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Posts tagged ‘solar thermal system’

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

Good News About Solar Thermal and Consumer Awareness

Our role as the designer and manufacturer of the patented SunQuest 250® solar thermal collector affords us plenty of opportunities to interact with business and government leaders interested in developing renewable energy solutions. In that regard, we sometimes wonder about consumer awareness. Are the things we are pursuing part of the public mindset, or is it just our industry and select government leaders that are paying attention?

We are pleased to report that consumer awareness of solar thermal is growing; not only here in the U.S., but also overseas as well. Consider a recent report out of Europe that shows solar thermal is the most well-known renewable heat source among both residential and commercial property owners.

 

SunQuest250

 

Efforts Are Paying Off

A number of European trade associations banded together some time ago to begin pushing renewable heat sources for both residential and commercial buildings. The associations covered the three most important sources of renewable heat: solar thermal, biomass, and geothermal. They worked with government agencies willing to help increase public awareness, measuring the success of their efforts via the Fair RHC Options and Trade (FROnT) project.

Throughout the project, customers have been surveyed about their awareness of renewable heat solutions. Nearly 5,000 have represented the residential sector thus far while 896 represented non-residential, and 585 come from the industrial sector. In all three cases, solar thermal has proved to be the most well-known renewable heat source. Biomass and geothermal have traded the second and third positions throughout.

FROnT officials expect the survey results to continue largely uninterrupted through the end of the project this September (2016). In essence, they are confirming that the efforts to promote solar thermal for space heat are paying off, at least in terms of public awareness.

Greater Awareness at Home

It is encouraging that consumer awareness of solar thermal as a renewable heat source is growing. But there is always room for improvement. Here at home, solar thermal still faces the daunting task of becoming the default option when consumers think about renewable heat. The focus right now tends to be split among the several players without any one being clearly dominant. We need to change that if solar thermal is to realize its maximum potential.

We can start by doing a better job of explaining to consumers just how solar thermal works. Unlike other forms of solar energy, solar thermal does not convert sunlight directly into electricity. Rather, it converts ultraviolet sunlight into heat energy that can be used to produce space heat and hot water.

This kind of system is incredibly efficient when deployed using the right kind of equipment – like our patented SunQuest 250® solar collector panel. Our collector has been designed using evacuated tube technology. Evacuated tubes are incredibly efficient at harnessing energy and transferring it with very little loss. Virtually all of the energy produced is transferred to the system by use of a thermal liquid that flows from the panels’ manifold to a heat exchanger and back again via a closed loop.

Another thing we need to continually remind customers of is that a properly designed solar thermal system can pay for itself within just a few years of installation. After that, all of the savings resulting from not depending on traditional fossil fuels used to provide space heat, domestic hot water and/or heated process water is money that can be spent on more important things.

Solar thermal works as a source of renewable heat energy. People are being exposed to the reality of solar thermal with greater frequency, but there is still more to be done both here and abroad. We believe solar thermal will stand on its own as awareness grows and adoption increases.

Sources:

1.Solar Thermal World — http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/europe-solar-thermal-best-known-renewable-heating-technology

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Minnesota Community an Example of Solar Efficiency

The temperature in rural Pine River, MN was near zero at the time this blog post was written. The cold temperatures and often overcast skies are such that most people do not consider the state a hotbed for solar power. But reality says otherwise. One need only take a look at the Pine River community to understand that solar is alive and well in an environment known for its cold and harsh winters.

Traveling the country roads of Pine River is an experience that includes plenty of pine tree stands and herds of cattle in the fields. But every now and again a clearing reveals a traditional ranch house with a surprising feature: a solar panel array on the roof or in the adjacent yard. Solar energy is so popular in this part of Minnesota that a local nonprofit known as the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) gives tours of area homes to show skeptics what is possible.

Property owners in the area use a combination of different solar technologies to achieve their purposes. For example, solar thermal is used to generate space heat and hot water to reduce dependence on grid energy. Some of the local homeowners have systems that are so efficient that they can completely shut off their traditional electric water heaters for 5 to 6 months of the year.

