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Posts tagged ‘Solar Energy’

Net-Positive Solar Thermal Installation Shows Potential

There is an ongoing debate over the proliferation of solar thermal technology as opposed to its photovoltaic cousin. As you may already know, critics of solar thermal have been playing its funeral dirge for years now. Yet the technology still continues to evolve and thrive as evidenced by a project recently profiled by HuffPost Canada, a project that shows the potential of innovative solar thermal designs.

The installation was designed for a combined garage-residential suite in Calgary, Alberta. Homeowner Tom Jackson wanted to convert his rather sizable garage into a dual-space unit that offered him workspace along with a residential suite he could rent out. At the start of the design phase, he was determined to use solar technologies to create a net-positive structure. He succeeded.

SunQuest 250

PV Alone Was Not Enough

Jackson’s original concept called for a PV installation that would generate all the electricity needed by the suite. But that strategy proved insufficient for creating a non-positive structure. There was still the pesky issue of space heat and hot water, a major source of energy consumption. Since, Canadian homes devote as much as 70% of their total energy usage to heating, PV alone was just not going to cut it.

Jackson decided on a solar thermal installation that would provide all the space heat and hot water needs. He integrated the system with electrically-powered heat pumps that could keep the system’s thermal liquid at the optimal temperature without sacrificing heating potential.

Spectacular Results Achieved

So how did it work? Quite well. In fact, on most days the system generates more than enough heat to keep the space warm. Plenty of hot water is always available too. Any extra heat is transferred to the main house as supplemental heat. Jackson estimates that his investment in both systems will be completely paid off within 20 years.

Amazingly, Jackson’s installation has eliminated the need for natural gas. The combination of a state-of-the-art solar thermal system, extra insulation, a metal roof, and triple-pane windows has made his garage suite the envy of the neighborhood. His combined systems do so well that he generates more energy than he can use during the summer months. During the winter, the entire garage suite is heated entirely by solar thermal with enough excess heat to supplement the main home.

Solar Thermal Right Solution

While Solar America Solutions has not historically focused on residential installations, we have developed and are in the process of introducing, a very viable residential package that the average plumber or “do-it-yourselfer” can install. For that reason, we thought it important to talk about this Calgary installation because it demonstrates that solar thermal is the right solution for space heat and hot watereven in residential applications. It cannot be argued that, from the standpoint of ROI, carbon emission reduction, and long-term durability, solar thermal is far superior to photovoltaic.

Average estimates suggest that solar thermal can provide up to 70% of a structure’s space heat and hot water under normal conditions. Under optimal conditions, the amount could be even more. That makes solar thermal the right solution for your commercial building, and even for your home.

If you are looking to save on space heat and hot water, there is no better alternative than solar thermal. Furthermore, there is no better solar thermal provider than Solar America Solutions. We are an industry leader offering customers the patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector panel capable of developing up to 35,000 BTUs per hour and output temperatures as high as 500° F.

When you choose a Solar America Solutions installation, you are choosing a system that can pay for itself in five years or less. You are choosing a system based on a proven evacuated tube solar collector panel that relies on ultraviolet rays to generate heat energy. You are choosing a system that requires just 21 square feet of installation space per collector panel.

Sources:

HuffPost Canada – http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/david-dodge/solar-thermal-101_b_16986626.html

Can Solar Thermal Be Harnessed for Sports and Leisure?

One of the first projects involving the Solar America Solutions patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collector was a system installed at a correctional facility in Indiana. The project was designed to save Indiana’s correction department a significant amount of money by providing space heat and hot water for a new cell block. Since then, we have installed systems in a number of other commercial buildings. Expanding beyond our usual scope, we are looking into projects in which solar thermal can be harnessed for the sports and leisure sector.

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According to a UK company known as Stokvis Energy Systems, there is considerable potential in sports and leisure. They estimate that as much as 30% of the total running costs of a typical UK sports and leisure facility is devoted to energy. And much of that energy goes to space heat and hot water. Stokvis is committed to introducing solar thermal to the UK sports and leisure sector.

The Potential of the Sun Is Extraordinary

In our worldwide push for renewable energy sources, it is surprising that more attention hasn’t been given to solar thermal. Indeed, ask a person on the street about his/her impressions of renewable energy and this individual will likely mention creating electricity from wind turbines and solar photovoltaic (PV) panels as the main contenders. What many people don’t know is that solar thermal is more efficient and cost-effective for a variety of needs, especially for space heat and hot water.

