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Posts tagged ‘SunQuest 250 solar thermal collector panel’

Net-Positive Solar Thermal Installation Shows Potential

There is an ongoing debate over the proliferation of solar thermal technology as opposed to its photovoltaic cousin. As you may already know, critics of solar thermal have been playing its funeral dirge for years now. Yet the technology still continues to evolve and thrive as evidenced by a project recently profiled by HuffPost Canada, a project that shows the potential of innovative solar thermal designs.

The installation was designed for a combined garage-residential suite in Calgary, Alberta. Homeowner Tom Jackson wanted to convert his rather sizable garage into a dual-space unit that offered him workspace along with a residential suite he could rent out. At the start of the design phase, he was determined to use solar technologies to create a net-positive structure. He succeeded.

SunQuest 250

PV Alone Was Not Enough

Jackson’s original concept called for a PV installation that would generate all the electricity needed by the suite. But that strategy proved insufficient for creating a non-positive structure. There was still the pesky issue of space heat and hot water, a major source of energy consumption. Since, Canadian homes devote as much as 70% of their total energy usage to heating, PV alone was just not going to cut it.

Jackson decided on a solar thermal installation that would provide all the space heat and hot water needs. He integrated the system with electrically-powered heat pumps that could keep the system’s thermal liquid at the optimal temperature without sacrificing heating potential.

Spectacular Results Achieved

So how did it work? Quite well. In fact, on most days the system generates more than enough heat to keep the space warm. Plenty of hot water is always available too. Any extra heat is transferred to the main house as supplemental heat. Jackson estimates that his investment in both systems will be completely paid off within 20 years.

Amazingly, Jackson’s installation has eliminated the need for natural gas. The combination of a state-of-the-art solar thermal system, extra insulation, a metal roof, and triple-pane windows has made his garage suite the envy of the neighborhood. His combined systems do so well that he generates more energy than he can use during the summer months. During the winter, the entire garage suite is heated entirely by solar thermal with enough excess heat to supplement the main home.

Solar Thermal Right Solution

While Solar America Solutions has not historically focused on residential installations, we have developed and are in the process of introducing, a very viable residential package that the average plumber or “do-it-yourselfer” can install. For that reason, we thought it important to talk about this Calgary installation because it demonstrates that solar thermal is the right solution for space heat and hot watereven in residential applications. It cannot be argued that, from the standpoint of ROI, carbon emission reduction, and long-term durability, solar thermal is far superior to photovoltaic.

Average estimates suggest that solar thermal can provide up to 70% of a structure’s space heat and hot water under normal conditions. Under optimal conditions, the amount could be even more. That makes solar thermal the right solution for your commercial building, and even for your home.

If you are looking to save on space heat and hot water, there is no better alternative than solar thermal. Furthermore, there is no better solar thermal provider than Solar America Solutions. We are an industry leader offering customers the patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector panel capable of developing up to 35,000 BTUs per hour and output temperatures as high as 500° F.

When you choose a Solar America Solutions installation, you are choosing a system that can pay for itself in five years or less. You are choosing a system based on a proven evacuated tube solar collector panel that relies on ultraviolet rays to generate heat energy. You are choosing a system that requires just 21 square feet of installation space per collector panel.

Sources:

HuffPost Canada – http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/david-dodge/solar-thermal-101_b_16986626.html

Are Building Codes the Path to Solar Thermal?

If there is one thing we could change about the solar thermal industry in America, it would be the hesitance of people to get on board. There are lots of reasons to explain the less-than-enthusiastic response to solar thermal and other renewable energy solutions, but along with those reasons, we have to have some workable solutions. For example, do building codes represent a path to more widespread adoption?

Building codes have been used for generations as a means of requiring builders to meet minimum standards of quality, efficiency, and safety. It is optimistic to think that new building codes mandating solar thermal would fly in the U.S., but they appear to be working elsewhere. Panama is but one example.

SunQuest 250

Panama’s Sustainable Construction Standard

Panama has been making a concerted effort to embrace sustainable energy construction since 2015. Along with a National Energy Plan that sets out an ambitious goal of 70% renewable energy consumption by 2050, lawmakers have also created what they call the Sustainable Construction Standard Guide for all new buildings.

