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Commercial Solar Thermal Still Growing, According to SEIA 3Q Report

It’s not much, but SEIA and its partner, GTM Research, have included some very general solar water heating market information in its 3rd quarter executive summary.

Free Hot Water has talked to GTM researchers before about the lack of solar water heating data in their reports. They explain that there are two problems:

First, not enough solar installers are willing or able to give them enough data to create a report. So, if you’re a solar water heating installer or financier or manufacturer who’d like participate, please contact me at solarfred@freehotwater.com, and I will connect you with the person who collects data.

The second problem is a little more challenging. That is, it costs money to produce these reports, and despite the number of installers and solar thermal distributors and manufacturers in the U.S., few want to shell out the money for the full report.

As our CEO Paul Burrowes commented a few months ago at Intersolar, there’s little need for solar thermal install data. Why? Because there is such huge untapped potential. Every roof is a market opportunity, and, sadly, there are plenty of empty roofs in the U.S. that are ripe for solar heating and cooling.

Nevertheless, there is a lot of press around these reports, and it would benefit the U.S. solar thermal side to be included in those releases. But without data, that’s not going to happen. So, we hope, with your participation, that the industry can receive and process more data for these quarterly reports.

So, what third quarter data was in the latest 2011 3rd quarter executive summary?

It was only about three paragraphs, one of which was summary of previous data.  Here’s a link to get the full executive summary.

In any case, the main points:

  • Solar Thermal PPAs are growing for commercial solar projects.
  • Massachusetts has a pilot project that is allowing $30,000 construction grants for commercial solar thermal.
  • European and Chinese solar thermal manufacturers are increasingly showing up at solar trade shows, increasing competition, and….
  • “The main competitor to SWH, however, is the price of natural gas. For as long as the price of natural gas remains low, it is difficult for many to see the long-term value in installing a system.” (A recent Free Hot Water blog post mentioned this insight too.)

So nothing really new here, but we do believe that the increase in solar thermal PPA financing will indeed make commercial solar thermal competitive for apartment buildings, multifamily homes, hotels, hospitals, etc, and beat low natural gas prices.

And when that happens more often, we look forward to more in-depth coverage about solar water heating in these quarterly reports.

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