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Posts tagged ‘SunQuest 250’

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

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.

denmark

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.

Sources:

1. GovTech.com – http://www.govtech.com/fs/This-Energy-Technology-Gets-No-Respect-at-All-but-Its-Cutting-Carbon.html

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

Australian Scientists Reach Solar Thermal Record

Scientists at the Australian National University have set a new record for solar thermal efficiency and in so doing have set the bar for future solar thermal development. According to various news outlets, the researchers were able to achieve 97% efficiency in converting solar energy into steam power. Earlier this year, the same researchers achieved a 34.5% efficiency in converting solar energy directly into electricity.

The Australian National University is well known for its excellent work in the field of solar energy, so few were surprised by their most recent accomplishment. That’s not to say there was no skepticism during the development of the project. In fact, some of the researchers were skeptical that the solar collector panel used to set the record would actually meet the projections engineers made when designing. But all turned out well in the end.

In this particular setup, the scientists used a giant, dish-shaped reflector to concentrate the sun’s energy on a high-powered collector unit, which heated up water and created steam to power an electric generator. Researchers attribute their high efficiency to the design of the dish reflector.

australia

Why This Is Important

What the researchers in Australia have done is essentially the same thing we do at Solar America Solutions – at least in principle. The two main differences are the fact that they are dealing with large scale power generation meant to replace coal-fired and natural gas plants while we focus on rooftop installations for hot water, industrial process water, and space heat, and the fact that they are using a giant dish where our patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collectors have an exceptionally small footprint.

What we share is the vision to use powerful solar energy to generate thermal energy that can be used for any number of purposes. This is why the Australian project is so important. It proves that solar thermal is incredibly efficient when harnessed in the right way and using the right equipment and strategies. Efficiency is indeed its greatest asset.

When you convert solar energy directly into electricity, there are some inherent limitations in both conversion and application. So while the 34.5% efficiency achievement earlier this year (2016) is impressive, it pales in significance when compared to the 96% efficiency we have achieved with solar thermal. When you are converting solar energy into commercial levels of thermal energy, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Hot Water, and Space and Process Heat

Australian researchers are looking at high-capacity power generation using solar thermal. Here at Solar America Solutions, we focus on commercial applications that provide hot water, space heat, and heated industrial process water. We are helping our customers save money by reducing the amount of outside energy they have to purchase to meet their needs. And we’re doing it with our patented SunQuest 250®™ solar thermal collector that is among the most efficient evacuated tube collectors on the market.

Where hot water and space heat are the focus, Solar America Solutions installations are perfect for hotels, office buildings, dormitories, government buildings, hospitals, educational institutions, and more. As for process heat, there are almost no limits. Wherever steam or hot water is used to drive industrial equipment or processes, solar thermal can be deployed. One of our earliest installations was at a poultry farm that required process heat and hot water for egg washing.

The future of solar thermal looks very bright thanks to the ongoing efforts of researchers and product developers. We look forward to seeing what the Australian researchers come up with next, even as we continue to develop our solar thermal technology here in America. If 97% efficiency is possible, how much closer can we get to 100%?

Sources:

New Atlas – http://newatlas.com/solar-thermal-record-anu/45027/

3 Russian Airports Going Solar Thermal

We are always looking for new ideas for implementing solar thermal technology capable of producing adequate space heat and hot water. So we were intrigued to learn that three airports in Russia will be fitted with solar thermal systems in the very near future. The Russian project is being headed up by Basel Aero, a company that operates multiple airports throughout the country.

Solar Thermal World reports that Basel Aero installed a similar system at the Sochi airport just prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics. Apparently, the installation was successful enough that the company now plans additional installations at three airports near the Black Sea.

The Sochi airport was furnished with 132 solar collector panels provided by a German manufacturer. The panels created an estimated 304 m² of additional collector space that combined with existing collectors to create a system that can provide as much as 85% of the airport’s hot water during the summer and 25% in the winter.

SunQuest 250

Thus far, Basel Aero has not said how big the solar projects for the other three airports will be. But we know from personal experience that the right kind of design and implementation can have a very significant impact on the amount of energy used to generate hot water and space heat. If they do the right things, those airports will notice a big difference right away.

Plenty of Commercial Applications

We are always excited to hear about projects like the Russian airport project. Being experts in the field of solar thermal collection, we know what kind of potential this technology holds, both now and for the future. We also know that there are plenty of commercial applications that would benefit from highly efficient solar thermal energy production.

Here in the U.S., solar thermal installations for commercial applications tend to focus on the following areas:

  • Space Heat – Solar thermal collector units convert sun energy into heat which can then be transferred through an interior forced air or hot water heating system to keep buildings warm. A properly designed system is capable of supplying all the space heat a commercial building would need. The most efficient space heating system is radiant floor heat that circulates water heated by solar through PEX tubes in the concrete floor slab.
  • Domestic Hot Water – Solar thermal technology can also produce a significant amount of hot water very quickly and efficiently. That water can be used for lavatory purposes, kitchen purposes, or to power industrial processes. Thermal transfer fluid is circulated from the solar panels through heat exchangers that in turn transfer the heat to a boiler or hot water heater, reducing the amount of fuel needed to achieve target temperatures.
  • Industrial Process Heat – One of the more exciting areas that seem to be growing right now is solar thermal process heat. By using energy from the sun, we can generate heat that that eliminates or significantly reduces fossil fuel generated heat used in industrial processes.

