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Posts tagged ‘solar’

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.


1. Armen Press –

Simplicity Is Key to Solar Thermal Installation in Denmark

As a leading player in America’s solar thermal industry, we have heard all the arguments against renewable energy. The sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow, and there is no way to depend on renewable sources to the same degree we can depend on fossil fuels. Well, officials in Marstal, Denmark have heard the same criticisms. That hasn’t stopped them from generating more than half of the heat required by a town of 2,300 via solar thermal.

Marstal is just one of a small number of communities occupying space on Aero Island off the southern coast of Denmark. It is a community that has long lived according to the dictates of the sea. It is a community that has long depended on nature to supply its most basic needs. So when they decided to embark on a solar thermal project to provide district heating, they were determined to make it work despite the region’s reputation for frigid weather. And work it does.


On the outside of town is a field with more area than six football fields, filled with solar thermal collector panels. Those panels are connected to a network of underground pipes through which flows water used to provide central district heating. The panels collect solar energy, then transfer it to a thermal liquid that is circulated through a heat exchanger. The extracted heat is then transferred to the water circulating through the system.

Year-Round Space Heat

So far you haven’t read anything that would suggest this installation is unusual. Still, you might be wondering how Marstal manages to generate 55% of its heat in an environment that gets limited sunshine during the winter months. They deployed a simple solution that has proven very effective. The Marstal heating project does not rely on anything other than an insulated, underground tank that holds water heated by solar thermal panels.

That’s right; something as simple as burying an insulated tank stores enough heated water to provide more than half of the space heat the town needs year-round. Obviously, it would be better to have a storage solution that could provide 100% of the heat, but that solution is not yet available. In the meantime, a system that provides 55% of the heat is remarkable. Even more impressive is the fact that it puts no additional strain on Denmark’s electrical system.

Denmark is a nation in which roughly 60% of the structures are connected to district heating. This is motivation for Danish officials to figure out how to provide cost-effective centralized heat without having to depend on fossil fuels. They have found that solution in solar thermal.

If They Can Do It in Denmark

It’s not unusual for us to hear that solar thermal is impractical for year-round space heat and hot water. We beg to differ. What many people don’t know is that our patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collector doesn’t need direct sunlight in order to be effective. That’s why it generates energy even in the dead of winter.

Our solar collector panel utilizes evacuated tube technology along with an absorption material that captures ultraviolet energy instead of direct sunlight. That means our collector panel is absorbing solar energy even on cloudy and overcast days. With a properly designed system including efficient storage, an installation based on our patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collectors can provide virtually all the hot water and space heat for your commercial building. If they can do it in Denmark on such a large-scale, we can certainly do it for your building as well.


1. –

San Francisco Plan Will Make Solar Installations a Requirement

We all know that California has a reputation for leading the way in the adoption of new ideas. With that in mind, we are anxious to see what comes of San Francisco’s GoSolarSF project now that the local Board of Supervisors is recommending a permanent solar installation requirement. The Board is urging both the city and county to make permanent a program that requires solar installations on all new builds and any existing properties undergoing significant retrofits.

GoSolarSF was established in 2008 to encourage property owners to choose solar installations using rooftop solar collector panels. The program received a boost in 2014 when government promised to infuse the program with $10 million annually for two years. Since that time, more than $19 million has been invested in incentives for property owners.


Solar Server magazine reports on its website that the program has already met many of its objectives, a reality partially responsible for the Board of Supervisors recommending the city of San Francisco adopt new solar goals and require solar installations on new builds and retrofits.

