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Posts tagged ‘solar thermal industry’

Solar Thermal Proves Its Winter Mettle in India

One of the concerns people have about solar thermal as a means of providing effective space heat is its ability to produce during the winter months. In the U.S. Northeast, the upper plains, and certain parts of the Midwest, winter temperatures can easily dip below zero for extended amounts of time. Well, now we know that solar thermal can get the job done even in some pretty harsh conditions. Thanks to a test conducted in the mountains of northern India, solar thermal has proven its winter mettle.

The real-world test of the solar thermal system was conducted by the Indian Defense Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) at a troop shelter built at Chang La, a mountain pass that stands more than 17,000 feet above sea level. Moreover, tests were conducted during the winter months to see how well the system would perform in providing adequate space heat.

india

Researchers set up the system to store solar heat during the daylight hours using a phase-change storage tank. The stored energy was then used to produce the heat necessary to keep the shelter warm overnight. Throughout the test period, the ambient temperature inside the 295-square foot shelter remained between 44 and 50° despite exterior temperatures that reached as cold as -22°.

Saving Oil and Diesel

DIHAR officials say there were some points during the test when a diesel generator had to be operated to compensate for temperatures below -22°. Those occurrences were mainly in the coldest months of January and February. Still, the evacuated tube design of the solar thermal system performed well because they rely on ultraviolet “A” (UVA) rays from the sun, not the warm infrared (IR) rays that are not effective in cold or cloudy conditions.

Under normal conditions, the troop shelter is kept warm with wood, diesel and paraffin oil burners. Heating the shelter in the dead of winter consumes hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel and oil every year. Researchers estimate that using the solar thermal system overnight could save as much as 10 liters of paraffin oil per day for every system installed.

Solar Thermal Suitable for Winter Climates

The solar thermal industry is very pleased with the results achieved by the Indian study. The study proves that our technology is more than suitable for winter climates, even when temperatures dip well below freezing. If an evacuated tube system can generate sufficient heat to keep a Himalayan shelter at 50° despite outside temperatures of less than -20°, imagine how well it might work here in the U.S. where most winter environments are not nearly as harsh

The key to the success of the Indian test was the evacuated tube design of the solar collector panels. Evacuated tubes, which happens to be the same technology the patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collector is based on, make for the most efficient collection and transfer of solar energy for both space heat and hot water.

Evacuated tubes are glass tubes with an enclosed absorption surface surrounded by a vacuum. That surface absorbs solar energy which is transferred to a thermal liquid to be then sent to a heat exchanger for heat extraction. Extracted heat is either used immediately for space heat or hot water or forwarded to a highly insulated storage tank for later use.

Solar thermal space heat built around evacuated tube solar collector panels has proven up to the task in harsh winter environments. It has worked so well that DIHAR plans to begin installing the systems in several hundred buildings. All being well, what they have learned will improve the technology worldwide. In the meantime, there are a lot of buildings here at home that would benefit from a solar thermal solution for space heat and hot water.

Sources:

1.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/india-vacuum-tube-system-pcm-storage-tank-heats-troop-shelter

Setting the Solar Thermal Example in Argentina

The solar thermal industry is always looking for new ways to introduce our technology to property owners who would benefit from less dependence on fossil fuels for space heating hot water. Perhaps a more efficient solar thermal installation at the White House might help. A similar installation in Argentina seems to have done a great deal to encourage property owners there to invest in solar thermal.

The Argentine government has been hard at work drafting and approving legislation to promote solar thermal among commercial and residential property owners. Along with financial incentives and mandated solar water heating systems for public buildings, the government has been searching for other means to encourage property owners to adopt solar thermal. Argentine president Mauricio Marci eventually made the decision to order a 260-liter system to be installed in his home in Olivos.

argentina

The company responsible for installing the system explained to the media that they experienced a 50-fold increase in solar thermal inquiries just as a result of the publicity alone. Sales have doubled as well. In October, the company sold 600 systems, which will exceed anything they have done in the past should the robust sales continue. Prior to the presidential installation, the company averaged about 3,000 systems annually.

