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Posts tagged ‘Solar Panel’

Solar Thermal: Can the ESCO Model Work Here?

Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) in the U.S. endeavor to save customers money by guaranteeing lower pricing structures over a set period. These companies do not produce energy themselves; they install and pay for energy saving equipment and processes for their customers then pay the monthly utility bills for them, at a rate that should be lower than they would have been without the improvements. Their customers then pay them a monthly rate that is derived from taking an average of what their energy bill would have been without the improvements. The ESCO then makes a profit on the difference and the customer gets a fixed energy price and free improvements to their systems. Since ESCOs were introduced into the U.S. market, there has been plenty of debate over whether or not they indeed offer significant savings.

In other parts of the world, ESCOs are starting to develop models that include generating energy through solar thermal. The question we are looking to answer is how the ESCO model can best take advantage of the fuel savings realized by installing solar thermal systems for their customers. We think it can be significant and, in fact, we are working with our first ESCO project now and they are monitoring the results. We are confident that this test will open many future commercial applications for ESCOs that utilize our SunQuest 250 evacuated tube solar thermal panels for their business model.

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What They Are Doing

Spain offers an excellent example of how ESCOs in other countries are using solar thermal to generate energy. Rather than just purchasing energy from utility companies, ESCOs are building their own solar thermal installations, metering the energy they produce, and then selling the energy to customers for the purposes of providing space heat and hot water. It is a very popular option in Spain for hotels and nursing homes. Some ESCOs are also deploying solar thermal for large, multi-unit residential buildings.

Making it all possible is a government program that provides low-interest loans to ESCOs. To date, the program has loaned some €2 million to ESCOs willing to install solar thermal systems. The funding has provided for 42 registered companies that have thus far completed 18 projects. The Spanish government says there is still €3 million available under the program. It is possible the program could be extended if all of the money is used in the future.

Bringing the Model Here

Solar America Solutions believes the model being used in Spain and elsewhere is very workable in the U.S. The biggest hindrance seems to be financing and consumer buy-in. While solar thermal installations are not excessively expensive, they are not yet mainstream enough to be an obvious consumer choice. However, we believe the benefits of new and efficient solar thermal panels will gain public interest and will become a key component to ESCO’s energy saving options.

Once a solar thermal system is paid for, it becomes a pure profit generator year after year. The amount of energy that could be saved would more than pay for future equipment upgrades while still generating significant profits for the ESCO.

At the customer level, greater savings could be realized through static energy costs. ESCOs are already built on the model of providing improved energy-saving systems at no charge and assuring their customers that their energy costs will remain stable for the next 20+ years. Customers would pay less be able to budget their energy costs without having to hedge against unanticipated energy cost increases.

Solar America Solutions could be a huge part of this model if ESCOs could be convinced to take a serious look at it. Our SunQuest 250 evacuated tube solar panel provides a very powerful base on which to build an efficient and cost-effective thermal energy system. Just a single SunQuest 250 is capable of producing over 30,000 BTUs per hour and stagnation temperatures as high as 490°F. Even more important is the fact that the panel does not require direct sunlight. It utilizes ultraviolet rays instead, so it performs quite well even on cold, cloudy and overcast days.

We believe solar thermal can be a viable platform for ESCOs to produce energy. Let us hope the model catches on here in the United States.

Sources:

  • Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/spain-eur-2-million-subsidies-solar-heat-providers

The Tax Advantages of Solar Energy

It is no secret that the current Washington administration is heavily invested in renewable energy sources as a means of reducing America’s dependence on fossil fuels. Likewise, many state and local governments are also pushing renewable energy. It should come as no surprise, then, that there are tax credits available to companies willing to utilize solar energy.

Solar America Solutions wants to help America’s businesses take advantage of those tax credits with the SunQuest 250 solar thermal collector panel and evacuated tube system. We have already helped businesses just like yours reduce external energy consumption, lower their energy bills, and take advantage of tax credits.

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How it Works

A good example of the benefits of the SunQuest 250 system is found at Minnich Poultry in Fort Recovery, Ohio. This thriving poultry operation needed to replace three aging boilers used for space heating and egg washing. Solar America Solutions answered the call with three SunQuest 250 solar thermal collector panels mounted on the roof. The system generated enough heat energy to much of the needs of that building.

The SunQuest 250 system works on the principle of solar thermal energy (heat) rather than the more commonly recognized photovoltaic energy (electricity) conversion. In a nutshell, rather than converting the sun’s rays into DC electricity, it converts ultraviolet rays into heat. The heat can then be stored in a highly efficient collection tank to be used for hundreds of purposes.

In the case of Minnich Poultry, the system was used to provide hot water for egg washing and space heating for the entire building. The system works so well that building now has no need for external energy sources, thus reducing the overall energy consumption and allowing the company to take advantage of a federal tax credit.

Efficiency Is the Key to Success

The main advantage of the SunQuest 250 lies in its solar thermal collector tubes, also known as “evacuated tubes.” These tubes collect the generated heat in a vacuum environment; the vacuum prevents heat transfer loss to create an incredibly efficient system. The vacuum tubes’ internal coatings and components also boosts that heat energy before sending along to a collection tank where the heat is stored for use after the sun goes down.

With convection also in play, that heat transfer system continuously works so that there is always thermal energy available for whatever purpose needed, regardless of the outside temperature or even cloud cover. This gives the SunQuest 250 system the potential of very large-scale applications in a variety of industries.

Right now, we are hard at work deploying our systems in manufacturing environments, government facilities, hospitals, and so forth. Solar thermal energy from large scale concentrators is already being used for commercial power generation in around the world and the scalability of our system is such that it is only a matter of time before we tackle that application that as well.

While photovoltaic solar energy has been good to us this new solar thermal technology available from Solar America Solutions is opening up solar applications never dreamed possible before. Photovoltaic energy is still good technology for generating electricity like supplemental home electrical generation, solar thermal technology utilizing inexpensive and cost effective evacuated tube solar collectors will drive the industry into the future. We are excited to be a part of it at Solar America Solutions.