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Global Solar Thermal Market Now in Transition

What is it that most people think of when talking about solar thermal technology to generate space heat and hot water? Residential applications involving single-family homes and multi-unit apartment blocks. Since the inception of the solar revolution, the world has focused primarily on engaging individual homeowners to look at solar as a source of supplemental energy. Now things are changing. We are beginning to see the transition from a residential focus to a commercial one.

According to the Global Solar Thermal Energy Council (GSTEC), single-family homes have long been the most significant sales segment for solar thermal in Europe. It has not caught on as much for residential homes in the U.S., primarily because our solar focus has been on photovoltaic conversion of sunlight into electricity. Even so, commercial applications of solar thermal are becoming more important as technology makes them more affordable, practical and energy-efficient.

The GSTEC predicts a massive worldwide shift away from residential applications to commercial applications over the next 5 to 10 years. The shift is already being observed in places such as China, Austria and France, in which residential sales have fallen in the last few years. Solar thermal manufacturers in those countries agree that commercial sales will outpace residential by 2020.


Here in the U.S., the GSTEC sees government incentive programs driving commercial sales of solar thermal applications for the next decade. They cite California, Maryland, Massachusetts and North Carolina as just four examples of states now making incentive programs available to commercial enterprises. They believe those incentives will spread to other states in the coming years.

By all accounts, it appears as though the global solar thermal market is ready to begin aggressively pursuing commercial applications for sales. It is not that the residential market has no more room for solar thermal (it does); it is just that the commercial applications are much broader and more cost-effective.

Following Our Lead

At Solar America Solutions, we would like to think that the rest of the world is following our lead in terms of commercial solar thermal applications. Since the inception of our company, we have focused solely on the commercial sector with our SunQuest 250 solar thermal collector unit and related equipment. We believe in the power of solar thermal for commercial applications because we have seen great results from implementing it.

A SunQuest 250 system is capable of producing nearly all of the space heat and hot water a building needs with greatly reduced reliance on fossil fuels. Installing one of our systems takes advantage of the sun’s ultraviolet rays to generate heat that is transferred to a heat exchange system by way of a thermal liquid. The efficiency of our system enables it to get the job done with only a small amount of open space needed on a rooftop or adjacent property.

To date, we have successfully installed our solar thermal systems at prisons, educational institutions, agricultural operations and business enterprises throughout the Midwest. Our customers have been so satisfied with the results that we have been asked to return to deploy future installations. For example, one of our first projects was replacing a boiler system at a poultry farm with a solar thermal solution that has provided nearly all of the hot water necessary to wash the farm’s eggs. The customer was impressed enough that we were invited back when it came time to build a new facility.

We agree that the future of solar thermal lies with commercial applications. That is why Solar America Solutions is proud to provide the SunQuest 250 system for hot water and space heat.


Solar Thermal World –

China’s Solar Thermal Moving Toward Industrial Use

China’s solar thermal development has traditionally been focused on meeting the energy needs of residential homes. The Chinese government has used the technology to do the same thing that we do at Solar American Solutions – provide hot water and space heat – at government housing units in their cities. Their efforts have been so successful that they are now beginning to look at industrial applications.

According to Sun Vision’s “China’s Solar Thermal Development Market Book (2013-2014)”, the residential market still accounts for about 50% of the total solar thermal installations in China. However, that market is shrinking while others are expanding. For example, more projects are being developed to provide hot water and space heat for entire blocks of buildings at Chinese universities, primary schools, and hospital campuses. Solar thermal companies are also working on larger scale projects for the building integration segment.

Building Integration vs. Single Unit

For the Chinese residential market, planners have been content to work with single storage tanks and heat exchangers installed separately for each individual housing unit. The idea behind building integration is to use single storage tanks and heat exchangers in a centralized location, to provide the heat and hot water for an entire building.

At Solar America Solutions, we have already demonstrated that solar thermal can be effectively applied in this manner. In fact, our installations do not involve residential applications for single-family homes. We focus entirely on the commercial and industrial sectors where building integration is a necessary part of the equation.


