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