Other solar thermal companies are doing very well in Argentina as well. As many as 15,000 new solar thermal systems have been installed in each of the last two years, according to some estimates. More importantly, the installations are saving consumers money.

Energy Prices out of Control

It’s easy to see why solar thermal is gaining popularity in Argentina when you look at the cost of fuel in that country. Largely subsidized by government to this point, energy prices are expected to increase as much as 500% in some cities as the government phases out subsidies. The result has been one of property owners looking for alternative sources of energy before their utility bills start going up.

Solar thermal is one of the best solutions for space heat and hot water. A well-designed and promptly installed system can generate more than 60% of the space heat and hot water a commercial building requires. Right now, Argentina is focusing on solar thermal for public buildings in an attempt to reduce energy consumption at the commercial level. But it looks like more widespread adoption is occurring organically.

We Need a Good Example

Solar thermal in Argentina has the benefit of exploding energy prices to help drive it. Here in the U.S., energy prices have dropped dramatically in recent years creating an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ problem for solar thermal in many cases. We need a good example, a strong example the public can look at to see how beneficial solar thermal can be.

Over the years, Solar America Solutions has installed space heat and hot water systems incorporating our patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collectors in various types of commercial and public buildings. We know how efficient the technology is. We know how much money our clients save by adopting solar thermal in place of fossil fuels. We firmly believe that if there were a way to put solar thermal at the forefront of the energy discussion, more property owners would take a serious look at it.

Perhaps a more efficient solar thermal installation at the White House would do the trick. But since that’s not likely to happen, our industry needs to find other ways to get the word out. The more solar thermal is adopted as a preferred renewable energy source, the better off we will all be.

Sources:

1.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/argentina-presidents-system-order-and-planned-energy-price-hikes-boost-solar-thermal

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.

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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

Solar Thermal Prefabrication: The Wave of the Future?

There is something exciting going on in the solar thermal industry in Germany and Belgium. In an effort to contain costs and encourage more installations, several manufacturers have developed prefabricated solutions that can be delivered, installed, and connected in a very short amount of time. Creating prefabricated systems has even created a secondary benefit of making it possible to manufacture large systems with collection area capacity of up to 1970 ft.².

The prefabricated systems are known as container systems because of the way equipment is shipped and installed. Building a container system begins by consulting with the customer to find out what the needs are. Once the size and scope of a particular system are determined, everything is built and tested at the factory. The finished product includes the necessary collector panels along with a container holding the solar water heater and all of the associated hydraulic equipment.

Building prefabricated solar thermal solutions has already proved successful in a limited number of early installations. One of the German manufacturers supplied a system for a lodge in Kenya; a system that delivers water for both guest and staff accommodations through a rooftop installation in which the collector panels and container sit side-by-side.

SunQuest250

Manufacturers of the systems claim that solar thermal prefabrication offers a number of substantial benefits that could drive the industry forward:

  • Standardization – Standardization is generally seen as a good thing in manufacturing. It results in more opportunities for more manufacturers, interoperability of systems and replacement parts, and lower costs due to manufacturing efficiency.
  • Easy Installation – Prefabricated solar thermal solutions are relatively easy to install, mainly because all of the engineering has already been completed at the factory. In some cases, systems can be installed and turned on by facility staff – without a need for any extra help from manufacturers or installation specialists.
  • Modularity – Some of the new prefab systems are fully functional with solar collector areas of up to 1970 ft.²; others utilize smaller areas. But in either case, prefabricated systems are modular. This means it is possible to create systems that include thousands of square feet of collector space with numerous containers all connected to provide a complete solution.
  • Turnkey Solutions – Lastly, the prefabricated solar thermal system is a turnkey solution that can be implemented with very little effort on site. The system can be delivered and installed on the customer’s schedule, without interrupting other things, and immediately turned on for instant production.

Prefabrication seems a logical next step as the solar thermal industry seeks to make greater inroads into the commercial market. We all realize that any need for solar thermal in residential construction will first have to be supported by commercial applications. Manufacturers need those commercial contracts to provide the financial foundation that will allow them to pursue residential in the future.

