Solar thermal energy got a big boost in the “Land Down Under” when the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) got behind a new project aimed at combining photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies into a single package. The new system, developed by a company known as Bluescope, still has a long way to go before it is ready for commercial use. However, it has shown great promise so far.
The technology is based on a concept known in the industry as Building Integrated Photovoltaic Thermal (BIPVT). It aims to combine photovoltaic for electrical generation with solar thermal for heat and hot water. Research and development in this area is focused on creating a combined product that could be deployed via a single installation.
The reason for incorporating solar thermal is directly related to the inherent weaknesses of photovoltaic. In other words, a photovoltaic system converts energy collected from direct sunlight into electricity. Nevertheless, the technology is incredibly inefficient – so much so that a photovoltaic system is unusable for generating hot water and space heating. Solar thermal is completely different.
A solar thermal system, like the SunQuest 250 evacuated tube solar thermal collectors manufactured by Solar America Solutions, collects energy from ultraviolet rays and uses it to heat water or some other type of thermal liquid. The incredible efficiency of solar thermal technology makes it a very powerful system for producing space heat and hot water. In theory, it could also be used to generate electricity if collection and storage were adequate.
Solar Thermal Is the Future
We are thrilled to see solar thermal be part of the BIPVT strategy in Australia. We believe solar thermal is superior to other solar power systems, thanks to its efficiency, capacity, and cost effectiveness. We also believe that solar thermal is the future of affordable green energy solutions.
Solar America Solutions has invested in solar thermal by designing and building our revolutionary SunQuest 250 solar collection unit. The collector panel is based on the evacuated tube principle that results in incredible efficiency and unbelievable temperatures. Imagine having a solar collection unit that can deliver up to 35,000 BTUs per hour while creating temperatures of as much as 475°F. That is a lot of heat that you could put to use for hot water, radiant floor heating, or space heating.
To date, Solar America Solutions has successfully installed SunQuest 250 systems at facilities ranging from college dormitories to state prisons to agricultural operations. In fact, one installation we are especially proud of was deployed in a new cellblock at a state correctional facility in Indiana. We installed the system with promises of savings high enough to pay for the system in just a couple of years. Correction officials were so impressed with the actual results that they asked us to come in and perform additional installations in the future. Indiana correction administrators communicated the success of their project with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction which has now resulted in the largest (non-utility) solar thermal project in North America, incorporating 400 SunQuest 250 collectors to supply hot water and space heat to eight cell blocks at the Ross Correctional Facility in Chillicothe, Ohio.
How It Works
The main difference between how photovoltaic and solar thermal works boils down to one thing: how usable energy is created from the sun. A solar thermal system, like the SunQuest 250, traps heat generated by the sun’s ultraviolet rays in an evacuated tube. That intense heat is then transferred, by way of a thermal liquid, to a heat exchanger inside the building. The heat can be used to furnish hot water or space heat.
With the right storage, any excess energy not used during daylight hours can be stored for overnight use. This makes solar thermal energy far superior to photovoltaic for its intended purposes. At Solar America Solutions, we do not believe there is a better way to produce reliable and inexpensive renewable energy. We invite you to contact us or one of our dealers so we can show you how solar thermal can work for you.