There really are few limits to what we can accomplish with solar thermal for space heating and hot water. And as the technology improves, new ways of using it will be developed. Already we are seeing exciting advances in storage capacity that will eventually make it more practical to utilize solar thermal generated energy around the clock.

At Solar America Solutions, we are especially proud of our patented SunQuest 250® solar thermal collector, now in its 4th generation. The SunQuest 250® is arguably the most efficient solar thermal collector panel on the market capable of output temperatures in excess of 400°F and generation of up to 35,000 BTUs per hour. It also has a limited footprint of just 3′ x 7′, making it possible to get an awful lot out of a relatively small rooftop installation.

We hope the Russian project goes as well as engineers anticipate. If it does, they may motivate airports here in the U.S. to look more seriously at solar thermal. We have plenty of collector panels to accommodate any new projects.

Sources:

1. Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/russia-basel-aero-plans-solar-installations-three-airports-near-black-sea

San Francisco Mandates Solar for New Builds

San Francisco has become the fourth California city to implement a mandate for the use of solar installations in all new builds. The cities of Lancaster, Sebastopol, and Santa Monica already have similar mandates in place. We say ‘similar’ because there’s one significant difference in San Francisco: builders can choose between solar thermal and PV. The other four cities mandate PV.

Beginning January 1, 2017, all new residential and commercial builds must include some sort of solar installation. Under the ‘Better Roof Requirements for Renewable Energy Facilities’ code, solar water heating systems must produce 100 kBtu per square foot of installation space, per year. This applies to both residential and commercial applications. There are also requirements in place should builders choose PV.

sanfrancisco

The Next Logical Step

San Francisco residents are not surprised by the city council’s decision to mandate solar installations. The city previously joined the ‘Go 100% Renewable Energy’ initiative in 2010, and they have set ambitious goals of reducing emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. This latest mandate is just the next logical step in their goal to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and the resulting emissions.

In preparation for the mandate, the city began working on standards back in 2014. For example, the city’s ‘Solar Ready Requirement’ has forced builders over the last two years to design roofs to accommodate solar installations in the future. Builders of both residential and non-residential structures have been doing just that. Now they expect rooftop installations, so enhancing new building designs to accommodate solar thermal collector units should not be a problem.

The only question that remains to be seen is who chooses what. Common sense seems to dictate that commercial building developers who decide to use only one method to meet mandated obligations will choose solar thermal for hot water and space heat production. Why? Because solar thermal has proven to be more efficient and cost-effective than PV. Furthermore, a solar thermal solution can be adapted to provide thermal energy for air conditioning as well, which would further enhance what solar thermal can offer a warm state like California.

Potential for Solar Thermal Installations

What we expect to happen in San Francisco over the next few years is by no means uncharted territory. Cities all across Europe have done exactly what the City by the Bay has done, with very good results to boot. Europe’s builders are wholeheartedly embracing solar thermal for commercial and residential buildings even as local communities are looking to adopt as many alternative energy sources as possible. In short, the potential for solar thermal now looks virtually limitless.

Here at home, we are seeing solar thermal being adopted on a more regular basis as well. At Solar America Solutions, we have seen demand for our patented SunQuest 250™ solar thermal collectors increase year after year. We have also had the pleasure of being involved in some revolutionary installations covering everything from government buildings to educational facilities to poultry farms.

Solar thermal offers the potential of generating cost-effective space heat, process heat, and hot water regardless of the size of a commercial building. Our system is especially attractive because of its extremely limited footprint requirement. It doesn’t take a lot of available roof space to install a system that can more than meet the demand for space heat and hot water.

The city of San Francisco has made it possible for solar thermal to gain a very strong following in that city. In fact, that is exactly what we expect to happen. Hopefully, other cities will follow San Francisco’s lead.

Sources:

1.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/california-san-francisco-passes-first-mandate-solar-thermal-option

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.

sanfrancisco

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.

Bad News Brewing for Solar Thermal in the UK

Bad news is brewing for the solar industry in the UK. Rumors that the government will be cutting some of its funding to subsidize solar thermal appear to be true, as evidenced by comments made recently by Energy Secretary Amber Rudd. The Secretary has been saying for a while that residential and commercial heat based on renewable sources is a priority for policymakers, but exactly what kind of priority she is talking about is questionable.

Guidance published by the UK government indicates that support for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) program will be drastically cut or eliminated by 2017. That would mean subsidies offered to property owners designed to encourage them to use solar thermal technologies for space heating and hot water will no longer be available.

british-subsidy

Proposals included in the guidance are a matter of both consternation and confusion. The consternation comes from the fact that cutting the RHI program will probably reduce confidence in the solar thermal sector to such a degree that private investment might be negatively impacted. If that were the case, it would be awfully difficult to continue development of new technologies in the future.

