How far has the United States come in advancing solar thermal power? Far enough that we now rank third in the world in solar thermal process heat capacity. Only Chile and China have greater capacity. Following the U.S. are India, Austria, Greece, and Germany.
If there’s any downside to the numbers showing America’s global standing for solar thermal it is the fact that we don’t appear among the top seven countries in which solar thermal process heat was the fastest-growing segment of the sector over the last few years. Austria leads that group followed by Germany, Mexico, France, India, Turkey, and Italy. All but one of those countries (Italy) saw double-digit growth for solar thermal process heat in 2013.
Here in the States, our current capacity includes 18 process heat projects with a total of 23,993 m² of collector space. The average project size is just over 1300 m². Chile’s collector area is 39,740 m² despite having just two active process heat projects at the current time.
Process Heat vs. Space Heat
You might already be familiar with using solar thermal technology to produce space heat. It is both effective and efficient given the right kind of setup and reliable equipment such as the Solar America Solutions’ patented SunQuest 250 solar panel collector. However, what about process heat? Why is it so important to the growth of the solar thermal industry?
Process heat can be defined in a number of ways. The traditional definition considers process heat to be waste heat from one process, harnessed so that I can be used for something else. For example, the heat generated by large computer server banks can be harnessed as process heat to provide space heat for adjoining offices in the same building.
The second way to define process heat is any heat that is used to drive industrial or manufacturing processes. This might include using thermal liquid-driven turbines to provide the power necessary to run industrial equipment, hot water for industrial wash processes, etc.
Process heat is important to the solar thermal industry because it represents one of the primary stepping stones that can take solar thermal from small-scale individual deployments to large-scale applications. Solar thermal would never reach its potential if it were restricted to only providing space heat and hot water on a building-by-building basis. Nevertheless, by developing the technology for process heating alongside what we currently do, we have the potential of making solar thermal a force to be reckoned with in the dawning era of sustainable energy.
Proven to Work
It is no coincidence that the seven countries we previously listed have seen the greatest solar thermal growth in the area of process heating. Solar thermal process heating is growing because it has already proven to work. Here at Solar America Solutions, one of our earliest projects was related to the process heat needs of a large poultry farm.
Our client contracted us to install solar thermal heating to replace aging boilers that provided the hot water necessary for the farm’s egg washing operations. The system we installed proved to be more than adequate. When the farm expanded its operations to include new facilities, they called on Solar America Solutions to once again install a solar thermal system.
The key to efficient and high-output solar thermal power is the collector unit. Solar America Solutions’ patented SunQuest 250 solar collector panel is one of the best in the industry, utilizing a highly efficient evacuated tube design capable of incredible output. We know solar thermal process heat works because we have implemented it ourselves.
- Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/iea-shc-attractive-solar-process-heat-markets