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Posts tagged ‘Solar Thermal’

The UK Backs Off Plan to Drop Solar Thermal

Backers of solar thermal in the UK have spent the better part of the last six months lobbying their government to prevent solar thermal from being removed from the UK’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) program. The program is similar to the various tax and credit programs local governments in the U.S. offer for renewable energy installations. UK authorities were planning to drop solar thermal from RHI in 2017 so that money being spent to promote it could be invested elsewhere.

The Solar Trade Association led a coalition of lobbyists to convince UK officials to change their plans. The Association began their efforts in earnest with government consultation this past March, bolstered by the support of business owners opposed to the plan.

london

The typical business owner installing solar thermal in the UK breaks even at about seven years with RHI incentives. In other words, it only takes about seven years for a solar thermal installation to pay for itself. Without RHI incentives, it could take three times as long. The Solar Trade Association and its army of lobbyists argued that eliminating solar thermal from the RHI would prompt business owners to avoid new installations.

Now that the UK government has agreed not to drop solar thermal, there are high hopes for significant expansion in the commercial market. The Solar Trade Association now expects to see the growth it was projecting prior to the March consultation, growth that could help the UK reach its target of 12% renewable heat by 2020.

The Government Incentive Question

Questions about whether government should subsidize solar thermal installations are not unique to the UK. We see the same kinds of things being wrestled with here. Only here, things are a bit more complicated due to the way things are regulated at the federal, state and local levels.

Energy credits are typically the domain of state governments in that utilities are regulated at the state level. However, it’s very common for counties and local municipalities to throw their own credits in as well. The question is always one of how much to spend on incentives and to whom those incentives should be offered.

Here at Solar America Solutions, we have proven that our patented SunQuest 250 solar thermal panel is so efficient and produces so much thermal energy, that systems we have installed have provided a return on investment of less than five years even without government subsidies. However, governments that commit funds to renewable energy demonstrate to the public their support of seeking replacement energy sources that do not rely on fossil fuels.

Solar Thermal in America

Solar America Solutions has been a leader in solar thermal technology since our inception. Here in America, the industry is more focused on commercial applications than residential, which is why our company concentrates on commercial buildings including prison facilities, healthcare facilities, office buildings, dormitories, hotels, and the like.

As solar thermal grows in this country, we are proud to be part of the industry. Our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector is the best of its type in the business, capable of providing up to 35,000 BTUs per hour per panel, across a ten-hour solar day. Combined with the right equipment and a well-designed installation, the SunQuest 250™ can provide nearly all the space heat and hot water a commercial building requires.

UK government and industry officials have come to realize how important solar thermal is to future renewable energy goals. That’s why they have changed course and are now agreeing to include solar thermal in their RHI program. We would do well to learn from their example. Solar thermal is just as important to the future of renewable energy in the U.S.

Sources:

1.Sun & Wind Energy – http://www.sunwindenergy.com/solar-thermal/solar-thermal-to-stay-uk-renewable-heat-incentive

Solar Thermal Perfect Choice for Correctional Facilities

Solar America Solutions is proud to have worked with corrections officials  across the country to install solar thermal solutions in various correctional facilities. Our installations have made it possible for corrections departments to save money on their energy bills by harnessing solar energy to provide space heating and hot water. In short, solar thermal is a perfect renewable energy option for correctional facilities.

What we have accomplished is not isolated only to the United States for that matter. Armenia offers an excellent case in point. A recent press release from Armenia’s justice ministry reveals that solar thermal installations have been deployed at seven different correctional facilities in the Eastern European nation.

Cell House

Detailed information about the installations wasn’t made available, but justice ministry officials say that they should save an average of 50% per institution as a result of deploying solar thermal. Along with their report on the installation, Armen Press published a couple of pictures showing solar thermal collector panels installed in rows outside of one of the correctional facilities.

The pictures show four rows of five collector panels each. Though we cannot accurately say what the capacity of each panel is, what we have seen in the pictures looks to be fairly typical for the industry. There is also an image showing the interior mechanics deployed to convert solar energy into space heat and hot water.

Correctional Facilities Offer Great Environment

Solar America Solutions offers solar thermal installations for all kinds of commercial buildings, including office buildings, dormitories, hospitals, and so on. We are especially pleased to be able to work with correctional facilities because they offer an optimal environment to showcase the potential of solar thermal.

