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Posts tagged ‘solar thermal heating’

Canadian Project Utilizes Large-Scale Solar Thermal Heating

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.

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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.

Sources:

  • CBC – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/solar-thermal-energy-community-alberta-drake-landing-1.3436178

A Solar Winter: Using the Sun to Battle Snow

The recent blizzard that buried the East Coast in a mountain of snow left millions of residential sidewalks and driveways impassible. Homeowners used shovels, snowblowers, and any other tools they could get their hands on to clear away enough of the snow just to be able to get to work. However, one family in Paramus, NJ had nothing to do while their neighbors battled the elements. All of the snow that landed on their sidewalk and driveway melted away thanks to a solar thermal heating system that kept the pavement warm.

Homeowner Raj Parikh installed the radiant heating system as part of a complete overhaul of his modest suburban home. His rebuild project was undertaken with one goal in mind: to create a truly green house that uses no natural gas or heating oil for any purpose. During the rebuild, he got the idea to install the exterior heating system as a way of “using the environment to battle the environment,” according to Parikh.

How It Works

Parikh’s snow melting system starts with rainwater collection that stores hundreds of gallons of water in multiple insulated tanks. That water is kept at a constant 105° by way of a solar thermal system that collects ultraviolet energy from the sun and transfers the energy to the water by way of heat.

Activating the system to melt snow sends the warm water through a series of tubes and pipes running under the concrete. According to Parikh, the water running through the system maintains a temperature of about 100°, effectively melting snow at a rate of about an inch-and-a-half every hour. But that’s not all. The water created by the melt is also collected, recycled, and used for irrigation, laundry, and the toilet.

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Solar Thermal Gets It Done

Using the sun to battle snow is an incredibly creative way to take advantage of solar thermal technology. What Mr. Parikh and his family have done in New Jersey proves the potential of solar thermal for a variety of applications, both around the home and in commercial environments. This potential is why we are so excited about the future of solar thermal in America.

Solar America Solutions has designed, and now manufactures and sells, our industry-leading SunQuest 250 solar collector unit. We combine the SunQuest 250 with additional equipment including pumps, heat exchangers, and storage tanks to create systems capable of providing all of the space heat and hot water required by a commercial building. Our systems have also been adapted to generate industrial process heat as well.

Our systems work on the same principle as Parikh’s snow-melting system. Solar collector panels absorb heat energy from the sun, then transfer that heat energy via a thermal liquid in a closed loop. A heat exchanger allows us to apply the heat energy to a variety of applications – whether it be space heat, water heater, or industrial equipment that uses heat in its operation.

While we concentrate primarily on commercial buildings, we can see the potential of solar thermal systems like ours for a variety of residential purposes. If one family in New Jersey can completely rework their home so that it has no use for fossil fuels, many more homes can also be reworked. New construction can be equipped with solar thermal systems as well, making it possible for all of us to use the environment as an active partner in maintaining it.

For more information about solar thermal and its potential in your commercial building, we invite you to contact Solar America Solutions at 317-688-8581. Let’s see what we can do for you.

Sources:

  • Paramus Daily Voice – http://paramus.dailyvoice.com/neighbors/who-needs-a-shovel-paramus-family-melts-snowfall-away/620538/#.Vqk9dWIiZbI.facebook

U.S. Third in Global Solar Process Heat Capacity

How far has the United States come in advancing solar thermal power? Far enough that we now rank third in the world in solar thermal process heat capacity. Only Chile and China have greater capacity. Following the U.S. are India, Austria, Greece, and Germany.

If there’s any downside to the numbers showing America’s global standing for solar thermal it is the fact that we don’t appear among the top seven countries in which solar thermal process heat was the fastest-growing segment of the sector over the last few years. Austria leads that group followed by Germany, Mexico, France, India, Turkey, and Italy. All but one of those countries (Italy) saw double-digit growth for solar thermal process heat in 2013.

Here in the States, our current capacity includes 18 process heat projects with a total of 23,993 m² of collector space. The average project size is just over 1300 m². Chile’s collector area is 39,740 m² despite having just two active process heat projects at the current time.

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Process Heat vs. Space Heat

You might already be familiar with using solar thermal technology to produce space heat. It is both effective and efficient given the right kind of setup and reliable equipment such as the Solar America Solutions’ patented SunQuest 250 solar panel collector. However, what about process heat? Why is it so important to the growth of the solar thermal industry?

Process heat can be defined in a number of ways. The traditional definition considers process heat to be waste heat from one process, harnessed so that I can be used for something else. For example, the heat generated by large computer server banks can be harnessed as process heat to provide space heat for adjoining offices in the same building.

The second way to define process heat is any heat that is used to drive industrial or manufacturing processes. This might include using thermal liquid-driven turbines to provide the power necessary to run industrial equipment, hot water for industrial wash processes, etc.

Process heat is important to the solar thermal industry because it represents one of the primary stepping stones that can take solar thermal from small-scale individual deployments to large-scale applications. Solar thermal would never reach its potential if it were restricted to only providing space heat and hot water on a building-by-building basis. Nevertheless, by developing the technology for process heating alongside what we currently do, we have the potential of making solar thermal a force to be reckoned with in the dawning era of sustainable energy.

Proven to Work

It is no coincidence that the seven countries we previously listed have seen the greatest solar thermal growth in the area of process heating. Solar thermal process heating is growing because it has already proven to work. Here at Solar America Solutions, one of our earliest projects was related to the process heat needs of a large poultry farm.

Our client contracted us to install solar thermal heating to replace aging boilers that provided the hot water necessary for the farm’s egg washing operations. The system we installed proved to be more than adequate. When the farm expanded its operations to include new facilities, they called on Solar America Solutions to once again install a solar thermal system.

The key to efficient and high-output solar thermal power is the collector unit. Solar America Solutions’ patented SunQuest 250 solar collector panel is one of the best in the industry, utilizing a highly efficient evacuated tube design capable of incredible output. We know solar thermal process heat works because we have implemented it ourselves.

Sources:

  • Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/iea-shc-attractive-solar-process-heat-markets