SunQuest 250

Understanding Solar Capacity

Most of us do not consider Minnesota a great place for solar installations because of its relatively high northern latitude and heavy winter storms. But according to RREAL, Minnesota has solar resources equal to that of Houston, Texas. The trick is harvesting the resource in the best way possible for both commercial and residential use.

To understand this, consider our SunQuest 250 solar collector panel. It is one of the most powerful and efficient collector panels in the industry, capable of producing up to 35,000 BTUs per hour. What you may not know is that the evacuated tube design of our panel is so efficient that there is almost no waste. Furthermore, the materials we use in the collector unit do not require direct sunlight to work. Rather, they rely on ultraviolet rays, readily available regardless of temperature and plentiful even in cloudy weather.

This means that one of our solar collector panels performs up to expectations even on cloudy and overcast days. Systems like this, operating in Pine River can convert sun energy into heat throughout the daylight hours, then use that heat to deliver hot water and space heat.

Supplemental and Replacement Energy

It is true that Minnesota experiences incredibly harsh winters that often include subzero temperatures. In the midst of a frigid winter, a traditional flat panel solar thermal system is unlikely to produce enough space heat and hot water to completely disconnect from the grid. But it with new technological breakthroughs, like the SunQuest 250 from Solar America Solutions, a significant supplement is offered that can reduce a property owner’s energy bills considerably.A SunQuest 250 solar thermal system can be a complete replacement for grid energy for hot water and heating needs or at least reduce the fossil fuel requirement by more than half. That translates into some serious savings.

What property owners are doing in Pine River can be done all over the country. Solar thermal can be used to provide space heat, hot water, and process heat for both commercial and residential structures.

Here at Solar America Solutions, we concentrate on commercial projects in the agricultural, education, healthcare, and government services sectors. Our systems have been installed in numerous states, providing green energy for hot water and space heat at government facilities, dormitories, industrial buildings, and more. We would be happy to discuss your project to see if we can provide an effective and affordable solution for your property.

Sources:

  • Brainerd Dispatch – http://www.brainerddispatch.com/news/3934539-here-comes-sun-solar-power-shines-snowy-tour

Solar Thermal and Building Automation Can Be Married

A Belgian consultant who co-authored a report on building automation and energy use last year (2015) believes that there is a lot of potential in combining the remote communications technologies of automation with solar thermal heating and hot water production. Consultant Uwe Trenker presented his ideas at the Solar Heating and Cooling Conference in Istanbul this past December (2015). Trenker’s ideas make a lot of sense when you step back and think about them.

The idea of marrying building automation and solar thermal is born of the idea that people tend to be both lazy and forgetful, according to Trenker. He explained at the Istanbul conference that people routinely forget to adjust their thermostats when doing so would be most optimal. For example, they forget to turn off the air conditioning when opening the windows, or they unnecessarily heat rooms that remain unoccupied for extended periods of time.

building-automation

As far as solar thermal is concerned, Trenker believes there is a lot of power in combining the technology with remote communications technologies. He insists that building automation has created an environment in which virtually every citizen now carries a remote control in his or her pocket via a smartphone. Remote communication by way of building automation software could make it possible for property owners to make better use of solar thermal systems. Furthermore, the idea does not need to be limited to residential properties. Even commercial properties can benefit from automation features.

2 Examples to Consider

Trenker and his colleagues have outlined several different examples of their ideas in explaining how to marry building automation with solar thermal. One of their examples is simple enough to understand yet very illustrative of what Trenker is after. It involves the simple task of washing dishes in a commercial dishwasher.

The average solar thermal system reaches a peak at midday and, in many cases, begins dumping collected thermal energy back into the atmosphere because the energy exceeds the capacity at the use point. This means that the solar thermal water tank is at full capacity or can’t absorb the energy as quickly as it is being generated and any additional energy produced by the system is wasted. This point of stagnation is the ideal time to run the dishwasher, heat a pool, etc., utilizing that excess energy at a time when it is not used for anything else. Automation technology could be utilized to program the dishwasher and/or pool heater to run just before the solar thermal system reaches stagnation. A commercial example of this is a correctional facility scheduling inmates’ showers during peak solar times.

