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Posts tagged ‘solar thermal market’

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.


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.


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Global Solar Thermal Market Now in Transition

What is it that most people think of when talking about solar thermal technology to generate space heat and hot water? Residential applications involving single-family homes and multi-unit apartment blocks. Since the inception of the solar revolution, the world has focused primarily on engaging individual homeowners to look at solar as a source of supplemental energy. Now things are changing. We are beginning to see the transition from a residential focus to a commercial one.

According to the Global Solar Thermal Energy Council (GSTEC), single-family homes have long been the most significant sales segment for solar thermal in Europe. It has not caught on as much for residential homes in the U.S., primarily because our solar focus has been on photovoltaic conversion of sunlight into electricity. Even so, commercial applications of solar thermal are becoming more important as technology makes them more affordable, practical and energy-efficient.

The GSTEC predicts a massive worldwide shift away from residential applications to commercial applications over the next 5 to 10 years. The shift is already being observed in places such as China, Austria and France, in which residential sales have fallen in the last few years. Solar thermal manufacturers in those countries agree that commercial sales will outpace residential by 2020.


Here in the U.S., the GSTEC sees government incentive programs driving commercial sales of solar thermal applications for the next decade. They cite California, Maryland, Massachusetts and North Carolina as just four examples of states now making incentive programs available to commercial enterprises. They believe those incentives will spread to other states in the coming years.

By all accounts, it appears as though the global solar thermal market is ready to begin aggressively pursuing commercial applications for sales. It is not that the residential market has no more room for solar thermal (it does); it is just that the commercial applications are much broader and more cost-effective.

Following Our Lead

At Solar America Solutions, we would like to think that the rest of the world is following our lead in terms of commercial solar thermal applications. Since the inception of our company, we have focused solely on the commercial sector with our SunQuest 250 solar thermal collector unit and related equipment. We believe in the power of solar thermal for commercial applications because we have seen great results from implementing it.

A SunQuest 250 system is capable of producing nearly all of the space heat and hot water a building needs with greatly reduced reliance on fossil fuels. Installing one of our systems takes advantage of the sun’s ultraviolet rays to generate heat that is transferred to a heat exchange system by way of a thermal liquid. The efficiency of our system enables it to get the job done with only a small amount of open space needed on a rooftop or adjacent property.

To date, we have successfully installed our solar thermal systems at prisons, educational institutions, agricultural operations and business enterprises throughout the Midwest. Our customers have been so satisfied with the results that we have been asked to return to deploy future installations. For example, one of our first projects was replacing a boiler system at a poultry farm with a solar thermal solution that has provided nearly all of the hot water necessary to wash the farm’s eggs. The customer was impressed enough that we were invited back when it came time to build a new facility.

We agree that the future of solar thermal lies with commercial applications. That is why Solar America Solutions is proud to provide the SunQuest 250 system for hot water and space heat.


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Three Reasons El Salvador Is Emerging Solar Thermal Market

Companies in the solar thermal industry are always looking for new markets in which to introduce their products and services. Here in the United States we have not even begun to scratch the surface for solar thermal, and our culture is such that achieving widespread acceptance is a very slow process. However, that is not the case in other countries. In fact, one country that looks very promising is El Salvador.

The Central American country of 5.7 million people is a relatively small market compared to a country the size of the US. However, they might be more ready to indulge the solar thermal industry now than we are. Here are three reasons we believe El Salvador is an emerging solar energy market, including solar thermal applications:

1. High Dependence on Fossil Fuels

El Salvador currently uses diesel fuel to generate 41% of its electricity. Among all fossil fuel choices, diesel fuel is the one choice that makes the least practical sense from an economic standpoint. Diesel is comparatively expensive and significantly more polluting. For example, consider sulfur.

In the United States, the upper limit of sulfur in diesel fuel is 15 ppm. The El Salvadoran limit is 5,000 ppm. That is a lot of pollution that could be brought under control by switching to cleaner energy sources.


2. Rising Electricity Prices

The price of electricity in El Salvador is roughly $0.20 per kilowatt-hour. Making matters worse is the fact that the average consumer has only about 27% of the purchasing power as the average American. That means that the individual in El Salvador can purchase only about 27% of what an American can afford on his regular take-home pay. When your purchasing power is that low, paying $0.20 per kilowatt-hour for electricity is rather steep.

3. Changing Laws

In recognition of their energy problems, the government of El Salvador has enacted a series of new laws designed to create incentives for renewable energy. One of the things they are targeting is the use of solar thermal for hot water generation. Already there is a push to see solar thermal put into use in hospitals and in the hospitality sector.

The current energy conditions in El Salvador make the country ripe for solar thermal development. In the meantime, companies like Solar America Solutions will continue working on developing the market here at home. We have already put our systems into use across a wide variety of commercial buildings for both space heat and hot water applications.

The strength of our system is our highly efficient evacuated tube solar collector, the SunQuest 250. By combining this collector panel with state-of-the-art control units, solar tanks and other peripherals, we can design a custom system for your building regardless of its size or location.

Each solar 7’ x 7’ collector panel requires a footprint of only 3′ x 7′ for deployment. The 88 ft.² of absorption area collects energy from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and converts it to heat. Our evacuated tube design allows the collector panel to generate up to 35,000 BTUs per hour at temperatures as high as 475°F. Imagine all of the hot water and space heat you can generate with that kind of energy.

Solar America Solutions would be honored to design a custom solar thermal solution for your commercial building. Please contact us for more details or to find a local dealer near you.