The guide is the result of a government resolution aimed at reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions in new buildings by 15% within the next year. Lawmakers are looking for a 20% reduction after two years. They believe solar thermal heating will be key to meeting their objectives.

Meeting the goals has involved Panama’s national government pushing local municipalities in the past to incentivize solar thermal for heating and hot water. They say financial incentives are supported by estimates that healthcare facilities can reduce their energy consumption by more than 5% while hotels could reduce energy used for heating by more than 19%. Hotels can derive at least 50% of their hot water from a solar thermal solution as well. Due to the world-class efficiency of our U.S. patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal panels, we have seen even higher fossil-fuel energy reduction at installations across the United States.

Unfortunately, some local governments have been reluctant to incentivize. New building regulations may take that option away. As the thinking goes, an unwillingness by local authorities to incentivize renewable energy leaves it to the federal government to force things through new building codes.

The Savings Are Real

The general mood here in the States is one that bristles against government mandates of any kind. That is completely understandable in a country that takes immense pride in freedom and independence. Still, countries like Panama are mandating solar thermal and other renewable energy solutions because studies have consistently shown the savings are real.

It turns out the average payback period in Panama is 2.6 years for hotels and three years for healthcare facilities. Payback can take between six and 15 years for residential buildings. This suggests that while mandates for residential buildings may be somewhat less advantageous for Panamanian homeowners, those same mandates are unlikely to harm clearly attractive for commercial applications like manufacturers, universities, hotels and healthcare facilities.

No, building codes that encourage the use of solar thermal for space heating hot water are not popular in the U.S. But that does not mean there is no viable way to incentivize property owners to invest in the technology. State and local governments are already actively incentivizing through subsidy programs to help cover the cost of solar thermal projects. As such, the average Solar America Solutions installation can be paid for within five years or less. That is a payback period our customers can definitely live with.

Solar America Solutions is proud to be an industry leader in solar thermal technology for commercial applications. Our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector panel is one of the most efficient and productive panels in the industry. If you’ve been thinking about a solar thermal installation for your commercial building, we invite you to learn more about the SunQuest 250™.

Sources:

Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/panama-solar-thermal-benefit-new-building-regulations

Andalusia, Spain Brings Back Renewable Energy Support

Solar America Solutions is just one of many companies around the U.S. actively supporting government incentives for renewable energy initiatives. Proof of the critical nature of incentives to help propel the proliferation of sustainable energy and carbon emission reduction can be found in examples all over the world, including southern Spain.

The Andalusia region of southern Spain has long been that country’s hottest market for renewable energy – including solar thermal. In the few years leading up to and including 2015, more than 1.1 million square meters of solar collector area were installed in Andalusia. That accounts for just under one-third of Span’s total solar energy footprint.

andalusia

Things changed when the Andalusian government started cutting back on incentives in mid-2015. The cuts led to a 12% drop in installations the following year. According to sources, Spain saw 50,000 fewer square meters of installation in 2016 as compared to the year before. The good news is that the Andalusian government agreed to restore incentives earlier this year.

The incentives apply to a full range of renewable energy options, solar thermal included. Solar thermal installations are eligible for incentives of up to 85% of the total cost of installation. Even on the low end, a 30% incentive could be enough to push the buyer over the edge.

Prioritizing Our Goals

When you look at the situation in Andalusia, it quickly becomes apparent that incentive programs are critical to encouraging people to invest in renewable energy. It also becomes apparent that a loss of incentives is enough to cause interest in renewable technologies to fall drastically. So it appears to be a matter of prioritizing our goals.

Solar America Solutions provide solar thermal systems for space heat and hot water in commercial buildings. In a perfect world, our customers would have the money up front to invest in new solar thermal solutions. But quite often they don’t. Moreover, obtaining financing to install a solar thermal system is not necessarily as easy as it sounds. Without incentive programs in place, it’s often just easier to stick with what is already there.

If our national priorities include reducing dependence on fossil fuels and reducing carbon emissions, are we willing to put our dollars behind it? That is the real question. Federal and state agencies have long provided incentives to encourage certain kinds of behavior among businesses and consumers. Applying incentives to renewable energy projects is in line with such a strategy. Is solar thermal important enough to support through robust incentive programs? We believe it is.

