periods when the structure does not need to be heated.

Adaptation to Commercial Projects

While the Casa Solaris project was designed around a residential application, the principles developed by Geoterm could easily be adapted for commercial projects. We can envision a day in which solar thermal will be used to provide not only space heat and hot water, but the energy necessary to power a wall and ceiling heating system as the one demonstrated in Bucharest.

We are excited about the potential of this project and what it means to the solar thermal industry in America. The highly efficient and productive nature of solar thermal easily makes it the most efficient form of solar energy production for nearly any application. At Solar America Solutions, we apply the principles of solar thermal in concert with our technologically advanced SunQuest 250 evacuated tube solar collector panel.

The SunQuest 250 requires just 21 ft.² of installation space per panel. A typical roof mounted installation can provide much of the space heat and hot water a facility needs while reducing total energy costs by as much as 50% and more. The success of our system is rooted primarily in evacuated tube technology.

Evacuated tubes are highly efficient because there is almost no loss of energy. Our solar collector panels are made even better by the fact that they utilize ultraviolet energy rather than direct sunlight. This means they operate even on cloudy and overcast days and are not affected by the ambient temperature.

We believe solar thermal is the future of solar energy around the world. We also believe it is your ticket to less expensive space heat and hot water for your commercial building, which has been demonstrated over and over in our scores of solar thermal installations throughout the United States. Contact us for more information.

Sources:

1.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/geo-solar-house-design-made-romania

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.

Chinese Pricing on Evacuated Tubes Causing Market Confusion

As solar thermal technology becomes more popular for space heat and hot water, China is emerging as a major supplier of the evacuated tubes used to create solar thermal collector panels similar to the SunQuest 250 from Solar America Solutions. Unfortunately, recent changes in China’s export duty policy are causing confusion in the marketplace. Some Chinese companies are being charged the 17% export duty while others are not.

The confusion boils down to how Chinese manufacturers code their evacuated tubes prior to export. Tubes coded as components to be used in water heater systems are exempt from the export duty. Tubes coded under other classifications, such as glass products for example, are subject to the tax.

The largest of China’s manufacturers are electing to go with the water heater classification in order to keep their prices as low as possible. Some of smaller companies are not able to get away with that because they are selling to customers that might not necessarily be using the tubes for water heater systems.

Manufacturers are obviously troubled by the new coding system they have to deal with. Some have been in business for 10 years or longer, consistently exporting their products under the old water heater system classification. Being told by customs to use the newer code means an automatic jump in their pricing by at least 17%. Smaller companies affected by the export duty say they are already losing business to the larger companies still being allowed to continue under the old classification.

china-solar

As to why the coding system is being applied differently in various parts of China, no one really knows for sure. However, some speculate the Chinese government is trying to encourage customers to purchase complete solar thermal systems rather than just evacuated tubes. Most of the Chinese products are going directly to India where the burgeoning solar thermal market is big business. Complete systems exported to India are free from the export duty as well as India’s 12.85% import duty.

International Competition Is Good

The market confusion in China does not have a huge impact on solar thermal here in the United States yet. Nevertheless, there is still an important take away here. The fact that we are even talking about export duties on evacuated tubes used for solar thermal systems shows that the market is strong enough to encourage international competition.

Companies would not invest so much money in solar thermal components if there were no future in it. The fact that so much money is involved shows how strong the future of solar thermal is. We believe it is strong enough that solar thermal will eventually become one of the standards for renewable energy options.

The strength of solar thermal energy production is its efficiency. Solar thermal energy is very simple in terms of design, making it possible to produce a significant amount of heat energy with very little loss. That is where the evacuated tube comes into play. Absorption material within the evacuated tube collects energy from ultraviolet rays and transforms it into heat energy. The efficiency of the evacuated tube allows nearly all of that energy to be directed toward generating space heat and hot water at more than 90% efficiency.

Solar America Solutions uses the latest in the evacuated tube technology to manufacture our industry-leading SunQuest 250 solar collector panel. Each of our panels is capable of generating up to 35,000 BTUs per hour, at temperatures of up to 475° F. One of our systems can produce hot water and space heat for your commercial building at a fraction of the cost of conventional power sources.

NC College Incorporates Solar Thermal into Competition Home

A North Carolina college spent months working with a French university to construct a unique house they planned to enter into the annual Solar Decathlon Europe 2014. The competition, which ran in late July and early August (2014), featured entries from colleges and universities around the world. As always, the various student groups came up with some pretty interesting ways to use solar energy to provide the power needs of residential homes.