By their nature, correctional facilities contain a lot of wide-open spaces that have to be accommodating to the needs of those institutions while still being efficient. Furthermore, the mechanics required to provide space heat and hot water have to fit in confined spaces and be relatively easy to service. Solar thermal provides everything correctional facilities need in a package that generates significant energy savings over time.

Using our own installations as an example, we fitted a 200-bed cell block at Wabash Valley Correctional Institution in Carlisle, Indiana with 15 of our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collectors and the additional equipment necessary to utilize them. Our installation now supplements the hot water and space heat required by the cell block. Our Ohio project is even more ambitious.

In Chillicothe, Ohio we outfitted eight 200-bed cell blocks with 400 patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collectors for space heat and hot water. Corrections officials have been extremely pleased with the results of our equipment and installation.

Efficiency and Production

The secret to effective solar thermal is twofold: efficiency and production. Beginning with efficiency, it is fair to say that there isn’t a single energy technology on the planet capable of 100% efficiency. But solar thermal utilizing evacuated collector tubes is very close. Evacuated tubes suffer very little heat loss in the short amount of time it takes to convert solar energy into heat. Our own collector panels are based on an evacuated tube design.

As far as production is concerned, a single Solar America Solutions collector panel can produce up to 35,000 BTUs per hour in a package with a footprint of just 3′ x 7′. Within that small area, we can get just about 88 ft.² of absorption space using 25 evacuated tubes. Our technology has proven to be the perfect choice for correctional institutions.

Sources:

1. Armen Press – https://armenpress.am/eng/news/871429/solar-thermal-heaters-installed-in-correctional-facilities-in-armenia.html

Solar Thermal Is a Process Heat Machine in Mexico and Chile

One of the first installations we ever worked on at Solar America Solutions involved fitting a poultry farm with a solar collector panel array and peripheral equipment to be used to power a second egg washing machine for their operations. Though that installation was technically for hot water only, you could make the case that we were providing process heat. Since then, we have worked on a number of projects directly involving process heat.

Given our involvement in solar thermal for commercial applications, you can understand how pleased we were to learn of a successful project in Mexico involving solar thermal process heat from mining operations. Yes, solar thermal technology is not limited exclusively to generating space heat and hot water for commercial buildings. It has many more applications limited only by the imagination of designers and engineers.

SunQuest 250

The Mexican project, which was based on a similar project installed in Chile in 2013, provides process heat for copper mining. The project consists of 39,300 m² of solar collector space and a 660 m³ storage tank. Installation was completed in early September. Project officials expect the installation to provide nearly all the process heat needed by the mine.

Learning from the Previous Example

Installation at the La Parreña mine in central Mexico was completed in partnership with the Gabriela Mistral mine in Chile. That earlier project was completed in 2013 and has since produced some 142,000 MWh of process heat for mining operations. However, there is a distinct difference between the two. The project in Chile is large enough to be considered an independent Energy Service Company, requiring it to be managed by a third-party partner. The Mexican installation is far smaller. The mine operators themselves can manage it.

Getting back to the solar thermal installation in Chile, it operates at a near break-even pace. In other words, the 142,000 MWh produced by the installation is almost identical to the amount of energy the mine has used over its 35 months of operation. What goes into the system goes out nearly entirely. It should also be noted that the plant generates a minimum of 80% of its own power at any given time. They have to if they want to avoid government fines.

How It All Works

The solar thermal technology deployed at the mines in Mexico and Chile is based on the same principle we use here at Solar America Solutions. Solar energy is captured by a collector panel that immediately converts it to heat energy and transfers it to a thermal liquid. That thermal liquid is then circulated through a heat exchanger before going back to the collector panels.

Heat from the exchanger can then be distributed in any number of ways. For the mining operations, it’s used mostly for electrolytic refining. In other industrial applications, it could be used to wash down equipment or parts, concentrate liquids, dry materials, or even wash eggs as demonstrated by our poultry farm project.

The potential of solar thermal is really limited only to space constraints. For the typical commercial office building, a rather small number of patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collectors installed on the roof would be sufficient for hot water and space heat. More area would obviously be required for industrial applications requiring space heat, water, and process heat.

For more information about solar thermal technology or our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector, please feel free to contact us anytime. We believe the future of renewable energy resides in solar thermal, and we want to get you on board right away.