According to UK-based Modern Building Services (MBS), the surface of the sun boasts temperatures of nearly 10,000°F; temperatures at the core could be as high as 59 million degrees. MBS says that the amount of solar energy that reaches the earth in just 30 minutes is roughly equivalent to all the energy humanity consumes annually. That’s a lot of energy.

What makes solar thermal systems so attractive is that it is the most efficient way to harness solar energy that we know of. Take our very own patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collector as an example. Now in its third generation, it is 96% efficient. That means there is very little energy waste when converting solar energy into usable heat energy by way of a thermal transfer liquid. Just one of our solar thermal collectors can produce up to 35,000 BTUs and output temperatures as high as 400495°F.

We’ve learned how to harness the tremendous power of the sun to eliminate the need for fossil fuels for producing hot water and space heating. And as our technology improves, we don’t doubt for a minute that the potential applications for solar thermal will only grow. That potential can easily be put to use for sports and leisure.

Your Sports Facility Could Benefit

Solar America Solutions focuses on solar thermal installations for commercial buildings. One of our systems is the ideal renewable solution for your sports and leisure facility whether you are building from the ground up or looking to upgrade or replace an existing system. And rest assured you don’t need an excessive amount of roof space to enjoy the benefits of solar thermal.

One of our solar collector panels requires just a 3′ x 7′ surface area for installation, yet it provides 88 ft.² of absorption space. In other words, we can produce a lot of heat energy in a very small area. By setting up the right number of panels and connecting them to the peripheral equipment we supply alongside our collectors, we can give you a highly efficient system that will pay for itself within 3 to 5 years. Now that’s how you generate energy savings for your facility.

Sources:

1.Modern Building Services – http://www.modbs.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/16256/Renewable_energy_at_your_leisure.html

Indian Project Shows Promise for Solar Thermal Process Heat

A rather extensive project in India designed to measure the cost effectiveness of solar thermal technology for process heat has shown good promise through more than a dozen case studies. The project, known as SoPro India, is a partnership between the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and the German Agency for International Cooperation.

SoPro India started with the installation of solar thermal systems at 27 locations around the country. Among them, 15 locations were chosen as case studies for measuring the effectiveness of the solutions in providing cost-effective process heat. The 15 facilities cover different sectors from food processing to textiles to manufacturing.

india

According to Solar Thermal World magazine, the case studies demonstrated efficiency of 20% that would lead to a return on investment (ROI) of between two and three years. The ROI can be shorter or longer, based on future energy prices for fossil fuels. Nonetheless, an ROI of three years is pretty standard for solar thermal.

Solar Thermal for Process Heat

The installations we concentrate on at Solar America Solutions tend to be geared toward providing space heat and hot water for commercial buildings. But we have been involved in some process heat installations as well. They are very similar in terms of both theory and practice.

In a process heat installation, our SunQuest 250®™ solar collector panel collects solar energy using evacuated tube technology. That energy is transferred to a thermal liquid that runs through the system and into a heat exchanger where it can be extracted.Harvested energy can then be stored or used immediately for process heat.

The only difference in a space heat or hot water scenario is that the harvested energy is used for different purposes. The process of creating that energy is the same. This is what they are doing in India as well. For example, two of the case studies in the SoPro India project are as follows:

  • Himachal Dairy – The dairy uses a system consisting of a heat exchanger and several collector circuits set up in parallel. A 20% efficiency rating was achieved with very little modification from the original design. However, engineers believe they can boost efficiency as high as 40% by optimizing the flow of thermal liquid on both sides of the heat exchanger.
  • Synthokem Labs – The installation at this facility provides both process heat and hot water. Separate collector fields are used for both, though engineers are thinking of increasing efficiency by combining them into a single circuit.

Solar Thermal World reports that investors are happy with the current 20% efficiency and ROI. As such, there are no immediate plans to modify the systems to achieve a higher efficiency. But 40% is certainly not out of the question. Perhaps the success that SoPro India has demonstrated thus far will motivate engineers to modify current systems and design future installations with a higher efficiency rating.

Solar Thermal for Your Building

Back here at home, Solar America Solutions continues to lead the way in developing effective solar thermal solutions for commercial buildings and industrial enterprises. Our industry-leading SunQuest 250®™ solar collector panel has set performance standards the rest of the industry is working to catch up to. Our panel is capable of output temperatures in excess of 400°F and up to 35,000 BTUs per hour.