A Self-Paying Solution

The Solar America Solutions system is built around our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collector panel. Just one of our panels is capable of producing up to 35,000 BTUs per hour with output temperatures of nearly 500° F. The savings realized through a solar thermal system are enough that the average business can completely recoup its investment within 3 to 5 years, with government incentives included. Take those incentives away and the payback period is extended.

Keeping incentives in place makes one of our solar thermal solutions a self-paying solution after just a few years, typically less than five and often as little as three. And once a system is fully paid for, a building owner enjoys nothing but ongoing savings for the life of the system. That means less money spent on grid energy, fewer fossil fuels being burned for hot water and space heat, and less stress on the environment.

Andalusia did the right thing by reinstating its incentive program. There are lessons to be learned from them, both here and abroad.

Sources:

Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/spain-andalusia-supports-38-renewable-energy-and-energy-efficiency-measures

German Company Takes Solar Thermal Shopping Online

It would not be unusual to assume that solar thermal and online technologies, being relatively new in the grand scheme of things, easily coexist in the same marketplace. This is not necessarily true. Take a German company that recently began allowing customers to shop for solar thermal installations online, as an example. Their business plan seems to be drawing some consternation from skeptical installers who think the online model might hinder business.

Vaillant is a German company specializing in the manufacture of boilers and heating equipment. Their new online sales platform makes it possible for customers to shop and compare without ever having to visit a showroom or call to speak with a representative. But there are a couple of catches.

europe

First, critics of the system say it is not easy to understand. Customers have to go through a two-stage process that includes a rather lengthy questionnaire designed to determine what kind of heating system they are looking for. Customers can also choose a particular price range.

The second catch is that the prices shown on the platform are only rough estimates based on current retail prices in the customer’s given market. Before any purchase is made, an installation specialist has to visit the premises to create an accurate estimate. Vaillant will be working with licensed installers to handle estimates and installations in local areas under their brand.

A Model That Could Work

Despite concerns that the online model will stifle competitiveness among local installers, it is a model that could work well once all of the details are ironed out. We can see it being especially attractive to millennials and younger baby boomers who have already shown an affinity for shopping online. Comparing without leaving home is pretty attractive.

Imagine a platform whereby the solar thermal customer could compare different equipment choices along with installers and designers. Competition tends to result in better pricing and service, potentially opening the door to more opportunities for consumers. On the other hand, competition can be stifled if the online platform provider restricts access to certain equipment manufacturers, dealers and installers.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the German program over the next 12 to 18 months. If Vaillant can make it work well, keeping both consumers and installers happy, there is no reason the same idea would not work elsewhere. Perhaps we are on the verge of seeing solar thermal become as widely adopted online as any other product in the digital marketplace.

Solar Thermal Is Cost-Effective and Efficient

We can see a lot of potential in offering solar thermal installations via an online shopping platform if, for no other reason, the fact that the internet makes it a lot easier to quantify the efficiency of solar thermal in ways consumers can understand. Through graphics, comparison charts, etc., companies could offer overviews of their equipment side-by-side with their competitors. Customers could easily see how different systems stack up against one another.

Done right, it could be a viable platform for our SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collector panel. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Comparative shopping platforms are not as big here in the U.S. as they are in Europe, so it’s better that we wait to see how the German platform works out.

In the meantime, we invite you to contact Solar America Solutions for more information about solar thermal technology for your commercial building. Our systems can provide more than adequate space heat, hot water, and process heat at an affordable cost that will save you money for years to come. We invite you to check out our website’s Energy Savings Calculators on our home page and get a preliminary estimate of what our system can save you on an annual basis (www.solaramericasolutions.com).

Sources:

1.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/germany-vaillant-establishes-end-customer-online-platform

Czech Republic: Trade-Offs Keep Solar Thermal Subsidy Going

A government subsidy program in the Czech Republic that has been aimed primarily at increasing solar thermal installations since its inception has been granted additional funding through 2021. However, in order to keep the subsidy, the government had to implement a number of trade-offs between solar thermal and other alternative energy technologies. In the end, the deal is good for everyone involved because it keeps subsidies in place for another five years.