It will be interesting to see how popular prefabrication becomes over the next several years. Manufacturers in Belgium and Germany are already banking on it, making plans to create some of the largest modular systems ever made. We believe any success they enjoy will eventually motivate U.S. manufacturers looking to increase their own market share. Prefabrication is just another trend that is leading to the solar thermal wave of the future.

At Solar America Solutions, we are proud to manufacture one of the most efficient and powerful solar collector panels in the business. Our SunQuest 250 collector panel would be ideal for any modular or container system designed for a large commercial project. We invite you to contact us at 317-688-8581 for more information.

Sources:

  • Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/germanybelgium-container-solutions-standardise-commercial-solar-thermal-systems-0

France Sets Its Sights on Large-Scale Solar Thermal Installations

France is a country that has never been afraid to embrace renewable energy sources in everything from individual residential systems to municipal district heating. They have been heavily involved in promoting solar thermal for small-scale installations since 2009, having invested millions of euros in incentives to encourage building owners to embrace the technology. Now the French government is turning its attention to large-scale solar thermal installations in multi-family housing units, hospitals, industrial buildings, and district heating projects.

Like most other countries, France instituted all sorts of incentives when they first embarked on solar thermal promotion years ago. Those incentives led to steady market growth by way of small-scale installations for residential buildings. But the market began leveling off in 2012; it has been in steady decline ever since. According to the French energy agency Ademe, the number of applications for solar subsidies has fallen off in direct relation to a slowdown in home building.

SunQuest 250

Policymakers do not want to see solar thermal lose too much ground in France, so they have developed a new round of incentives that they hope will entice builders and existing property owners to consider solar thermal on a larger commercial scale. They also hope the new incentives will revive optimism in the solar thermal industry and among the public in general.

Solar Thermal for Commercial Buildings

Ademe’s focus on large-scale solar thermal installations is similar to that which we have been doing at Solar America Solutions since our company was established. While there is certainly plenty of room for solar thermal for individual, residential structures, we believe the real impact of the technology is strongest in the commercial sector. Commercial buildings require a tremendous financial investment in heat, especially in northern locales, and heating water is always expensive regardless of climate. Solar thermal makes doing both significantly more cost-effective.

The beauty of solar thermal is its efficiency. Rather than converting sunlight into electricity that is then used to power water and heating systems, solar thermal harnesses solar energy to heat a thermal transfer liquid. That transfer liquid can then be used for a variety of purposes. We most often install our systems to provide space heat and hot water, but solar thermal can also be used to generate industrial process heat as well.

We believe the key to efficient solar thermal installations is the solar collector panel. The more efficient a panel is the more heat it can produce within a contained footprint. That is what our industry-leading SunQuest 250 collector panel is all about.

The patented SunQuest 250 collector panel is the most efficient solar collector panel on the market. It offers 88 ft.² of solar absorption area yet requires a total roof space of just 3′ x 7′ for installation. The combination of high efficiency and a small footprint make it possible to meet 50–60% of your space heat and hot water needs with a modest rooftop installation.

The Future of Solar Thermal

The decision in France to turn their solar thermal attention to large-scale installations for commercial applications is important in that it helps to clarify the future of solar thermal industry. The reality is that the world is driven by economics. What is good for business ends up being good for every consumer as well. Solar thermal will flourish in France, and here as well, when it becomes the norm in commercial buildings.

Solar America Solutions intends to continue doing its part to promote solar thermal as a money-saving alternative to traditional energy sources. We believe the future of solar thermal is bright indeed.

Sources:

  • Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/france-increases-public-support-solar-thermal

Brazilian City Mandates Solar Thermal for All New Builds

São Paulo, Brazil is a bustling and modern city situated along the country’s southeast coastline. Not only is São Paulo the largest and most populous city in Brazil, but it is the 11th largest city in the world. As you might expect, the city deals with all the usual problems that come with concentrating large populations into small urban areas. One of the problems city leaders decided to address forcefully in 2008 was the increasing demand for electricity.