A Solar America Solutions system is perfect for commercial buildings because it has an extremely small footprint compared to its high output potential. For more information about how solar thermal can save your commercial building or enterprise money, feel free to contact us.

Sources:

1. Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/india-process-heat-system-monitoring-shows-fair-performance-room-improvement

Australian Scientists Reach Solar Thermal Record

Scientists at the Australian National University have set a new record for solar thermal efficiency and in so doing have set the bar for future solar thermal development. According to various news outlets, the researchers were able to achieve 97% efficiency in converting solar energy into steam power. Earlier this year, the same researchers achieved a 34.5% efficiency in converting solar energy directly into electricity.

The Australian National University is well known for its excellent work in the field of solar energy, so few were surprised by their most recent accomplishment. That’s not to say there was no skepticism during the development of the project. In fact, some of the researchers were skeptical that the solar collector panel used to set the record would actually meet the projections engineers made when designing. But all turned out well in the end.

In this particular setup, the scientists used a giant, dish-shaped reflector to concentrate the sun’s energy on a high-powered collector unit, which heated up water and created steam to power an electric generator. Researchers attribute their high efficiency to the design of the dish reflector.

australia

Why This Is Important

What the researchers in Australia have done is essentially the same thing we do at Solar America Solutions – at least in principle. The two main differences are the fact that they are dealing with large scale power generation meant to replace coal-fired and natural gas plants while we focus on rooftop installations for hot water, industrial process water, and space heat, and the fact that they are using a giant dish where our patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collectors have an exceptionally small footprint.

What we share is the vision to use powerful solar energy to generate thermal energy that can be used for any number of purposes. This is why the Australian project is so important. It proves that solar thermal is incredibly efficient when harnessed in the right way and using the right equipment and strategies. Efficiency is indeed its greatest asset.

When you convert solar energy directly into electricity, there are some inherent limitations in both conversion and application. So while the 34.5% efficiency achievement earlier this year (2016) is impressive, it pales in significance when compared to the 96% efficiency we have achieved with solar thermal. When you are converting solar energy into commercial levels of thermal energy, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Hot Water, and Space and Process Heat

Australian researchers are looking at high-capacity power generation using solar thermal. Here at Solar America Solutions, we focus on commercial applications that provide hot water, space heat, and heated industrial process water. We are helping our customers save money by reducing the amount of outside energy they have to purchase to meet their needs. And we’re doing it with our patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collector that is among the most efficient evacuated tube collectors on the market.

Where hot water and space heat are the focus, Solar America Solutions installations are perfect for hotels, office buildings, dormitories, government buildings, hospitals, educational institutions, and more. As for process heat, there are almost no limits. Wherever steam or hot water is used to drive industrial equipment or processes, solar thermal can be deployed. One of our earliest installations was at a poultry farm that required process heat and hot water for egg washing.

The future of solar thermal looks very bright thanks to the ongoing efforts of researchers and product developers. We look forward to seeing what the Australian researchers come up with next, even as we continue to develop our solar thermal technology here in America. If 97% efficiency is possible, how much closer can we get to 100%?

Sources:

New Atlas – http://newatlas.com/solar-thermal-record-anu/45027/

Two Countries, Two Subsidies – Different Results

Companies like ours are very much in favor of government subsidies to help solar thermal energy take its rightful place in the renewable energy space. It’s not that we believe subsidies ought to be permanent, but that they should be continued until solar thermal can stand on its own. There is ample evidence that proves government subsidies work when applied in the right way.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at two countries and their subsidy programs. Both countries achieved different results based on what they did with their subsidy programs. After reading the information, it should be clear that subsidies have a rightful place in the renewable energy space – at least for the time being.

europe

Solar Thermal in Germany

Attendees of a recent energy symposium in Germany were treated to the good news that the solar thermal industry in that country experienced a 3% growth in sales for the first quarter of the year, following a disappointing 2015 in which sales dropped by approximately 10%. Attendees also heard about how government subsidies have served to boost sales this year.

A report from Solar Thermal World says solar thermal subsidies in Germany have never been stronger. What is known as the German Market Rebate program offers subsidies for numerous renewable heat energy sources, including solar thermal, biomass boilers, and heat pumps. The heat pump category has benefited the most from the program, but solar thermal comes in second place. Biomass boilers have lost about 9%, likely as a result of a drop in fossil fuel prices.

Germany tends to see solar thermal growth whenever subsidies are made available. We hope to see local and national leaders keep things going for a stronger solar thermal market here in the US.