The subsidy program, known as Nova Zalena Usporam (New Green Savings), began with the first phase implemented in 2014 with CZK 1.9 billion ($80 million USD) in funding. The second phase received 0.9 billion in the spring of 2015. Phase 3 started this past October (2015) with total funding of 27 billion through 2021, providing roughly 4.4 billion annually.

The good news is that the total budget for the subsidy has increased significantly. However, one of the trade-offs is that less money will be made available to solar thermal as a result of the program expanding to include other technologies as well. More money is now available for those other technologies in the hope that builders and property owners will be more motivated to go green.

czech

Despite less money for subsidies, solar thermal investors see a silver lining in the revised program: the government has removed a former requirement that buildings undergo an energy audit before receiving funding to install a solar water heating system. Energy audits will now be required only on projects utilizing multiple, combined technologies in the same space.

Subsidy Programs Changing around the World

Subsidies in the Czech Republic are changing to accommodate an evolving energy environment. In that part of Europe, local communities are struggling to balance the need for reliable municipal heating with the desires of property owners to increase their energy efficiency with alternative technologies for water heating and space heat. At the same time, there are multiple technologies now competing to Eastern Europe’s move away from fossil fuels. Subsidies are a major player.

We say all that, to impart that subsidy programs are changing around the world. They have to in order to adapt. Some of the programs are being expanded to be more friendly to solar thermal; others are reducing support for solar thermal to direct more money to other options. This is the natural cycle of business. It tells us that solar thermal is established as a technology for the future and is now expected to start taking steps to stand on its own. So even though solar thermal will have less money to work with in the Czech Republic over the next five years, changes in the subsidy program are actually a good sign.

Solar Thermal Here at Home

Here at home, the subsidy environment is somewhat different. The way our system is set up prevents any sort of substantial federal incentive programs from being established. Rather, most subsidies and incentives are offered at the state level. Even individual municipalities will offer incentives and programs from time to time. The less centralized system we operate under makes it easy to forget that incentives are available for people looking to install solar thermal technology.

Many of the projects we have worked on in the past involved state subsidies in one form or another. Between those incentive programs and the efficiency of our SunQuest 250 solar thermal collector panel, customers recoup their costs within just a few years of installation. Then they begin enjoying the benefits of lower utility bills and less dependence on grid energy for their hot water and space heat.

Sources:

  • Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/czech-republic-residential-subsidy-scheme-until-2021-more-eligible-technologies

Market Report Shows Good Results But There Is Room for Improvement

The annual Solar Heat Worldwide report is a useful tool for giving those of us in the industry a current benchmark. The report for 2015 is no exception. It shows excellent results in terms of worldwide deployment of solar thermal systems while also clearly identifying areas where the industry has room for improvement. The annual report is produced on behalf of the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Program (SHC).

The data for the 2015 report was compiled using statistics from 56 countries covering about 95% of the world market for solar thermal. Researchers requested data regarding both existing solar thermal deployments and new builds for 2013, to put together a worldwide picture of industry growth. The numbers are superb, to say the least.

According to the report, the newly installed solar thermal collector capacity for 2013 amounted to 55 GW-TH (Gigawatts-Thermal) and a total area of 78.6 million square meters. Even more encouraging is the fact that evacuated tube solar collector panels increased from 9.7% to 11.3% of total market share from 2012 to 2013.

good-results

Room for Improvement

Despite the growth and expansion of solar thermal around the world, the 2015 report certainly shows there is more work to do in two areas. First is the total growth of solar thermal in major markets. Solar thermal grew by 35% in 2010; growth fell to 2% in 2013 largely due to the Indian market all but collapsing. India’s negative growth for 2013 was due to a sudden termination of the country’s subsidy program amidst government bureaucracy. Turning things around will require India’s government to rethink solar thermal again.

The other area of improvement has to do with where solar thermal is being deployed. The 2015 report shows that 76% of the solar thermal deployments worldwide are residential applications related to single-family homes. That’s good, but what can work for the single-family home can also work for commercial buildings. Just 1% of the solar thermal capacity in use around the world right now provides process heat or space heat/hot water for commercial applications.