Demand for electricity in Brazil has skyrocketed over the last two decades. Unfortunately, demand consistently outstrips supply, resulting in runaway pricing that can make it very expensive to live and work in a city like São Paulo. So five years ago city leaders got together and developed a comprehensive energy policy that included, among other things, a law requiring property developers to include solar thermal water heating in almost every new build – both commercial and residential.

saopaulo

This means that nearly every building constructed since 2008 was constructed with at least some solar thermal capacity. The law stipulates that solar thermal installations must provide at least 40% of a structure’s total needs; some installations provide more while others barely exceed the minimum. Either way, that equates to a tremendous amount of solar thermal capacity that only continues to grow with every new building constructed.

Overcoming Fear and Misconception

There is little doubt of the impact the solar thermal mandate has had on São Paulo since its introduction. However, city officials and industry experts still say they struggle to overcome public perception. People are fearful of solar thermal because they do not know what it is. They believe it is the same thing as PV, so they avoid installations in existing buildings under the false assumption that it will be too expensive.

To combat the fear and misconceptions, the solar thermal industry in Brazil has banded together to undertake a massive education campaign. They have invested a tremendous volume of resources to promote solar thermal as a way to save money on electrically generated hot water and space heat. As more people are coming to understand what solar thermal can do for them, the market is gradually growing in São Paulo. The hope is that other municipalities in Brazil will follow suit in the future.

The industry is especially targeting building owners and developers of commercial buildings with fewer than four restrooms. These types of buildings are exempted from the mandate where residential buildings and commercial buildings with four or more restrooms are not. The idea is to educate the owners of these smaller commercial buildings about how solar thermal can save them money as well.

Economics a Strong Motivator

There are quite a few reasons a property owner might decide to install solar thermal for space heat and hot water. Some do it because they want to contribute to a cleaner environment, others do it because they fear the grid going down. Yet in the end, economics is the strongest factor motivating people to move to solar thermal.

Solar thermal is an efficient and cost-effective way to produce hot water and space heat without the need for grid energy. It is a model that relies on harnessing energy from the sun to heat a thermal transfer liquid that can then be used to produce hot water and space heat. The biggest advantage of solar thermal, at least where our SunQuest 250 solar collector panels are concerned, is that direct sunlight is not needed because it utilizes UV rays, by far the most potent rays generated by the sun.

For more information about a solar thermal application for your commercial building, contact us at Solar America Solutions.

Sources:

  • Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/brazil-impact-sao-paulo-solar-obligation

Germany Introduces New Funding for Solar Thermal

Government funding designed to encourage the adoption of new technologies is nothing new in energy. Governments have been subsidizing everything from wind power to solar for decades. In fact, we credit that funding for helping to push the development of sustainable energy sources forward since the turn of the 21st century. Now, Germany has taken the traditional funding model for solar thermal one step further by introducing a new plan based on yield rather than area.

Back in April (2015), the German government began subsidizing large-scale solar thermal projects based on projected energy output rather than solar collector area. The goal of the new funding is to encourage large-scale solar thermal projects for commercial applications. Prior to the funding model, Germany’s solar thermal funding was based on collector panel area, leading to most of the money being spent on smaller commercial and residential projects.

funding

Those smaller projects are still important in Germany, as they are around the world. Solar thermal would not be where it is today without the backbone of those projects making the technology commercially viable. But Germany wants to go one better. They already know how cost effective and efficient solar thermal is for smaller scale, individual building projects, now they want to ramp things up for much larger projects.

Flat Rate Funding Program

One of the more interesting aspects of the new German funding program is that it is a flat rate program based on a benchmark established by a currently active solar thermal project in Bavaria. Data from the Bavaria location has been collected and analyzed based on varying conditions and the resulting average solar thermal yield. The data was plugged into a mathematical formula to establish a benchmark by which new projects will be measured. Funding will be based on a new project’s yield as compared to the benchmark yield.

There is some talk of adopting the yield-based model to smaller, single building applications as well. But for now, projects with solar collector arrays ranging from 20 to 100 m² are more likely to receive funding based on collector area only.