Trenker also believes that marrying the two technologies would make it possible to change incentive programs so that they rely on the effectiveness of a solar thermal installation rather than just its total area of collector space. Automation software would make it possible to measure solar thermal yield and report the data to both the property owner and the entity offering the subsidy. This would encourage more efficient installations and more investment in innovations.

Smart Solar Thermal

Widespread marriage between solar thermal and building automation is probably several years in the future. But the concept seems very logical. It could be just a matter of time before smart solar thermal is introduced for both residential and commercial applications. We could be on the verge of something that could make solar thermal even better than it is today.

While we wait to see where all of this goes, Solar America Solutions will continue manufacturing and installing our SunQuest 250 evacuated tube collector panels. Our collector panel is one of the most efficient panels in the industry, capable of producing up to 35,000 BTUs per hour and output temperatures in excess of 400°F. It is the ideal panel for your solar thermal system regardless of the size of your installation.

Sources:

  • Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/shc2015-challenge-smart-heating

Solar Thermal and PPAs: A Very Good Marriage

Solar America Solutions is always looking for new business models that involve solar thermal energy for space heat, hot water, and process heat. In light of that, we were intrigued by a recent presentation during a webinar sponsored by the International Solar Energy Societies (ISES). The presentation was from a U.S. company that has managed to marry solar thermal with power purchase agreements (PPAs). We believe the model should be aggressively pursued in the U.S.

The model calls for companies to build, operate and maintain solar thermal generation projects for the purposes of selling the energy to customers via PPAs. Installations would be handled case-by-case, with a single building or multi-building complex getting a separate solar collector panel array and peripheral equipment. Doing it this way ensures that each customer has self-contained energy production not dependent on any other system.

solar-ppa

Benefits for the Customer

Proponents of this business model believe it will work because of the benefits it provides to customers. As we all know, the biggest hindrance to wide-scale solar thermal adoption is financing. Customers are unwilling to invest money because solar thermal still represents a big unknown. However, if there were energy companies willing to install, operate, and maintain solar thermal systems, then customers would not have to risk their money.

The second benefit is that of lower energy prices through PPAs. Under the standard PPA, a customer signs an agreement to purchase power exclusively through the provider for a set term. In exchange for committing to that term, the customer gets a guaranteed rate that is lower than the utility company price. The customer wins through lower energy prices while the generator enjoys the benefit of guaranteed energy purchases.

When the PPA term expires, there are three options: renew the agreement, have the provider come in and remove the system, or purchase and take full ownership of the system from the provider. In any case, the customer invests no money up front. They have the term of the PPA to see just how well solar thermal works for their needs.

Many Potential Customers

It turns out that there are a small number of companies in the U.S. already engaging in this business model. Right now, the biggest beneficiaries are educational institutions using solar thermal to provide space heat and hot water for dormitory buildings. The business model suggests that any commercial building using a minimum of 1,500 gallons of hot water per day through a central heating system could save money through solar thermal and a PPA.

It makes sense that a solar thermal system that works in a dormitory building would work just as well in a hotel, hospital, nursing home, etc. Indeed, Solar America Solutions has proven it does work. We have already installed our own systems for a variety of similar applications, including correctional facility cellblocks.

In the manufacturing and industrial sectors, the business model concentrates on operations needing low-temperature process heat. Prime candidates would include textiles, tobacco, food processing, and agriculture. Solar America Solutions agrees. We installed one of our systems at an Ohio poultry farm a few years ago and achieved immediate results. Owners called us back to install a second system when their operations expanded.

Solar America Solutions believes this model can work – and work well – especially when deploying a solar thermal system based on our SunQuest 250 solar collector panel. Contact us for more information about this highly productive and efficient evacuated tube collector capable of producing a tremendous amount of energy at high temperatures.