The team from Appalachian State College and Université d’Angers implemented a variety of solar solutions, including evacuated tube solar thermal collectors to provide space heat and hot water. They used six collector panels, a storage tank, a heat exchanger, and a three-valve system to make it all work together. Furthermore, the solar thermal system was tied together with advanced computer software that tightly regulated distribution and monitored predetermined personal comfort levels.

Solar thermal was chosen for space heat and hot water because of its efficiency and cost-effectiveness. In a real-world setting, Solar America Solutions installations have shown the systems can pay for themselves within 3 to 5 years. The efficiency of solar thermal makes maximum use of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, while the combination of savings and overall cost of installation makes going with solar thermal affordable.

college-solar

The Solar Thermal Process

The solar thermal process we use at Solar America Solutions is similar to what the American and French students put together for their competition house. That process starts with the collector panels. Rather than using parabolic mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a single point, we use evacuated tube collectors that absorb energy from the sun and immediately transfer it to a thermal liquid. That liquid is then transferred to a heat exchanger where the heat is extracted and either stored or immediately used to provide hot water or space heat.

The efficiency of the system is based on the evacuated tube collector panels. Evacuated tubes are highly efficient, allowing our systems to use 94% of the energy collected from the sun. There is very little energy waste compared to photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar panel (CSP) applications.

Both efficiency and output were critical to the university students and their competition home. With each year’s competition, the requirements become stricter as a way of forcing more innovation. For example, in 2010 teams were allowed 15 kW of electricity to meet the power needs of their homes. In 2014 that limit was reduced to 5 kW. With less electricity to work with, the teams needed highly efficient systems that required as little electricity as possible.

Technology for Today

Just as the students competing in the annual Solar Decathlon Europe are, we continue to research and develop better and more efficient solar thermal solutions. Having said that, the technology we have developed is very usable today. Our SunQuest 250 solar collection panel is the most efficient panel in the industry and the anchor of our installations.

To date, our SunQuest 250 systems have been installed in office buildings, correctional facilities, institutions of higher learning, and agricultural operations. In every case, clients have been extremely pleased with the results they have achieved with solar thermal. Many have come back to us for additional installations to meet their expansion goals.

Solar America Solutions is proud to be at the leading edge of solar thermal technology. We would love the opportunity to show you how solar thermal space heating and hot water can be achieved in your commercial or government building. With solar thermal, you can save a tremendous amount of money while also helping the environment.

Hawaii Energy Extends Solar Thermal Rebates

This past spring, Hawaii Energy announced a plan to increase consumer rebates in order to entice businesses and homeowners to adopt solar thermal for hot water. Their instant rebate program increased the amount of money consumers can receive from $750 to $1,000. The company said the increased rebates were being offered only for a limited time, but a recent check of their website shows that the higher rebates are still in force.

In order to qualify for the rebate a consumer must purchase a qualifying solar thermal system and have it installed by an approved installer. As an alternative to a direct rebate, consumers can also take advantage of a program known as “Hot Water, Cool Rates.” This program redirects the $1,000 rebate to the lender providing financing. The lender passes it along to the consumer by offering a zero or no interest loan.

Businesses choosing to install solar thermal can take advantage of additional incentives by filling out and submitting an incentive application with Hawaii Energy. Additional incentives are awarded based on a number of factors including energy usage, the size of the business, and so on.

According to Solar Thermal Magazine, heating water with electricity is the third largest consumer of energy in Hawaii’s residential and commercial buildings. Only air-conditioning and swimming pool related power needs consume more. Hawaii Energy wants to encourage business owners and residents to change their power consumption habits by installing solar thermal for hot water needs.

hawaii-energy

Solar Thermal for Your Business

It may seem that Hawaii is the ideal location for solar thermal applications due to their ample sunshine. However, the solar thermal solutions manufactured by Solar America Solutions work equally well all over the country. The key is in the construction of our SunQuest 250 solar collector panel. For starters, the SunQuest 250 does not need direct sunlight to work properly. It utilizes energy from ultraviolet rays, which easily penetrate cloud cover, even on overcast days.

Next, the SunQuest 250 is incredibly efficient thanks to the evacuated tube design we use. Evacuated tubes are more efficient per square foot of space than flat-panel collectors are, and are capable of producing higher outputs through less environmental heat loss. Our solar collector panel is one of the best in the industry at 94% efficiency. A single collector panel can produce over 30,000 BTUs at stagnation temperatures of up to 475°F.