As for the confusion, it stems from one simple reality: solar thermal is the most established and proven platform for renewable space heat and hot water around the world. Total capacity right now stands at 350 GW, far greater than total capacity for PV. Adding to the confusion is the reality that the UK has led the charge for solar thermal from the onset. Seeing them cut support for RHI now does not add up.

Deciding How Long Subsidies Should Last

Proponents of the UK guidance say that it’s hard to determine how long government subsidies should actually last. But they insist the RHI program was never intended to be permanent. The program was initially instituted to help the country achieve rather ambitious renewable energy goals put in place years ago. Now that it is apparent they are nowhere near reaching those objectives lawmakers may determine they could spend the money on the program on more important things.

How the solar thermal sector in the UK will fare if RHI is indeed cut remains to be seen. We imagine there will be a period of adjustment as manufacturers, installers, and service providers get used to the lack of subsidized funding. But we also believe the industry will survive. Property owners genuinely looking for renewable energy projects will still consider solar thermal in light of the tremendous savings it offers. More than one will choose to install solar thermal when it comes time to replace an aging boiler.

Subsidies Only a Partial Solution

Let us assume the UK does cut the RHI program in 2017. Such a decision could influence other countries to follow suit, especially where solar thermal is enjoying widespread adoption. It might even have a ripple effect here in North America. Already we are seeing some states and local jurisdictions begin to second-guess their subsidy programs in light of the need to tighten budgets. The question is, can solar thermal stand on its own?

Here at Solar America Solutions, we believe it can. There are now enough existing applications using our patented SunQuest 250® solar thermal collectors around the country to provide proof that solar thermal is an excellent alternative for renewable space heat and hot water. Growth may be slower in the absence of subsidies, but it will not be stopped. From our perspective, solar thermal is a renewable technology that is here to stay. We expect it to be the market leader before too long.

Sources:

  • Renewable Energy Magazine – http://www.renewableenergymagazine.com/article/uk-solar-industry-condemns-government-proposal-to-20160304

Canadian Project Utilizes Large-Scale Solar Thermal Heating

The projects we typically work on at Solar America Solutions involve individual clients looking to utilize solar thermal for hot water and space heat in commercial buildings. For example, one of our first projects was to install our SunQuest 250 solar collector panels and peripheral equipment in a new housing block at an Indiana correctional facility.

Though we are thrilled to be able to apply solar thermal technology on a building-by-building basis, we look forward to the day when solar thermal is applied to large-scale space heat and hot water needs. A revolutionary project now thriving in Canada offers a perfect example of what we are talking about.

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Drake Landing – Okotoks, Alberta

Take a trip up to the southern Alberta town of Okotoks and you’ll find a unique housing community known as Drake Landing. What’s so unique about it? The way the community receives its space heat. Thanks to a demonstration project sponsored by Natural Resources Canada, the average household in Drake Landing pays just $70 per month for space heat with very little need for supplemental energy from the grid. It is made possible by combining solar thermal with borehole storage.

Each of the homes in the Drake Landing community has a detached garage with a roof covered almost entirely with solar thermal flat plate collector panels. Those panels work 365 days a year, whenever the sun is up collecting infrared energy from the sun and Okotoks, it is one of the sunniest places in Canada. Had the developer known about the patented SunQuest 250® evacuated tube solar thermal panels from Solar America Solutions, these systems would have been even more efficient and required fewer panels because they draw their solar energy from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and are effective even on cold and cloudy days.

A thermal transfer liquid inside the solar collector panels converts energy from the sun into heat. That heat is transferred to the community’s energy center where it is extracted with a heat exchanger before the liquid returns to the panels. Extracted heat is stored underground in a network of 144 boreholes. It is retrieved and used for space heated as needed.

Incredible Results Thus Far

To say that the Drake Landing project is a huge success would be to state the obvious. Drake Landing’s system has consistently provided more than 90% of the heat the community’s 52 houses need during the winter since it was completed in 2007. Over the last several years, the system has provided 98% of the heat.

The linchpin of the system is its borehole storage. Engineers have created a storage model that is so efficient that it can store enough energy on summer days to heat the entire community throughout the winter season. The combination of stored energy and what is generated by the system during shorter winter days is more than enough to virtually eliminate any need for space heat generated from natural gas.

No Further Proof Needed

Those of us in the solar thermal sector have long known that storage is the biggest challenge to taking solar thermal to the next level.But the project in Canada changes everything.

From what we can tell, no further proof is needed to demonstrate that solar thermal can be implemented on a large scale to provide entire communities with heat and hot water. Solar thermal is incredibly efficient and cost-effective, especially when deployed using the right equipment. A good example is our SunQuest 250® solar collector panel, which just happens to be the most efficient panel in the industry. We would love to see it put to use in a project like Drake Landing here on American soil.

Sources:

  • CBC – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/solar-thermal-energy-community-alberta-drake-landing-1.3436178

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.

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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