A one-day gathering of representatives from the French solar energy sector convened in October (2015) offered contrasting views of the industry, and its future, in that country. But reports out of the conference clearly indicated that manufacturers, designers, and installers are far from being ready to concede. They believe solar energy – and solar thermal in particular – has a strong future in France if the industry regroups to concentrate its efforts in the commercial arena.
Like many other countries in Europe, the French residential market for solar thermal has been in sharp decline for the last 3 to 5 years. Where homeowners and residential developers were very favorable to solar thermal adoption just five years ago, things are remarkably different today. But the problem being faced in France is not unique. Other European countries are experiencing the same thing. What they are all learning is that the declining residential market has nothing to do with the technology itself. Solar thermal is still as effective as it has ever been. The problem is that the residential market is so limited.
Industry representatives in France are coming around to that reality in greater numbers. In response, they are refocusing their efforts elsewhere. The two most promising arenas for the future are commercial and industrial buildings as well as multi-unit residential buildings – which are essentially seen as commercial projects anyway.
Larger Scale Better for Solar Thermal
Solar America Solutions has never focused our efforts on individual, residential applications of solar thermal. Again, it is not because the technology is ineffective. Our resistance to the residential market is based entirely on the extended ROI of that market. Larger scale deployment of solar thermal for commercial applications is a much better proposition because the sky is, essentially, the limit with ROI of less than five years in nearly every project.
For example, consider the fact that the SunQuest 250 solar collector panel with an absorption area of 88 ft2 requires just 21 ft² of open roof space for deployment. Just a single panel is capable of producing up to 35,000 BTUs per hour across a 10 hour solar day. That kind of energy production makes it possible for us to deploy a rather modest number of solar collectors to provide all the energy required for space heating and hot water in a typical commercial building.
The kind of production we are able to get from our systems would certainly be applicable to individual, residential homes. But homeowners still struggling in the midst of a recession that supposedly ended years ago do not have the money to invest in solar thermal. Residential property developers are also not interested in the technology because it simply adds to the cost of building at a time when housing starts still lag behind pre-recession peaks.
With all that said, the commercial sector is relatively strong by comparison. The same is now being observed in France and throughout the European Union. Industry representatives are coming to the conclusion realization that the success of solar thermal in France hinges now on the commercial market. Likewise, Solar America Solutions is entirely focused on commercial applications for industrial buildings, office buildings, government properties, healthcare institutions, manufacturing processes, and educational institutions.
Solar Thermal for Your Building
It is important for property owners to know that they do not have to have millions of square feet of interior or exterior space to make effective use of solar thermal. A modestly sized office building could benefit from the technology just as easily as a larger industrial facility. Solar thermal for your building is a very real possibility. Solar America Solutions would be more than happy to furnish you with the necessary information if you would like to know more about solar thermal.
- Solar Thermal World – http://solarthermalworld.org/content/france-industry-does-not-yet-surrender