Call 317-688-8581 to find out how our systems can work for you.

Sources:

  • Sun Wind Energy – http://www.sunwindenergy.com/solar-thermal/new-business-models-commercial-solar-thermal

Solar Tax Credits Take a Hit in NM but Industry Will Keep Working

While Solar America Solutions prides itself in offering solar thermal applications that usually have an ROI of less than five years without government incentives, we do like to point out tax credits and rebates for solar thermal installations offered by many states. However, sometimes we come across states where things are not so rosy. New Mexico is a good example. Governor Susanna Martinez recently vetoed two bills that would have improved the solar thermal climate in the state known as ‘The Land of Enchantment’.

New Mexico’s ample sunshine and wide-open spaces make the state a perfect candidate for process heat produced by solar thermal installations. Process heat can be used to provide hot water, and steam to run industrial machines and processes. The amount of sunshine available in New Mexico is even more reason politicians and industry experts are surprised by Martinez’ actions.

tax-credits

The first bill vetoed by the governor was one that would have extended the current Solar Market Development Tax Credit through 2024. The tax credit was originally established in 2006 to encourage small business owners and others to invest in solar technologies. It pays a maximum of 10% toward solar installations up to a maximum of $9,000. An additional 30% tax credit from the federal government makes New Mexico’s tax relief a very attractive incentive to embrace solar thermal solutions.

Martinez vetoed a second bill designed to extend the Solar Market Development Tax Credit to residents and small businesses who lease their systems rather than purchasing the equipment. The governor said she believed signing the bill would have resulted in unintended consequences, such as customers moving out of their buildings within a short time of receiving tax credit money.

The good news is that the second bill may not necessarily be dead altogether. Martinez indicated she might be willing to go along with it if tax credits were given directly to companies leasing the solar systems, with the expectation that those credits would then be passed on to customers. Such an arrangement would eliminate the benefits of trying to game the system as a lessee.

We will have to wait and see what happens with the second bill in New Mexico. As for the first bill, Governor Martinez seems content to allow the original sunset dates of 2017 and 2020 for expiration of the incentives.

A Good Investment

Solar America Solutions applauds those states willing to offer rebates and credits for solar thermal installations. Rebates are a great way to motivate businesses to install new systems that will both save them money and reduce their dependence on the grid. Installations benefit everyone because they save energy and money.

Saving money with Solar America Solutions starts with our SunQuest 250 solar collector panel. The SunQuest 250 is the core of our solar thermal system, providing a tremendous amount of output in exchange for the smallest footprint are per therm of any collector on the market. We can install collector panels on the roof of your building to provide energy for hot water and space heating.

Our panel is based on the tried and true evacuated tube principal. Tubes collect energy from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, then transfer that energy to a thermal liquid circulating through the tubes. The liquid transfers the heat to a heat exchanger and, in some cases, a storage system. The heat is then used for different purposes within the building.

Since Solar America Solutions was established, we have introduced solar thermal technology to agricultural, industrial, commercial and government entities across the country. Our solutions are providing a cost-effective way to provide solar energy at a fraction of the ROI of solar PV electricity grid energy solutions.

Sources:

  • NM Political Report – http://nmpoliticalreport.com/3005/supporters-want-to-know-why-solar-tax-credit-extension-was-vetoed/

Tax Credits and Solar Energy Solutions: Are They Inseparable?

In 2007, the government instituted the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) as a means of encouraging involvement in solar energy solutions among both investors and consumers. As the ITC is nearing the end of its shelf life, there is debate over whether or not it should be reviewed. This debate hinges on the more contentious question of whether the solar industry can survive on its own or not. Simply put, are tax credits and solar energy solutions inseparable?

It is hard to argue against the ITC benefiting the development of solar energy solutions, including solar thermal. According to Clean Technica guest contributor and solar industry executive Camilo Patrignani, the solar power industry has enjoyed annual growth of 1,600% since the implementation of ICT. Without tax credits for both consumers and investors, the industry would not be where it is today. Some would argue that renewing the tax credits is necessary to continue pushing the industry further.