Critics of the yield-based funding model believe it will not be practical for smaller projects because collector panels would need to be significantly more efficient in order to generate a high enough yield to qualify. Proponents disagree, claiming that solar collector efficiency is already high enough that a properly designed project could produce a high enough yield even on a small scale. It remains to be seen who is right, given the fact that the yield-based model is still so new at this point.

Early Adoption Means More Development

Though we are not familiar with all of the minute details of the German funding project, we can say that funding designed to encourage the early adoption of renewable energy technology is a good thing. Adoption results in deployment that, in turn, results in more development down the road. Only through a continued cycle of adoption and development can the solar thermal industry ever hope to reach a position of market dominance.

At Solar America Solutions, we concentrate our efforts on all levels of commercial applications, including the largest (non-utility) solar thermal project in North America at the Ross Correctinal Facility in Chillicothe, Ohio. Our SunQuest 250 solar collector panel utilizes ultraviolet energy from the sun to produce heat energy that can be used to create space heat or hot water. Any hot water our systems generate can be used for industrial processes, space heat, or commercial domestic hot water. What’s more, our systems are completely scalable and extremely efficient in their use of space. Contact us if you want to learn more.

Sources:

  • Sun, Wind & Energy – http://www.sunwindenergy.com/solar-thermal/germany-yield-dependent-funding-solar-thermal-to-good-start

Standardization Drive Shows Strength of Solar Thermal Industry

The solar thermal industry in North America and many parts of Europe is strong enough to stand on its own. In other emerging markets, like Latin America and Asia, solar thermal is slowly but surely getting to where we want it to be. Helping that effort is a new drive to create standardization for both testing and certification of solar thermal water systems in Latin American countries.

Attendees of the June International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Regional Forum in Costa Rica heard from a number of industry experts explaining what is now being worked on in Latin America. For example, Brazil is on the verge of mandating compulsory solar thermal certification for water systems and equipment later this year. A number of countries including Coast Rica, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Mexico have recently set up labs for equipment testing purposes.

solar-collector-panel

The importance of this new drive for standardization in Latin America is not lost on industry experts all over the world. It is generally recognized that the growing interest in ISO-type standards demonstrates the strength of the technology or sector indicating that worldwide standardization will be necessary to maximize the benefits of the technology heading into the future. If there were no drive for standardization in solar thermal, one could make the case that the industry was still relatively weak, but that is clearly not the case.

Shared Resources in Some Markets

IRENA forum attendees also learned about plans to share resources in some markets where the strength is not yet there to justify building expensive testing labs for certification. They were told that with the exception of Brazil, country-by-country markets were relatively small compared to the strongest markets in Europe and the U.S. It might be better for some of these countries to utilize American or European testing and certification for the time being, rather than invest in their own labs.

A second option being discussed is the design and building of independent, DIY testing labs rather than contracting with a certified builder to provide a turnkey solution. Independently built labs are less expensive to develop, but they may lack some of the components necessary to achieve standardization at the highest levels. Industry experts are working through the implications of independent labs as they work toward better global standards.

Quality and Performance Are Key

At the end the day, the drive for global standards in solar thermal is about producing equipment and systems maximized for both quality and performance. As with any industry, initial testing and standards create a base upon which the industry can build. Subsequent testing year-on-year improves equipment and systems in ways all manufacturers can implement. This essentially creates an environment where the industry expands and improves together despite competition among individual companies to earn a greater market share.

Solar America Solutions will be keeping an eye on the developments in Latin America in the coming months. We are excited to see efforts being made to further develop a technology that we wholeheartedly believe in. Solar thermal for hot water and space heat holds the promise of clean, efficient, and sustainable energy that can help the world move away from dependence on fossil fuels.

Since our company was formed, we have been involved in a number of exciting projects introducing solar thermal for commercial and industrial purposes. Our systems are intended to completely replace traditional space heating and hot water systems where applicable, and supplement those traditional systems when total replacement is not viable. Our solar thermal solutions are spearheaded by our patented SunQuest 250 evacuated tube solar collector unit, one of the best in the industry.

  • Sources:
    Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/latin-america-its-way-solar-thermal-quality-standards