Solar Thermal in Portugal

Government officials in Portugal introduced an incentive scheme known as the Energy Efficiency Fund in May 2015. Their strategy was twofold: to encourage more solar thermal installations for new builds and to help restore existing solar thermal applications installed before 2005. The latter was the more important priority. Unfortunately, the program fell flat and, as a result, solar thermal sales in that country plummeted in 2015.

Experts say that the qualifications were too restrictive for organizations looking for the subsidies. The restrictions were so tight, in fact, that the program received only four applications in the whole of 2015. The money still sits there, but very few organizations qualify to receive it. In effect, the restrictions make the program virtually nonexistent. Without changes, there is little hope for subsidized solar thermal in Portugal.

Solar Thermal Will Stand on Its Own

Solar thermal technology is by no means a flash in the pan with no staying power. We have proven as much with our patented SunQuest 250® solar thermal collector. This collector delivers incredible performance at a very affordable price and with the need for a very small installation footprint. Since the inception of Solar America Solutions, the collector has helped thousands of customers save on their utility bills without sacrificing the availability of space heat and hot water.

Solar thermal technology will stand on its own if we can encourage enough businesses and property owners to adopt it. That is why subsidies are needed for the time being. We need to be able to bring prices down to a point where the industry is self-sufficient, but that’s not possible as long as adoption remains limited.

The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Where subsidies remain strong, the solar thermal market continues to grow. Where subsidies are weak or entirely nonexistent, solar thermal barely registers.

Sources:

1.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/germany-symposium-debates-renewable-heating-market-ups-and-downs
2. Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/portugal-incentive-scheme-fails-while-sales-take-another-dive

Necessity Forces Adoption of Solar Thermal in Some Countries

The entire team at Solar America Solutions is completely sold on the power and potential of solar thermal as a leading technology for green energy. But we are also pragmatists to some extent. We know that there is a lot of convincing to be done before we see the adoption of solar thermal at the same levels already being experienced in other countries. Here it is voluntary. In other places, necessity is forcing the adoption of solar thermal.

Consider African nations like Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Mozambique. All three countries are currently in the midst of developing new energy regulations that include forcing the adoption of solar thermal under certain circumstances. Their governments are making decisions based on the needs of their citizens as well as realistic estimates of future electricity supplies. Things don’t look good in those countries if they can’t reduce their dependence on traditional, grid-based electric service.

SunQuest250

Changes in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, lawmakers have decided that all new builds must be equipped with solar thermal water heaters rather than their electric counterparts. Existing buildings will have to switch over to solar thermal within five years. Legislators determined the change was necessary in light of the fact that the average African household with electricity spends at least 60% of their total energy budget on producing hot water.

Experts say that successful implementation of Zimbabwe’s national solar thermal water strategy would save the average Zimbabwean household 300 MW of electricity every year. In turn, that would reduce national electric consumption significantly.

Changes in Lesotho

Government officials in the Kingdom of Lesotho have not yet enacted any concrete regulations, but they are looking to follow the examples of South Africa and a few other nations that have already gone that route. They are seriously looking at ways to encourage households to replace their electric water heaters sooner rather than later while encouraging builders to implement solar thermal from the start.

Changes in Mozambique

In Mozambique, officials are being a bit more aggressive in their approach to implementing solar thermal. According to their official roadmap, they plan to have up to 3.4 million m² of solar thermal collector space installed by the end of 2030. The roadmap also sets individual targets based on construction type. They will be pushing hard for the implementation of solar thermal space heat and hot water in residential homes, hotels and lodges, public buildings, and industrial and manufacturing spaces.

Energy Shortage a Big Problem

The big problem these African nations are facing is a serious shortage of electric service. Most of the affected countries simply do not have the generating capacity they need to keep up with demand nor the delivery infrastructure in place – even as their economies are expanding and growing. If you cannot generate electricity on a large scale effective enough to meet municipal needs, the only other solution is to generate it on a property-by-property basis. That’s the idea behind solar thermal implementation.

If every existing building were fitted with solar thermal water heaters and space heat systems, the stress on the local power grid would be reduced significantly. Not only would that allow for better management of infrastructure, but it would also forestall the need to build new power generation plants utilizing natural gas, coal, or oil. Property owners would save money by reducing their dependence on non-green energy.

Solar thermal is growing in popularity around the world because it works. It is technology that is very effective at generating space heat and hot water with very little need for a supplemental energy supply. That is why we are so excited about it.