The industry has plenty of room for growth where commercial applications are concerned. From our perspective, the key to improvement lies in better educating commercial building owners about the power and potential solar thermal. It is an exciting technology that has already been proven to work for all sorts of applications.

Solar America Solutions Examples

Solar America Solutions has already proven the viability of solar thermal for commercial applications. For example, we installed our SunQuest 250 solar collector panels at an Ohio poultry farm that needed to replace an aging boiler system. Our solar system provided almost all of the hot water required by the farm for egg washing. The system proved so successful that we were invited back to deploy a second system when the farm expanded its operations.

In terms of space heat and hot water, Solar America Solutions worked with the state of Indiana to install a system for a new cellblock at one of their correctional institutions. Again, the installation was so successful that we were invited back to engineer additional systems for the state.

The truth is that solar thermal is an excellent option for commercial purposes. A well-designed system built with reliable equipment can provide space heat, hot water, and process heat for virtually any purpose. Solar America Solutions’ SunQuest 250 solar thermal collector panel is a state-of-the-art, industry-leading panel built on highly efficient evacuated tube technology and designed specifically for commercial applications. We invite you to contact us to learn more about solar thermal for your commercial building. Call 317-688-8581 to find out how our systems can work for you.

Sources:

  • Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/iea-shc-market-report-aggregates-56-country-statistics

Solar Thermal: Is MA Model Right for the Rest of the Country?

Just a few months ago, the state of Massachusetts increased the rebates offered through its solar thermal energy program from $50,000 to $100,000 for commercial applications and $3,500 to $4,500 for residential. They are the most generous rebates for solar thermal in the country. The question is, is the Massachusetts model right for the rest of the country?

The Bay State’s rebate program has been in force since January 2011 for commercial customers. Residential customers were included later that year. Since the start of the program, nearly 700 applications for solar thermal installations have been received; only one has been denied. By all accounts, Massachusetts is succeeding in encouraging property owners to use solar thermal technology for heat and hot water needs.

The beauty of the Massachusetts model is that the funding does not come directly from state coffers by way of taxes. Rather, every residential and commercial utility customer in the state pays a surcharge included on monthly bills to fund the program. The state says that the surcharge is the best way to ensure the program does not run out of money. That may not always be true if the rebates continue to see increases, but that is another story for another day.

Better Payback

Solar thermal is not the only technology qualifying for subsidies in the state of Massachusetts. Nevertheless, according to a piece published by Solar Thermal World, one equipment supplier and installer in the state told them solar thermal is where the money is. This is true for both the customer and the installer.

massachusetts

The efficiency and production capacity of solar thermal far outpaces photovoltaic for space heating and hot water applications, as well as a fast return on investment. Solar thermal is a technology that pays for itself in just a couple of years, even without subsidies, making it very attractive with the generous rebates offered by the state of Massachusetts. It also requires a much smaller installation space, it is highly scalable, and it works well even on cold, cloudy and overcast days.

As for installers and distributors, the photovoltaic market is so crowded that competition is stiff and profit margins are falling. Companies focusing mainly on solar thermal are saying seeing just the opposite. The solar thermal business is very attractive at this point in the game.

Solar Thermal with Solar America

It is great to see what Massachusetts is doing to encourage people to give solar thermal technology a try. Here at Solar America Solutions, we have been involved with this technology for years. In fact, our SunQuest 250 solar thermal collector panel is the best performing collector of its kind on the market today. Working at a rate of 94% efficiency, the SunQuest 250 can produce up to 35,000 BTUs per hour at a temperature in excess of 400° F.

A Solar America Solutions system is the perfect option for government buildings, educational institutions, hospitals, agricultural operations, manufacturing facilities, and more. We can custom design a system for your application to include solar collector panels, control units, pumps, storage tanks, and anything else you need to start saving significant amounts of money on your energy bill.

Solar thermal is the renewable energy source of the future. The state of Massachusetts understands that, providing businesses and residential customers with incentives to convert. We hope that other states will learn from their example. In the meantime, we encourage you to consider embracing solar thermal no matter where you are in the United States. Solar America Solutions would be happy to work with your business or government agency to implement solar thermal for your space heating and hot water needs.

Sources:

1. Solar Thermal World – http://solarthermalworld.org/content/usa-solar-thermal-focus-against-mainstream