America Not Alone

The United States is certainly not the only country offering tax credits to promote solar energy solutions. For example, the German government recently approved their National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency (NAPE), a plan that includes tax rebates to encourage energy modernization in that country. One of the biggest targets for modernization is the outdated central heating systems still in use in 70% of German buildings. According to government estimates, some 20 million boiler systems in that country need to be replaced.

tax credits

Germany’s tax credit will enable building owners to deduct between 10% and 25% of their solar energy investments over a period of 10 years. It is not tied to income, so anyone will be able to claim the tax credit beginning sometime this year. The German government plans to keep the tax rebates in force for at least five years.

Saving Money – Twice

Whether or not the solar energy industry can survive without tax credits is a debate that will continue for the next several years. That does not change the fact that building owners here in the U.S. can save substantial amounts of money by investing in solar thermal solutions. Better yet, savings can be enjoyed twice.

Federal and state tax credits allow building owners to deduct some of the costs of investing in solar thermal. Exactly how much can be deducted depends on the chosen system and the state in which it is implemented. Massachusetts, for example, now allows rebates of up to $100,000 for commercial applications. Nevertheless, the savings do not stop there.

A well designed and properly installed solar thermal system can pay for itself in just a few years. After that, annual energy savings of 50% or more result in companies having more money to spend on things other than energy bills. It is money that can be spent on research and development, hiring, capital improvements, equipment upgrades, etc.

Tax credits for solar energy solutions apply across the board. At Solar America Solutions, we focus entirely on one form of solar energy: solar thermal. We believe solar thermal is the future of solar energy development in America because it is highly efficient and extremely productive.

Solar thermal is based on the principle of using energy from the sun to heat a thermal liquid that can be used for any number of purposes. In our applications, it is used to create space heat and hot water for commercial buildings as well as heated industrial process water. We would be happy to show you how solar thermal can be put to work for you with our SunQuest 250 evacuated solar thermal collector panel.

Sources:

1.Clean Technica – http://cleantechnica.com/2015/01/13/a-solar-ceo-wants-to-end-the-investment-tax-credit-why/
2.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/germany-second-tax-rebate-attempt-make-buildings-energy-efficient

NC College Incorporates Solar Thermal into Competition Home

A North Carolina college spent months working with a French university to construct a unique house they planned to enter into the annual Solar Decathlon Europe 2014. The competition, which ran in late July and early August (2014), featured entries from colleges and universities around the world. As always, the various student groups came up with some pretty interesting ways to use solar energy to provide the power needs of residential homes.

The team from Appalachian State College and Université d’Angers implemented a variety of solar solutions, including evacuated tube solar thermal collectors to provide space heat and hot water. They used six collector panels, a storage tank, a heat exchanger, and a three-valve system to make it all work together. Furthermore, the solar thermal system was tied together with advanced computer software that tightly regulated distribution and monitored predetermined personal comfort levels.

Solar thermal was chosen for space heat and hot water because of its efficiency and cost-effectiveness. In a real-world setting, Solar America Solutions installations have shown the systems can pay for themselves within 3 to 5 years. The efficiency of solar thermal makes maximum use of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, while the combination of savings and overall cost of installation makes going with solar thermal affordable.

college-solar

The Solar Thermal Process

The solar thermal process we use at Solar America Solutions is similar to what the American and French students put together for their competition house. That process starts with the collector panels. Rather than using parabolic mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a single point, we use evacuated tube collectors that absorb energy from the sun and immediately transfer it to a thermal liquid. That liquid is then transferred to a heat exchanger where the heat is extracted and either stored or immediately used to provide hot water or space heat.

The efficiency of the system is based on the evacuated tube collector panels. Evacuated tubes are highly efficient, allowing our systems to use 94% of the energy collected from the sun. There is very little energy waste compared to photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar panel (CSP) applications.