Sources:

  • Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/lesotho-mozambique-and-zimbabwe-solar-thermal-policies-under-development

French Solar Industry Regrouping around Commercial Arena

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.

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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.

Sources:

  • Solar Thermal World – http://solarthermalworld.org/content/france-industry-does-not-yet-surrender

Solar Thermal and PPAs: A Very Good Marriage

Solar America Solutions is always looking for new business models that involve solar thermal energy for space heat, hot water, and process heat. In light of that, we were intrigued by a recent presentation during a webinar sponsored by the International Solar Energy Societies (ISES). The presentation was from a U.S. company that has managed to marry solar thermal with power purchase agreements (PPAs). We believe the model should be aggressively pursued in the U.S.

The model calls for companies to build, operate and maintain solar thermal generation projects for the purposes of selling the energy to customers via PPAs. Installations would be handled case-by-case, with a single building or multi-building complex getting a separate solar collector panel array and peripheral equipment. Doing it this way ensures that each customer has self-contained energy production not dependent on any other system.

solar-ppa

Benefits for the Customer

Proponents of this business model believe it will work because of the benefits it provides to customers. As we all know, the biggest hindrance to wide-scale solar thermal adoption is financing. Customers are unwilling to invest money because solar thermal still represents a big unknown. However, if there were energy companies willing to install, operate, and maintain solar thermal systems, then customers would not have to risk their money.

The second benefit is that of lower energy prices through PPAs. Under the standard PPA, a customer signs an agreement to purchase power exclusively through the provider for a set term. In exchange for committing to that term, the customer gets a guaranteed rate that is lower than the utility company price. The customer wins through lower energy prices while the generator enjoys the benefit of guaranteed energy purchases.

When the PPA term expires, there are three options: renew the agreement, have the provider come in and remove the system, or purchase and take full ownership of the system from the provider. In any case, the customer invests no money up front. They have the term of the PPA to see just how well solar thermal works for their needs.

Many Potential Customers

It turns out that there are a small number of companies in the U.S. already engaging in this business model. Right now, the biggest beneficiaries are educational institutions using solar thermal to provide space heat and hot water for dormitory buildings. The business model suggests that any commercial building using a minimum of 1,500 gallons of hot water per day through a central heating system could save money through solar thermal and a PPA.

It makes sense that a solar thermal system that works in a dormitory building would work just as well in a hotel, hospital, nursing home, etc. Indeed, Solar America Solutions has proven it does work. We have already installed our own systems for a variety of similar applications, including correctional facility cellblocks.

In the manufacturing and industrial sectors, the business model concentrates on operations needing low-temperature process heat. Prime candidates would include textiles, tobacco, food processing, and agriculture. Solar America Solutions agrees. We installed one of our systems at an Ohio poultry farm a few years ago and achieved immediate results. Owners called us back to install a second system when their operations expanded.

Solar America Solutions believes this model can work – and work well – especially when deploying a solar thermal system based on our SunQuest 250 solar collector panel. Contact us for more information about this highly productive and efficient evacuated tube collector capable of producing a tremendous amount of energy at high temperatures.

Call 317-688-8581 to find out how our systems can work for you.

Sources:

  • Sun Wind Energy – http://www.sunwindenergy.com/solar-thermal/new-business-models-commercial-solar-thermal

Exploring Solar Thermal Options for Education

About ten years ago, Southern California’s Santa Monica High School tested the waters of solar thermal technology by installing a solar thermal heater to heat Drake Pool. Now the high school’s leaders are joining with those from other district schools to figure out how to use a substantial amount of bond money to bring districtwide solar energy solutions to fruition. We hope they include solar thermal hot water and space heat in their plans.

Solar thermal technology and education are a perfect fit. We should know, given our successful installation of 10 SunQuest 250 solar panels and peripheral equipment at a 165-bed dormitory at the University of Indianapolis. The reason solar thermal and education work so well together is that they both benefit tremendously.

Educational facilities benefit in that they save money on electricity used to heat water and provide space heating. The school can utilize that money for more important things. Furthermore, a properly designed and installed system from Solar America Solutions can completely pay for itself in less than a few years.

education-solar

The solar thermal industry benefits in that education is at the forefront of moving our country forward. Every time a school or university utilizes solar thermal, it is an opportunity to demonstrate to the entire commercial and industrial sectors how beneficial the technology is. A school acts as proof that solar thermal is practical, efficient and profitable.