Sources:

1.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/mexico-second-solar-process-heat-case-study-copper-mining

Canadian Project Reaches 100% Space Heating Milestone

Canadian officials embarked on an ambitious solar project in 2007 intended to test the limits of solar thermal for district heating purposes. What they have learned in nearly ten years of operation has led to significant improvements that allowed the project to reach the incredible milestone of providing 100% of the space heat required by the project’s 52 energy-efficient homes. While Solar America Solutions has historically focused on commercial applications for solar thermal, we are nonetheless impressed by this accomplishment and recognize the value of district heating as a very viable solution in a residential setting.

The Drake Landing Solar Community outside of Calgary consists of 52 rather spacious homes utilizing solar thermal for both space heat and hot water. Heat is provided via a district heating model that collects and converts solar energy to heat energy at a central location and then piped to homes on its circulation loop. What is not needed immediately is stored in one of two borehole storage tanks for later use. Hot water is provided on a house-by-house basis through individual solar powered water heaters and gas supplementation.

Canada

If you were to see an overhead shot of the neighborhood, you would see each home with a solar collector panel array mounted to the garage. The energy from those panels benefits every member of the neighborhood through district heating and hot water.

Natural Resources Canada has said that the system provided 100% of the required space heat for the 2015-2016 heating season. That is impressive, to say the least. The neighborhood system was originally intended to achieve a solar fraction of about 93% per year, but improvements to the system have helped Natural Resources Canada achieve the 100% milestone.

Sufficient Heating with Less Electricity

Drake Landing officials are obviously pleased with the results as well. For them, it is all about providing district heating at the lowest possible cost. According to project officials, solar thermal district heating uses 8 to 10 times less electricity than traditional heat pumps, which is important in a region that has year-round heating needs. Even in the midst of summer, district heat is still required in the Drake Landing community.

Officials are confident that the results they achieved during the previous heating season are repeatable. Though they aren’t saying whether they will reach 100% again this year, they are confident that they will start seeing repeat seasons in the future.

What It Means to Us

Here at Solar America Solutions, the importance of Drake Landing’s milestone is not lost on us. We have always believed that the potential of solar thermal for space heating and hot water is greater than anyone knows, which is what has prompted us to design and build our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector.

Every day, we are hearing more stories about the success of solar thermal for both residential and commercial applications. This motivates us to continue developing our own technology for the benefit of our customers. The further we can push the solar thermal envelope, the better we will be at meeting the needs of a world changing before our eyes.

We believe solar thermal is the future of renewable energy at multiple levels. Solar thermal already represents one of the most efficient and effective ways of generating energy for hot water and space heat on a property-by-property basis, and there is no reason to believe its potential for more widespread applications is limited. It’s a matter of simply scaling up the technology for size.

Our hats are off to Drake Landing and the impressive performance of their solar thermal project. After ten years of developing reliable renewable energy, they have proven that solar thermal both works and is commercially viable.

Sources:

1.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/canada-solar-district-heat-meets-communitys-entire-space-heating-demand

Solar Thermal Perfect Choice for Correctional Facilities

Solar America Solutions is proud to have worked with corrections officials across the country to install solar thermal solutions in various correctional facilities. Our installations have made it possible for corrections departments to save money on their energy bills by harnessing solar energy to provide space heating and hot water. In short, solar thermal is a perfect renewable energy option for correctional facilities.

What we have accomplished is not isolated only to the United States for that matter. Armenia offers an excellent case in point. A recent press release from Armenia’s justice ministry reveals that solar thermal installations have been deployed at seven different correctional facilities in the Eastern European nation.

SunQuest 250

Detailed information about the installations wasn’t made available, but justice ministry officials say that they should save an average of 50% per institution as a result of deploying solar thermal. Along with their report on the installation, Armen Press published a couple of pictures showing solar thermal collector panels installed in rows outside of one of the correctional facilities.

The pictures show four rows of five collector panels each. Though we cannot accurately say what the capacity of each panel is, what we have seen in the pictures looks to be fairly typical for the industry. There is also an image showing the interior mechanics deployed to convert solar energy into space heat and hot water.

Correctional Facilities Offer Great Environment

Solar America Solutions offers solar thermal installations for all kinds of commercial buildings, including office buildings, dormitories, hospitals, and so on. We are especially pleased to be able to work with correctional facilities because they offer an optimal environment to showcase the potential of solar thermal.

