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Posts tagged ‘Solar Thermal Sector’

Bad News Brewing for Solar Thermal in the UK

Bad news is brewing for the solar industry in the UK. Rumors that the government will be cutting some of its funding to subsidize solar thermal appear to be true, as evidenced by comments made recently by Energy Secretary Amber Rudd. The Secretary has been saying for a while that residential and commercial heat based on renewable sources is a priority for policymakers, but exactly what kind of priority she is talking about is questionable.

Guidance published by the UK government indicates that support for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) program will be drastically cut or eliminated by 2017. That would mean subsidies offered to property owners designed to encourage them to use solar thermal technologies for space heating and hot water will no longer be available.


Proposals included in the guidance are a matter of both consternation and confusion. The consternation comes from the fact that cutting the RHI program will probably reduce confidence in the solar thermal sector to such a degree that private investment might be negatively impacted. If that were the case, it would be awfully difficult to continue development of new technologies in the future.

As for the confusion, it stems from one simple reality: solar thermal is the most established and proven platform for renewable space heat and hot water around the world. Total capacity right now stands at 350 GW, far greater than total capacity for PV. Adding to the confusion is the reality that the UK has led the charge for solar thermal from the onset. Seeing them cut support for RHI now does not add up.

Deciding How Long Subsidies Should Last

Proponents of the UK guidance say that it’s hard to determine how long government subsidies should actually last. But they insist the RHI program was never intended to be permanent. The program was initially instituted to help the country achieve rather ambitious renewable energy goals put in place years ago. Now that it is apparent they are nowhere near reaching those objectives lawmakers may determine they could spend the money on the program on more important things.

How the solar thermal sector in the UK will fare if RHI is indeed cut remains to be seen. We imagine there will be a period of adjustment as manufacturers, installers, and service providers get used to the lack of subsidized funding. But we also believe the industry will survive. Property owners genuinely looking for renewable energy projects will still consider solar thermal in light of the tremendous savings it offers. More than one will choose to install solar thermal when it comes time to replace an aging boiler.

Subsidies Only a Partial Solution

Let us assume the UK does cut the RHI program in 2017. Such a decision could influence other countries to follow suit, especially where solar thermal is enjoying widespread adoption. It might even have a ripple effect here in North America. Already we are seeing some states and local jurisdictions begin to second-guess their subsidy programs in light of the need to tighten budgets. The question is, can solar thermal stand on its own?

Here at Solar America Solutions, we believe it can. There are now enough existing applications using our patented SunQuest 250® solar thermal collectors around the country to provide proof that solar thermal is an excellent alternative for renewable space heat and hot water. Growth may be slower in the absence of subsidies, but it will not be stopped. From our perspective, solar thermal is a renewable technology that is here to stay. We expect it to be the market leader before too long.


  • Renewable Energy Magazine –

German Data Shows Solar Thermal Can Cost Less than Oil and Gas

Data supplied by a German company to planners and installers shows that solar thermal costs less than oil or gas when providing space heat and hot water for large buildings of residential flats. The data is part of a comprehensive spreadsheet made available to the planners of new construction projects. More importantly, the data may be a harbinger of very good things to come for Germany’s solar thermal sector.

It should be noted that the data produced by Rhema, a subsidiary of the BDR Thermea Group, only applies to the energy used to generate space heat and hot water in multi-family dwellings. It does not necessarily indicate that solar thermal is better than gas or oil for every application. Having said that, what the data does show is very important.


Germany is currently in the midst of very high demand for solar thermal installations in response to the requirements of that country’s Renewable Energy Heat Act. According to Rhema officials, their data is important because builders and planners need to know that the solar thermal systems they are advocating actually perform up to expectations while also cutting costs. They want to be confident in the technology they are pushing.

Solar Thermal by the Numbers

Rhema’s data is based on an analysis of both installation and ongoing energy costs, compared to heating area, water usage, and the use of certain appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines. When a 20-year lifespan is assumed for associated equipment, solar thermal comes in at a cost of €43.3 /MWh. Gas-driven boilers come in at 60 eur/MWh while the cost of gas boilers is noted at €80 /MWh.

The data goes on to show cost savings over a 20-year span, comparing solar thermal installations with gas and oil. Solar thermal would save approximately €39,253 over 20 years with a combination of incentives and the use of some conventional heating components. Even without the incentives and components, the savings represented by solar thermal over gas and oil amount to approximately €23,755.