Moving Forward in California

Getting back to Santa Monica, the local school district will be receiving $180 million as part of a $385 million measure approved by voters several years ago. A number of schools within the district have already been fitted with solar panels, resulting in savings of more than $50,000 during the 2013-2014 school year. Community leaders see no reason they should not move forward with solar at the rest of the district’s facilities.

Solar America Solutions believe that the best strategy in Santa Monica would be to concentrate funding on solar thermal projects that provide space heat and hot water. While Southern California does get an ample amount of sunshine, one of the strengths of solar thermal over other solar solutions is the fact that bright, sunny skies are not required.

Our SunQuest 250 solar collector panel makes use of ultraviolet rays rather than direct sunlight. As you probably already know, ultraviolet rays easily pierce cloud cover on overcast days. That is why it’s still possible to get a sunburn even when skies are not bright blue. Utilizing ultraviolet rays means that our collector panel generates heat energy nearly as efficiently on cloudy days as it does on sunny days.

The other advantage of solar thermal is efficiency. Where photovoltaic electrical conversion is concerned, there is a lot of wasted energy that never makes it to practical use. However, the evacuated tubes utilized by solar thermal eliminate nearly all waste. The energy collected by the tubes is transferred to a thermal liquid to be used for space heat and hot water purposes.

Schools are the perfect platform for solar thermal space heat and hot water because of their needs being concentrated during the daylight hours. In other words, a solar thermal system is working at peak performance at the same time students need hot water and heat. As we said earlier, educational facilities and solar thermal were made for each other.

We hope to see the Santa Monica school district utilize some of their improvement funds to install solar thermal technologies at community schools. It would save a tremendous amount of money while also reducing their reliance on fossil fuel.

Sources:

  • Santa Monica Daily Press – http://smdp.com/solar-power-expansion-talks-heat-samohi/146388

Scientific Breakthrough Shows Solar Thermal Can Compete with Fossil Fuels

An important scientific breakthrough in Australia has proved, at least in theory, that properly applied solar thermal technology can compete with fossil fuels in the modern world. Researchers at the CSIRO Energy Centre have successfully used solar energy to create supercritical steam at temperatures and pressures high enough to drive turbines that would normally require fossil fuels to operate.

We believe this breakthrough is just as important to what we do on a small scale as it is to large-scale electricity production. After all, both involve harnessing the solar thermal concept to produce efficient, safe, and cost-effective renewable energy.

The Australian researchers accomplished their breakthrough by concentrating solar energy with a series of high-powered mirrors. They were able to generate enough heat to produce steam at a temperature in excess of 1,000°F and pressure of 23.5 megapascals. If you do not know what those numbers mean, it is safe to say that the high temperature and pressure is more than enough to drive electricity generating turbines at a large-scale power plant.

The breakthrough is important when you consider that today’s solar thermal power generation projects rely on sub-critical steam at lower temperatures and pressures. Sub-critical steam just does not have the raw power to force electric turbines to reach their capacity. Supercritical steam does.

So what does this mean to Solar America Solutions and our industry? It is further verification that solar thermal can compete with fossil fuels. We are already competing, though not on the scale needed by the standard power plant. Nonetheless, the energy our SunQuest 250 produces is enough to provide most, if not all, the space heat and hot water your commercial building requires.

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The SunQuest 250

The SunQuest 250 solar collection panel is currently capable of producing up to 35,000 BTUs per hour and 475°F. Yes, we do have a long way to go before we reach the supercritical temperatures achieved by the Australian researchers. However, even at current levels, our solar thermal collector system is more than adequate for its intended purposes.

We can equip your commercial building with a system custom-designed for your needs. As an example, we installed one of our earliest systems at a poultry farm looking to replace its older, boiler-based system for washing eggs. The SunQuest 250 more than met the expectations of the farm’s operators. They contacted us and asked us to come back when it was time to expand their facilities further.

Solar America Solutions has provided solar thermal collectors and heating systems for a variety of institutions, including correctional facilities and college dormitories. Regardless of the size and scope of your commercial building, we can design and install a system more than capable of providing for your hot water and space heat. Most of our customers save enough to pay for the system within 3 to 5 years, and often less than that! After that, all of that savings from the system that has a life expectancy of over 25 years, goes back into your company coffers. The savings is typically more than 50% of the customers fuel costs.

What has been accomplished in Australia is just the tip of the iceberg for solar thermal. One thing is clear: solar thermal can compete with fossil fuels on both small and large scales. The next task for the researchers in Australia is to find a way to make their idea commercially viable. Our task at Solar America Solutions is to continue working on the SunQuest 250 to make it even better.