One of our first large-scale projects involved a prison cellblock at an Indiana correctional facility. We have also installed our solar thermal technology at college dorms, agricultural enterprises, and more. We have developed a solar thermal solution that can provide the space heat and hot water commercial or industrial buildings need, while being completely integrated into the building’s current systems.

Making it all possible is the powerful and efficient SunQuest 250 solar thermal collection unit. This unit is capable of harnessing the sun’s ultraviolet rays to deliver an astonishing 30,000 BTUs at temperatures in excess of 475° F. The SunQuest 250 is 94% efficient as well. That is the kind of efficiency and raw power that the Chinese will need to drive their building integration segment; we are already doing here in the States.

Solar Thermal ROI

The driving force behind solar thermal is to provide renewable power generation at a cost that has a reasonable return on investment. Therefore, in order for us to promote the SunQuest 250 system, we had to develop something that would offer customers a return-on-investment of less than five years. That is what we have done.

Remember that Indiana correctional facility we mentioned? By relying on our solar thermal solution to provide the cellblock’s space heat and hot water, the facility greatly reduced its need for energy purchased from natural gas suppliers. The state department of corrections saves enough money annually to pay for the SunQuest 250 solar thermal project in just over three years. You can do the same for your commercial building, even without government financial incentives.

It is clear that solar thermal is the future of solar power generation. The Chinese government is figuring that out in a big way. You might want to consider it for your own commercial or industrial building.

BC Hotel First to Take Advantage of Thermal Incentives

A prominent Canadian hotel is the first establishment to take advantage of a British Columbia incentive program for solar thermal installations. The Hotel Grand Pacific in Victoria received a $4,750 government grant toward the installation of a new system now supplying hot water and pool heating. Hotel officials are pleased with the results thus far.

Though the exact numbers have not been released, the system cost between $25,000 and $30,000 to install. Since the system was turned on a few months ago, it has been providing 2,700 liters of hot water for domestic and pool heating purposes. This has allowed the hotel to reduce the amount of natural gas it burns for water heating.

The entire system is comprised of eight rooftop panels, a heat pump, and a heat recovery system. All three components work together to heat water throughout the hotel property during the daylight hours. Hotel officials say that the savings have been estimated at roughly 16,625 kWh, which is enough energy to power three average homes in Canada for a year.

Officials from the Capital Regional District say they still have an additional 75 grants available to both residential and business customers on a first-come, first-served basis. The grants can pay for up to 30% of the total cost of a solar hot water system for those who qualify. Obviously, there are some restrictions, including the types of systems that can be used and who installs them.


The Times Colonist says that qualifying homes or businesses must have roofs with little or no shade and at least two square meters of space for installation of solar collector panels. Space will be required inside for the installation of a second water tank for preheated water. That preheated water is circulated throughout the building as needed.

Solar Thermal Makes Sense

Solar thermal energy production for hot water and space heat makes perfect sense where efficiency and cost-effectiveness are concerned. Perhaps that is why more and more businesses are looking to solar thermal for their own needs. That’s been our experience at Solar America Solutions.

Where efficiency is concerned, solar thermal collector panels such as the SunQuest 250 by Solar America Solutions are more efficient per square foot of space. You can get greater output from a smaller area because the collector panels require a smaller footprint. In addition, solar thermal technology is more efficient at producing usable energy than photovoltaic (PV), traditional flat panel thermal collectors, or even concentrated solar power (CSP). Our SunQuest 250 collector panel is the most efficient of its type in the industry, using up to 94% of the captured energy.

It is hard to beat solar thermal for space heating and hot water when it comes to cost-effectiveness. For example, our SunQuest 250 system can pay for itself within 3 to 5 years – even without government incentives. When you throw incentives in, the savings is even greater.

Critics of the Hotel Grand Pacific installation believe the cost savings are not justified compared to the amount of money spent on installation. With traditional flat panel systems, that may be a legitimate criticism. However, with a SunQuest 250 system that pays for itself in 3 to 5 years, the savings offered by solar thermal are very real and substantial.

Solar America Solutions believes that solar thermal is on the cutting edge of solar energy use. We would be happy to speak with you about your building and its space heat and hot water needs. Our systems have already been installed in industrial and government buildings across the country with excellent results. We can do the same for you.