Both efficiency and output were critical to the university students and their competition home. With each year’s competition, the requirements become stricter as a way of forcing more innovation. For example, in 2010 teams were allowed 15 kW of electricity to meet the power needs of their homes. In 2014 that limit was reduced to 5 kW. With less electricity to work with, the teams needed highly efficient systems that required as little electricity as possible.

Technology for Today

Just as the students competing in the annual Solar Decathlon Europe are, we continue to research and develop better and more efficient solar thermal solutions. Having said that, the technology we have developed is very usable today. Our SunQuest 250 solar collection panel is the most efficient panel in the industry and the anchor of our installations.

To date, our SunQuest 250 systems have been installed in office buildings, correctional facilities, institutions of higher learning, and agricultural operations. In every case, clients have been extremely pleased with the results they have achieved with solar thermal. Many have come back to us for additional installations to meet their expansion goals.

Solar America Solutions is proud to be at the leading edge of solar thermal technology. We would love the opportunity to show you how solar thermal space heating and hot water can be achieved in your commercial or government building. With solar thermal, you can save a tremendous amount of money while also helping the environment.

New Storage Technology Could Greatly Benefit Solar Thermal

A consortium of public and private institutions has agreed to begin working on advanced thermal storage technology that could pave the way for more efficient and cost-effective CSP (concentrating solar power) projects. As it turns out, what the group develops for wide scale electricity generation could greatly benefit the solar thermal industry as well.

The consortium’s plans have been developed as part of an investigation conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Their investigation aimed to determine whether large-scale CSP projects would benefit from technologically advanced thermal storage solutions. The NREL has determined they would. Therefore, the organization has joined forces with the Colorado School of Mines and Spain’s Abengoa to start work on developing new storage capabilities. The consortium was chosen by the Department of Energy to work on the project together.

Project Goals

The official goals of the project include developing high-capacity storage solutions that would allow thermo-electric plants to continue producing electricity during the overnight hours by using stored energy gathered during the day. In order to make that happen, power plants would need high-capacity storage systems that were both efficient and reliable. The solution? Water.

solar-energy

The NREL report suggests that storing energy would be straightforward once the water inside a storage unit was heated to the proper temperature. That same energy could then be extracted on an as-needed basis. As it turns out, the solar thermal industry is already deploying storage designed from this concept. For example, Solar America Solutions frequently includes water-based storage units in many of the systems we install.

The only problem with the storage systems currently on the market is that these do not have the capacity to handle what large-scale power plants are looking for. That is where the NREL project comes into play. They need to take the technology we already use and the scale it up for the power generation industry.

Benefits to Solar Thermal

When the consortium eventually achieves its goal of high-capacity energy storage there will be a number of benefits to the solar thermal industry. First and foremost, the new technology will likely be more efficient and cost-effective than what we now use. In turn, this will open the door for new solar thermal applications above and beyond just providing hot water and space heat, or at least overcome the current “non-solar hour” heating constraint stigma.

Second, what the consortium accomplishes will likely lead to increased storage capacity even in the smaller units our industry uses. Where more storage capacity is present, more energy can be harnessed and used for a variety of purposes. We might eventually get to the point where a solar thermal system installed for hot water and space could also be generating supplemental electricity that reduces dependence on the grid.

Energy storage has long been one of the most daunting problems for solar thermal and other solar power initiatives. At Solar America Solutions, we have made great strides in overcoming the inefficiencies of energy collection through our SunQuest 250 evacuated tube solar collector. If we could combine it with a high-capacity storage solution in the future, there is no telling what our systems are capable of.

In the meantime, the SunQuest 250 remains one of the most efficient and productive solar collection units on the market. Each collector uses 88 ft.² of absorption area to generate up to 35,000 BTUs per hour. Our systems are easy to install, highly scalable, and each collector requires an area of only 3′ x 7′. Once installed, a SunQuest system can provide all of the hot water and space heat your building requires. Feel free to contact us for details.