By their nature, correctional facilities contain a lot of wide-open spaces that have to be accommodating to the needs of those institutions while still being efficient. Furthermore, the mechanics required to provide space heat and hot water have to fit in confined spaces and be relatively easy to service. Solar thermal provides everything correctional facilities need in a package that generates significant energy savings over time.

Using our own installations as an example, we fitted a 200-bed cell block at Wabash Valley Correctional Institution in Carlisle, Indiana with 15 of our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collectors and the additional equipment necessary to utilize them. Our installation now supplements the hot water and space heat required by the cell block. Our Ohio project is even more ambitious.

In Chillicothe, Ohio we outfitted eight 200-bed cell blocks with 400 patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collectors for space heat and hot water. Corrections officials have been extremely pleased with the results of our equipment and installation.

Efficiency and Production

The secret to effective solar thermal is twofold: efficiency and production. Beginning with efficiency, it is fair to say that there isn’t a single energy technology on the planet capable of 100% efficiency. But solar thermal utilizing evacuated collector tubes is very close. Evacuated tubes suffer very little heat loss in the short amount of time it takes to convert solar energy into heat. Our own collector panels are based on an evacuated tube design.

As far as production is concerned, a single Solar America Solutions collector panel can produce up to 35,000 BTUs per hour in a package with a footprint of just 3′ x 7′. Within that small area, we can get just about 88 ft.² of absorption space using 25 evacuated tubes. Our technology has proven to be the perfect choice for correctional institutions.

Sources:

Armen Press :https://armenpress.am/eng/news/871429/solar-thermal-heaters-installed-in-correctional-facilities-in-armenia.html

The UK Backs Off Plan to Drop Solar Thermal

Backers of solar thermal in the UK have spent the better part of the last six months lobbying their government to prevent solar thermal from being removed from the UK’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) program. The program is similar to the various tax and credit programs local governments in the U.S. offer for renewable energy installations. UK authorities were planning to drop solar thermal from RHI in 2017 so that money being spent to promote it could be invested elsewhere.

The Solar Trade Association led a coalition of lobbyists to convince UK officials to change their plans. The Association began their efforts in earnest with government consultation this past March, bolstered by the support of business owners opposed to the plan.

london

The typical business owner installing solar thermal in the UK breaks even at about seven years with RHI incentives. In other words, it only takes about seven years for a solar thermal installation to pay for itself. Without RHI incentives, it could take three times as long. The Solar Trade Association and its army of lobbyists argued that eliminating solar thermal from the RHI would prompt business owners to avoid new installations.

Now that the UK government has agreed not to drop solar thermal, there are high hopes for significant expansion in the commercial market. The Solar Trade Association now expects to see the growth it was projecting prior to the March consultation, growth that could help the UK reach its target of 12% renewable heat by 2020.

The Government Incentive Question

Questions about whether government should subsidize solar thermal installations are not unique to the UK. We see the same kinds of things being wrestled with here. Only here, things are a bit more complicated due to the way things are regulated at the federal, state and local levels.

Energy credits are typically the domain of state governments in that utilities are regulated at the state level. However, it’s very common for counties and local municipalities to throw their own credits in as well. The question is always one of how much to spend on incentives and to whom those incentives should be offered.

Here at Solar America Solutions, we have proven that our patented SunQuest 250 solar thermal panel is so efficient and produces so much thermal energy, that systems we have installed have provided a return on investment of less than five years even without government subsidies. However, governments that commit funds to renewable energy demonstrate to the public their support of seeking replacement energy sources that do not rely on fossil fuels.

Solar Thermal in America

Solar America Solutions has been a leader in solar thermal technology since our inception. Here in America, the industry is more focused on commercial applications than residential, which is why our company concentrates on commercial buildings including prison facilities, healthcare facilities, office buildings, dormitories, hotels, and the like.

As solar thermal grows in this country, we are proud to be part of the industry. Our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector is the best of its type in the business, capable of providing up to 35,000 BTUs per hour per panel, across a ten-hour solar day. Combined with the right equipment and a well-designed installation, the SunQuest 250™ can provide nearly all the space heat and hot water a commercial building requires.

UK government and industry officials have come to realize how important solar thermal is to future renewable energy goals. That’s why they have changed course and are now agreeing to include solar thermal in their RHI program. We would do well to learn from their example. Solar thermal is just as important to the future of renewable energy in the U.S.

