The projects we typically work on at Solar America Solutions involve individual clients looking to utilize solar thermal for hot water and space heat in commercial buildings. For example, one of our first projects was to install our SunQuest 250 solar collector panels and peripheral equipment in a new housing block at an Indiana correctional facility.
Though we are thrilled to be able to apply solar thermal technology on a building-by-building basis, we look forward to the day when solar thermal is applied to large-scale space heat and hot water needs. A revolutionary project now thriving in Canada offers a perfect example of what we are talking about.
Drake Landing – Okotoks, Alberta
Take a trip up to the southern Alberta town of Okotoks and you’ll find a unique housing community known as Drake Landing. What’s so unique about it? The way the community receives its space heat. Thanks to a demonstration project sponsored by Natural Resources Canada, the average household in Drake Landing pays just $70 per month for space heat with very little need for supplemental energy from the grid. It is made possible by combining solar thermal with borehole storage.
Each of the homes in the Drake Landing community has a detached garage with a roof covered almost entirely with solar thermal flat plate collector panels. Those panels work 365 days a year, whenever the sun is up collecting infrared energy from the sun and Okotoks, it is one of the sunniest places in Canada. Had the developer known about the patented SunQuest 250® evacuated tube solar thermal panels from Solar America Solutions, these systems would have been even more efficient and required fewer panels because they draw their solar energy from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and are effective even on cold and cloudy days.
A thermal transfer liquid inside the solar collector panels converts energy from the sun into heat. That heat is transferred to the community’s energy center where it is extracted with a heat exchanger before the liquid returns to the panels. Extracted heat is stored underground in a network of 144 boreholes. It is retrieved and used for space heated as needed.
Incredible Results Thus Far
To say that the Drake Landing project is a huge success would be to state the obvious. Drake Landing’s system has consistently provided more than 90% of the heat the community’s 52 houses need during the winter since it was completed in 2007. Over the last several years, the system has provided 98% of the heat.
The linchpin of the system is its borehole storage. Engineers have created a storage model that is so efficient that it can store enough energy on summer days to heat the entire community throughout the winter season. The combination of stored energy and what is generated by the system during shorter winter days is more than enough to virtually eliminate any need for space heat generated from natural gas.
No Further Proof Needed
Those of us in the solar thermal sector have long known that storage is the biggest challenge to taking solar thermal to the next level.But the project in Canada changes everything.
From what we can tell, no further proof is needed to demonstrate that solar thermal can be implemented on a large scale to provide entire communities with heat and hot water. Solar thermal is incredibly efficient and cost-effective, especially when deployed using the right equipment. A good example is our SunQuest 250® solar collector panel, which just happens to be the most efficient panel in the industry. We would love to see it put to use in a project like Drake Landing here on American soil.
- CBC – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/solar-thermal-energy-community-alberta-drake-landing-1.3436178