Can your business benefit from solar thermal? Probably, but your situation would have to be evaluated based on your needs and the size of your building. Having said that, one of the first and most important projects undertaken by Solar America Solutions was to install one of our systems at an Ohio correctional facility’s eight cellblocks. Our system now provides more than 60% of the space heat and hot water needs for that those buildings. Officials were so pleased that they have asked us to provide additional solar thermal systems for additional facilities.

If solar thermal can work for a prison cellblock, it is certainly worth investigating whether or not it’s appropriate for your business or organization. Solar America Solutions works primarily on applications for the education, healthcare, government, and agricultural sectors, but we are happy to work with any commercial building owner to see if an appropriate solution can be found.

As for Hawaii, they are among many other U.S. states where government and private sector incentives for solar thermal are being offered. Check with your state government and your power company to see if there are incentives that you can take advantage of.

Difference between Solar Electric and Solar Thermal

Down in Louisiana, state legislators are working on a bill that could see tax credits for solar energy being reduced over the next several years. Meanwhile, legislators up in New York recently passed legislation that would expand such tax credits. This seemingly confusing contrast in views comes down to something very simple: the difference between solar electric and solar thermal.

In both Louisiana and New York, the focus is on solar electric energy used to power homes and businesses. The principle behind solar electric is to use photovoltaic technology to capture energy from the sun’s rays and convert it to usable electricity. It is very good technology, indeed. However, there is a distinct problem in that photovoltaic conversion requires a decent amount of unblocked sunlight.

Photovoltaic power generation is notoriously unreliable in areas like New York where overcast days are a regular occurrence. That’s why solar electric hasn’t really taken off in the Empire State. Increasing tax credits is not likely to change that scenario. That said, embracing solar thermal might be the game changer New York is looking for.

The solar thermal principle, which is what the Solar America Solutions’ SunQuest 250 system is based on, takes advantage of the sun’s UV rays to generate heat. That heat can then be used to provide space heat and hot water, or even drive turbines that will produce electricity. The best thing about the SunQuest 250 solar thermal principle is that it does not require direct sunlight.

Where photovoltaic applications need direct sunlight, the SunQuest 250 evacuated tube solar thermal collector only needs the sun’s UV rays. And if you are not aware, UV rays penetrate cloud cover easily. That’s why it is possible to still be sunburned even on a cloudy day or even the coldest day on the ski slopes.  In fact, the SunQuest 250 works just as well in sub-zero weather as it does in hot summer weather because it is not relying on the heat from the sun (infra-red rays).

Already at Work

Solar thermal principles have already proven effective through installations like ours. We have installed our systems on a university campus, a state prison facility, and even a large-scale poultry farming operation. With every installation, our customers have realized tremendous cost savings by not having to use fossil fuel power sources for heat and hot water.

Solar thermal principles are also being used in California and in several places throughout Europe to generate electricity on a very large scale. Solar thermal collectors transform the sun’s energy into heat; heat that is then transferred to water in order to produce the steam necessary to drive turbines. It is an extremely efficient way to generate large amounts of electricity.

Consider the SunQuest 250 for Your Organization

What makes the SunQuest 250 so good is our evacuated tube system. Evacuated tubes are incredibly efficient, providing a tremendous amount of heat with very little energy loss and no moving parts. Our systems are extremely effective at providing heat and hot water with a very small footprint, using FREE energy from the sun.

We would be happy to show you how our systems could benefit your business or organization. While we are currently focusing on the hospitality, manufacturing, agricultural, educational, and government sectors our technology will work anywhere heat is needed. We believe solar thermal will save you a significant amount of money in relation to energy consumption.

Reducing Energy Consumption with Solar Thermal Collectors

Last fall Solar America Solutions embarked on a pilot program in partnership with the Indiana Department of Corrections to reduce the energy consumption at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility using solar thermal collectors. The Carlisle, Indiana facility was fitted with 15 SunQuest 250 collectors to be used to provide heat and hot water to a brand-new cellblock.

The results of the pilot program were to be compared with traditional energy usage with the intent of utilizing the SunQuest 250 system on the remaining cellblocks and possibly several other building at the facility. The project at Wabash Valley is just one example of how Solar America Solutions is putting its technology to work in real life applications.

Based on December’s results, Wabash Valley Correctional Facility will be able to reduce its gas energy consumption by more than 50%. That represents a huge savings not only to the Department of Corrections, but also for the taxpayers at large. That can’t be a bad thing.