Sources:

1.Sun & Wind Energy – http://www.sunwindenergy.com/solar-thermal/solar-thermal-to-stay-uk-renewable-heat-incentive

Canadian Project Reaches 100% Space Heating Milestone

Canadian officials embarked on an ambitious solar project in 2007 intended to test the limits of solar thermal for district heating purposes. What they have learned in nearly ten years of operation has led to significant improvements that allowed the project to reach the incredible milestone of providing 100% of the space heat required by the project’s 52 energy-efficient homes. While Solar America Solutions has historically focused on commercial applications for solar thermal, we are nonetheless impressed by this accomplishment and recognize the value of district heating as a very viable solution in a residential setting.

canada

The Drake Landing Solar Community outside of Calgary consists of 52 rather spacious homes utilizing solar thermal for both space heat and hot water. Heat is provided via a district heating model that collects and converts solar energy to heat energy at a central location and then piped to homes on its circulation loop. What is not needed immediately is stored in one of two borehole storage tanks for later use. Hot water is provided on a house-by-house basis through individual solar powered water heaters and gas supplementation.

If you were to see an overhead shot of the neighborhood, you would see each home with a solar collector panel array mounted to the garage. The energy from those panels benefits every member of the neighborhood through district heating and hot water.

Natural Resources Canada has said that the system provided 100% of the required space heat for the 2015-2016 heating season. That is impressive, to say the least. The neighborhood system was originally intended to achieve a solar fraction of about 93% per year, but improvements to the system have helped Natural Resources Canada achieve the 100% milestone.

Sufficient Heating with Less Electricity

Drake Landing officials are obviously pleased with the results as well. For them, it is all about providing district heating at the lowest possible cost. According to project officials, solar thermal district heating uses 8 to 10 times less electricity than traditional heat pumps, which is important in a region that has year-round heating needs. Even in the midst of summer, district heat is still required in the Drake Landing community.

Officials are confident that the results they achieved during the previous heating season are repeatable. Though they aren’t saying whether they will reach 100% again this year, they are confident that they will start seeing repeat seasons in the future.

What It Means to Us

Here at Solar America Solutions, the importance of Drake Landing’s milestone is not lost on us. We have always believed that the potential of solar thermal for space heating and hot water is greater than anyone knows, which is what has prompted us to design and build our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector.

Every day, we are hearing more stories about the success of solar thermal for both residential and commercial applications. This motivates us to continue developing our own technology for the benefit of our customers. The further we can push the solar thermal envelope, the better we will be at meeting the needs of a world changing before our eyes.

We believe solar thermal is the future of renewable energy at multiple levels. Solar thermal already represents one of the most efficient and effective ways of generating energy for hot water and space heat on a property-by-property basis, and there is no reason to believe its potential for more widespread applications is limited. It’s a matter of simply scaling up the technology for size.

Our hats are off to Drake Landing and the impressive performance of their solar thermal project. After ten years of developing reliable renewable energy, they have proven that solar thermal both works and is commercially viable.

Sources:

1. Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/canada-solar-district-heat-meets-communitys-entire-space-heating-demand

Nicaragua Says Yes to Solar Thermal Air Conditioning

When you think solar thermal, you typically think about space heating and hot water. So what would you say if we told you about a project in Nicaragua in which solar thermal will be used for air conditioning? Indeed, Nicaragua’s largest hospital complex just finalized an agreement this past September that will result in the installation of a monstrous 14,000+ square foot system to provide hot water and subsidize air conditioning.

The hospital is a 400-bed complex that broke ground in 2015. Some two years after the fact, hospital operators will be able to flip the switch on the new solar thermal system and immediately start saving a ton of money. They will spend upwards of $4 million on the system; the total building project is estimated to eventually cost $125 million.

managua

Liquefied Gas Savings

Designers have created a system that will use energy from the solar thermal installation to provide nearly 100% of the hospital’s hot water and up to 40% of the air-conditioning. The hot water would normally be supplied by liquefied gas, which can be very expensive in Nicaragua, leading engineers to focus mainly on the hot water solution. As for the air-conditioning, solar thermal will supplement an existing electrical system.

They expect excess energy not consumed by hot water needs to be redirected in a way that reduces the load on the electric compression chillers that will handle the bulk of the air-conditioning. At peak efficiency, engineers expect solar thermal can contribute to between 30% and 40% of the energy needed.