What They Hope to Achieve

Assuming the city and county will implement the suggestions put forth by the Board of Supervisors, the question will become one of what they hope to achieve. There are a number of objectives:

  • Reduce the Cost of Solar – Widespread adoption of solar installations in San Francisco has already lowered the price of the technology by as much as 50% compared to what was in place when GoSolarSF was first established. Proponents hope to see pricing continue to drop in the future.
  • Affordable Housing – Because solar installations (particularly solar thermal) significantly reduces energy bills, installing solar equipment in new builds will make housing more affordable. San Francisco sees a lot of benefits here, with large blocks of apartment buildings.
  • Property Values – Proponents of the plan maintain that solar installations increase property values by reducing energy costs. This would be true for both commercial and residential structures.
  • Energy Goals – Requiring solar installations on new builds and significant retrofits will make it easier for the city and county to reach an annual sustainability goals by 2020.

San Francisco’s goals for solar installations may seem lofty in some places, but we have come to expect this sort of thing from California. They tend to see the future of sustainable fuel a lot more quickly than the rest of the country and are much more willing to be proactive about it.

The interesting thing about the Board of Supervisors’ recommendations is that they do not specify what kind of solar installation needs to be installed on future construction projects, only that something is installed to help the city meet its solar goals. Given that freedom, we believe solar thermal will win the day as the most efficient and cost-effective way to use solar energy technology.

Solar thermal is incredibly efficient at collecting energy from the sun and using it to generate heat that can then be used to create hot water, keep interior spaces warm, drive industrial processes, and more. In fact, we are just beginning to understand the seemingly limitless potential for solar thermal energy.

At Solar America Solutions, we are leading the way in solar thermal with our patented SunQuest 250® solar collector panel – the most efficient and cost-effective panel in the industry. The SunQuest 250® is the perfect collector panel for the kinds of installations we expect to see in San Francisco. If you would like to know more, do not hesitate to contact us.

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.


  • Brainerd Dispatch –

A Solar Winter: Using the Sun to Battle Snow

The recent blizzard that buried the East Coast in a mountain of snow left millions of residential sidewalks and driveways impassible. Homeowners used shovels, snowblowers, and any other tools they could get their hands on to clear away enough of the snow just to be able to get to work. However, one family in Paramus, NJ had nothing to do while their neighbors battled the elements. All of the snow that landed on their sidewalk and driveway melted away thanks to a solar thermal heating system that kept the pavement warm.

Homeowner Raj Parikh installed the radiant heating system as part of a complete overhaul of his modest suburban home. His rebuild project was undertaken with one goal in mind: to create a truly green house that uses no natural gas or heating oil for any purpose. During the rebuild, he got the idea to install the exterior heating system as a way of “using the environment to battle the environment,” according to Parikh.

How It Works

Parikh’s snow melting system starts with rainwater collection that stores hundreds of gallons of water in multiple insulated tanks. That water is kept at a constant 105° by way of a solar thermal system that collects ultraviolet energy from the sun and transfers the energy to the water by way of heat.

Activating the system to melt snow sends the warm water through a series of tubes and pipes running under the concrete. According to Parikh, the water running through the system maintains a temperature of about 100°, effectively melting snow at a rate of about an inch-and-a-half every hour. But that’s not all. The water created by the melt is also collected, recycled, and used for irrigation, laundry, and the toilet.


Solar Thermal Gets It Done

Using the sun to battle snow is an incredibly creative way to take advantage of solar thermal technology. What Mr. Parikh and his family have done in New Jersey proves the potential of solar thermal for a variety of applications, both around the home and in commercial environments. This potential is why we are so excited about the future of solar thermal in America.

Solar America Solutions has designed, and now manufactures and sells, our industry-leading SunQuest 250 solar collector unit. We combine the SunQuest 250 with additional equipment including pumps, heat exchangers, and storage tanks to create systems capable of providing all of the space heat and hot water required by a commercial building. Our systems have also been adapted to generate industrial process heat as well.

Our systems work on the same principle as Parikh’s snow-melting system. Solar collector panels absorb heat energy from the sun, then transfer that heat energy via a thermal liquid in a closed loop. A heat exchanger allows us to apply the heat energy to a variety of applications – whether it be space heat, water heater, or industrial equipment that uses heat in its operation.