Solar Thermal for Commercial Projects

We find the German data to be very compelling due to the complex nature of deploying solar thermal for space heat and hot water in multi-family dwellings. We have some experience in this area, having installed our own patented SunQuest 250 systems in college dorm buildings. The two environments are similar enough to require common installation designs.

Using solar thermal in this way is a matter of installing solar collector panels on available roof space or land adjacent to the building in question. Obviously, roof space is preferred because it keeps the panels away from vandals and offers desirable open space for optimal UV ray exposure. The solar collector panels absorb the sun’s energy, transferring that energy to a thermal transfer fluid , which can then be moved into a heat exchanger for storage or to produce hot water or space heat.

Solar thermal is more effective for these kinds of applications than photovoltaic because it is exponentially more efficient. Rather than converting sunlight into direct current, solar thermal produces heat that can be used for many purposes.

Solar America Solutions’ patented SunQuest 250 solar panel collector is the workhorse of our highly effective solar thermal system. The collector panel is based on a proven evacuated tube design utilizing materials capable of capturing ultraviolet energy rather than having to rely on infrared (heat) rays from the sun. This means our collector panels can still produce maximum output even on cloudy and overcast days or on the coldest winter days.

The German data clearly shows solar thermal to be superior to gas and oil for some applications. It might be the right solution for your commercial or industrial building as well.


  • Solar Thermal World –

How the Solar Thermal Sector Can Attract More Investors

Recent attendees of the SMEThermal 2014 conference in Germany were given some sound advice about attracting investors in the coming years. The advice came from Georgieff Capital Advisors partner Nicholas Atkins. Moreover, while the advice was clearly directed at new solar thermal startups, existing companies would do well to take heed when looking for additional investment funding.

The solar thermal sector enjoyed a lot of investor enthusiasm prior to the start of the Great Recession. Investors were eager to put funding into projects with great promise, knowing full well the profits were not to be delivered until well down the road. However, when the bottom fell out of the economy, many of those investors walked away. There are still investors out there today, but companies need to know how to approach them.

According to Atkins, one of the most important things companies need to do is make sure their business model is scalable. In other words, a company like Solar America Solutions needs to have the ability to grow and expand very quickly if it hopes to attract investors. Atkins explained that many investors want an exit available within 3 to 7 years of investing. In order to make that happen, the company receiving the funding needs to be able to grow quickly.

Another important thing companies need to do is to demonstrate to investors that there is a profitable business plan. A business plan needs to include products and services that can quickly generate profit that will lead to company expansion. If the investor does not see the potential for decent profit, he is not likely to take the risk.




Solar America’s Business Model

At Solar America Solutions, we believe we have both the product and business model that will allow our company to grow and expand well into the future. Our business is based on a core product known as the SunQuest 250 solar thermal collection panel. This panel is a state-of-the-art solar thermal collection unit designed around evacuated tube technology that is both highly efficient and cost-effective.

Unlike traditional solar thermal collector technologies, evacuated tube designs make use of dual tubes separated by a vacuum. The vacuum provides excellent insulation to reduce heat loss to near zero. This allows the SunQuest 250 to deliver over 300,000 BTUs daily at temperatures well over 400°. We use that heat to provide hot water and space heat for commercial applications.

In an industrial setting, the SunQuest 250 could be used to replace boilers normally driven by natural gas or oil. In a government building or educational facility, the system could provide both space heat and hot water throughout. There is virtually no limit to what can be done when solar thermal is used to replace other energy systems based on heat. Simply put, any application involving a boiler is a prime candidate for solar thermal.

In a recent application, 400 SunQuest 250 collectors by Solar America Solutions were installed in an Ohio corrections facility where they will provide more than 50% of the thermal energy needed for space heat, showers, laundry, and dish washing. This is currently the largest non-utility solar thermal system in North America and will pay for itself in less than seven years.

We are excited about the future of solar thermal energy in the United States. Over the years, we have seen great strides in technology development and innovation. Solar America Solutions is proud to be part of an industry that shows such great promise for renewable energy production that saves money and helps protect the environment. If you would like to know how we could help your business or organization, do not hesitate to contact us.