To make solar thermal usable for air-conditioning, heat energy has to be used to generate the electricity compressors and chillers need to operate. One way to do that is through steam. However, officials in Nicaragua say that steam is the one thing not being replaced by solar thermal. Exactly how engineers intend to utilize the solar thermal installation is not known yet, but they will likely direct excess heat energy into an adsorption chiller system, much like a propane refrigerator uses.

The Potential Is Huge

At Solar America Solutions, we are always excited to hear about projects like this one. It shows us that the potential for solar thermal is enormous if engineers just put their minds to coming up with new ways to use it. A few years back, we published a blog post about a group of enterprising college students who developed an ingenious way to use solar thermal for air-conditioning without generating electricity. These are the kinds of ideas that are driving the technology forward.

Meanwhile, solar thermal is being used around the world to provide heat, hot water – and, yes even air-conditioning – in the largest of commercial buildings. Property owners are quickly waking up to the fact that solar thermal is incredibly efficient and cost-effective. Furthermore, a system utilizing evacuated tube collector panels is usable for nearly any kind of installation thanks to its high heat output with a remarkably small footprint.

Solar America Solutions’ patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collectors are the most efficient collectors in the industry. With just a very small footprint required on a rooftop or land area, one of our solar thermal solutions can generate as much as 65% of the energy needed for your building’s hot water and space heat.Over the years, we have installed our systems in prison cell blocks, university dorms, and even a Midwest poultry operation.

Hospital officials in Nicaragua are impressed enough with the benefits of solar thermal that they’re willing to spend $4 million on it. They are doing it because they know it will work. So what’s stopping you?

Sources:

1.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/nicaragua-soft-loan-fund-eur-4-million-project

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

UK Rail Station Experimenting with Solar Thermal

At the Birmingham International railway station in the heart of England, millions of passengers every year make their way through a vast concourse on their way to and from their trains. That concourse includes restaurants, cafés, shops, public seating areas, and restrooms. It is now getting an energy upgrade thanks to a pilot program designed to test the viability of solar thermal for providing the hot water the rail station needs to operate every day.

The Birmingham pilot is a little bit different in that initial plans don’t call for the solar thermal system to be the exclusive provider of hot water to the station and its tenants. Instead, the solar thermal system will preheat water coming in from the city’s main supply before sending it on to the rail station’s dual gas-fired boilers that will finish the job.

british-rail

That said, a successful test of the system may lead engineers to switch exclusively to solar thermal and use the gas fired boilers only as a supplement when necessary. But that decision is still some time in the future. For now, they want to see how well solar thermal works for the purposes they have intended.

Using Evacuated Tube Solar Collector Panels

Like all other highly efficient solar thermal systems, the star of the show in Birmingham are the ten evacuated tube solar collectors mounted on the rail station’s roof. These collectors absorb solar energy from ultraviolet rays, then transfer that energy to a thermal liquid. The benefit of this system is efficiency. An evacuated tube loses very little energy in the transfer process, so almost all the energy absorbed is sent into the system.

The heated thermal liquid is forwarded to a heat exchanger where heat energy is extracted before returning to the collector panel. Extracted heat can either be stored or used immediately to heat water. In principle, the system is rather simple.

Engineers in Birmingham have decided to use their system to preheat a mains water supply that enters the property at roughly 10°F. Water temperature should be as high as 95° before leaving the solar thermal system on the way to the gas-fired boilers. They will increase the input temperature of the water to 140°. But here’s the thing: the solar thermal system should be able to push the main water to 140° or higher during the warm summer months all by itself, eliminating the gas-fired boilers.

Throughout the pilot program, a heat meter will keep track of the system and analyze its benefits and financial savings based on the UK’s Renewable Heat Incentive program. If the system proves successful – and there’s no reason to believe it will not – we can easily see similar systems installed at rail stations around the country.

Solar Thermal Is Where It’s At

For years, our focus for solar energy has been on systems that convert sunlight directly into electricity. While these systems have proven their worth in some areas, they have not proven to be as efficient and cost-effective as solar thermal for space heat and hot water. In short, solar thermal is where it’s at.

The Birmingham International rail station is on the verge of learning how beneficial solar thermal can actually be. But they are by no means the first. Here at Solar America Solutions, we have already been part of numerous installations at all kinds of commercial and government buildings. Throughout the U.S., countless property owners have come to realize that the best way to provide space heat and hot water using renewable energy is to go solar thermal.

Sources:

  • Modern Building Services – http://www.modbs.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/16265/Railway_station_trials_solar-thermal_for_DHW_.html