While we concentrate primarily on commercial buildings, we can see the potential of solar thermal systems like ours for a variety of residential purposes. If one family in New Jersey can completely rework their home so that it has no use for fossil fuels, many more homes can also be reworked. New construction can be equipped with solar thermal systems as well, making it possible for all of us to use the environment as an active partner in maintaining it.

For more information about solar thermal and its potential in your commercial building, we invite you to contact Solar America Solutions at 317-688-8581. Let’s see what we can do for you.


  • Paramus Daily Voice –

New Storage Technology Could Revolutionize Solar Thermal Industry

Solar thermal energy production is one of the most promising renewable energy models we have to work with right now. Yet it does have its limitations, not the least of which is energy storage. Research now being undertaken at Oregon State University could be a definite game changer by creating a new storage solution that makes solar thermal exponentially more effective and cost-efficient. This new storage technology could revolutionize the solar thermal industry if researchers are able to find a way to get to market.

Current solar thermal technology does allow for storage of unused energy during the day. We use a system of storage tanks to capture and store unused solar heat that can then be utilized to continue providing hot water and space heat once the sun goes down. Yet modern storage systems are not ideal. The industry would like to have a solution that is considerably more efficient and powerful. That goal is at the core of the Oregon state University research.


Concentrated Thermochemical Storage

Researchers are now working on an advanced thermochemical storage facility that can both store and reuse concentrated solar thermal heat through a complex chemical process. Their focus is on creating a storage device that would enhance our ability to use solar thermal to generate electricity in conventional power plants. But any storage device developed for this purpose could be scaled down for use in individual solar thermal installations in commercial buildings.

The principle behind thermochemical storage is rather simple. A storage unit is constructed using a variety of components and chemicals that very much resemble a conventional battery. When heat energy is introduced into the storage device, a chemical reaction takes place that causes that heat energy to be stored. Upon discharge, the heat is then transferred out of the storage device into whatever equipment is utilizing it.

The researchers at Oregon State University are taking this concept one step further by utilizing a group of chemicals capable of doing two amazing things. First, the chemicals can theoretically store heat energy for an unlimited amount of time with little or no loss. Second, the chemical process that occurs during discharge produces additional heat that can also be harnessed.

Solving the Storage Issue Opens Doors

Renewable energy development must always be undertaken with the understanding that none of our current sources of renewable energy is 100% reliable. The sun does not always shine, the wind does not always blow, and water does not always move. Therefore, storage capacity is necessary. A reliable storage model is the missing link that could make it possible for us to completely replace fossil fuels in the future.

That day is still a long way off in all likelihood. In the meantime, our focus is on developing the most efficient solar collector panels and storage devices possible. With each new development, we are one step closer to making solar thermal the default renewable energy option worldwide.

Here at home, Solar America Solutions focuses on solar thermal for heat and hot water in commercial buildings. Our systems are highly effective and efficient due to the evacuated tube design of our SunQuest 250 collector panel. A single 25-bulb collector is capable of producing up to 35,000 BTUs per hour in a package with a total rooftop footprint of as little as 21 ft.².

To date, we have installed our systems in prison cellblocks, college dorms, office buildings, industrial buildings, and even agricultural facilities. We would be happy to discuss the potential of solar thermal for your commercial property,. If you want to know more, contact us at 317-688-8581.


  • Power Electronics –

France Sets Its Sights on Large-Scale Solar Thermal Installations

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

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

SunQuest 250

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

Solar Thermal for Commercial Buildings

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

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

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

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

The Future of Solar Thermal

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

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


  • Solar Thermal World –

Brazilian City Mandates Solar Thermal for All New Builds

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

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


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

Overcoming Fear and Misconception

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

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

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

Economics a Strong Motivator

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

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

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


  • Solar Thermal World –

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.


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.


  • Sun Wind Energy –