The Secret to the SunQuest 250

For generations, American companies and researchers have been developing a variety of ways to use solar thermal energy (heat) as a supplement to more traditional energy sources. However, we have never been able to use solar heat on a large-scale basis due to fundamental limitations of traditional technology. The SunQuest 250 changes all that by altering the way the sun’s energy is harnessed.

Rather than using traditional infrared principles, Solar America’s SunQuest 250 employs an evacuated tube solar thermal collector panel powered by ultraviolet rays; herein is the first advantage. Since ultraviolet rays penetrate cloud cover, and are not affected by ambient temperatures, the system works even on cold and cloudy days. There is no longer a need for bright sunshine to achieve productive solar energy.

The other secret to the success of the SunQuest 250 system are the evacuated tubes. When the sun’s UV rays penetrate the dark film inside the vacuum tubes, heat (and lots of it) is generated by friction.  That heat is sent to the collector’s header where it is passed on to a circulating transfer fluid that delivers the heat to a highly insulated thermal storage tank. The vacuum environment in the tubes prevents heat transfer loss for an extremely efficient and productive result.

Eight Powerful System

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the SunQuest 250 system is its raw power. Just a single evacuated tube solar thermal collector panel is capable of generating tremendous amount of heat energy. But the scalable system allows additional panels to be added for almost limitless potential.

Today it is the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility; tomorrow the system could be deployed on vast college campuses, large-scale government facilities, and even commercial power generation plants. Solar thermal principles take electrical and heat generation to the next level on a scale that was unthinkable just two decades ago, and Solar America Solutions is concentrating its development efforts on large-scale application using free heat from the sun!

Solar America Solutions is thrilled to be able to offer the SunQuest 250 system to government agencies, hospitals, schools, and manufacturers. We believe the technology behind solar thermal collectors is the next great leap in solar energy. We are happy to lead the way into the future.

How Evacuated Tube Solar Collectors Work

If you have ever been lying in an inner tube in the middle of a swimming pool, you know any water that collects on the surface of the inner tube will become warm with the sun. That’s the principle of solar energy at work. However, you have probably also noticed the water never gets extremely hot. That is because there is nothing to insulate the heat to prevent it from escaping.

When applying the principle of solar heating to real life applications that require extremely high temperatures, traditional solar principles just do not work. But the evacuated tube solar technology utilized by the SunQuest 250 does. It enables us to harness the sun’s rays to produce boiling water, steam, forced air heating, and so on.

Furthermore, this new technology does not need bright, crystal-clear sunshine. It utilizes the sun’s ultraviolet rays that penetrate cloud cover, making it possible to capture the sun’s energy even on cloudy, cold days. This technology offers the real possibility of viable solar heating on a large scale.

SunQuest 250 Evacuated Tube Solar Collector

SunQuest 250 Evacuated Tube Solar Collector

The Vacuum Principle

In a traditional photovoltaic application, a solar collector absorbs the sun’s rays and immediately converts it into DC electricity. The solar thermal collectors of the SunQuest 250 are somewhat different. Rather than converting solar energy into electricity, the sun’s UV rays create friction when penetrating the film in the collector panel’s evacuated tubes, generating heat that is sent to the collector’s header through the process of evaporation/condensation.

The secret to the SunQuest system is the evacuated tube itself. It is manufactured in such a way to create a vacuum that inhibits heat transfer but allows UV penetration. This results in minimal energy loss and the capability of generating much higher temperatures. As the heat generated by the solar panel is passed on to a transfer fluid passing through its header, its energy is insulated from loss by the vacuum in the tubes.  The transfer fluid then delivers the heat to a collection tank via a heat exchanger in the tank.

The evacuated tube collector is unique in that the only moving part is a tiny circulating pump that costs only pennies a day to operate, making the system not only very efficient but also very low maintenance. In essence, we are using the sun to generate heat while operating the system at very low cost.

To the Collection Tank and Beyond

When the heat energy reaches the collection tank, it heats water, which can then be used for any number of purposes. In residential applications, the hot water can be used for bathing, cooking, laundry, and so on. It can also be sent through a heat exchanger for forced air heating or almost any other form of space heat.

In industrial or commercial settings, the potential of the SunQuest 250 is even more profound. With the right setup of evacuated tube solar collectors, it is possible to generate heat for a full factory of equipment. Even more impressive is the idea of using solar thermal energy to operate a full-fledged power plant providing electricity to homes and businesses, a concept that is now feasible with this highly efficient solar collector.

Evacuated tube solar technology is an exciting frontier with monumental potential. As technology and knowledge advance, we will be able to harness the sun’s potential for even greater benefits. For right now though, the SunQuest 250 is already pretty exciting.