It’s official: Solar process heating applications are now eligible for California’s CSI Thermal incentive. That means that up to $500,000 is available for commercial process heat technologies, which include solar space heating, solar air conditioning, or multi-family/commercial combination solar heating, domestic hot water, and cooling systems.
However, rather than an upfront payment, as is the case for solar water heating, all solar process heating projects are required to receive the program’s performance based incentive (PBI), which is based on the actual energy displaced by the process heating technology and is paid over two years.
Process Heating and Cooling and Other Eligible Applications
The CSI Handbook defines solar process heating as “those applications that do not consume the solar heated water and instead use the water as a medium to carry heat for the end process.”
With that in mind, solar process heat could be applied to commercial radiator (hydronic) space heating or to radiant floor heating systems. It could also be applied to solar thermal pre-heating for industrial food processing for dairies, breweries, wineries, and pasteurization procedures—or any industrial process that requires heat.
Even more cutting edge is using the CSI Thermal incentive for solar air conditioning. Here, absorption chillers use solar thermal energy to evaporate a refrigerant fluid to cool the air. Note that the CSI Thermal Handbook is very explicit about the type of solar cooling technology. The program stipulates that “solar cooling will only apply to solar-assisted absorption chillers with natural gas back-up that may also be used to supplement part of an electric cooling system. Incentives from secondary heat streams resulting from the absorption cooling process will not be allowed.”
Also, eligible for the new PBI incentive are multi-family/commercial projects that use a single solar thermal collector system for heating (or pre-heating) water and for space heating. In fact, the program allows any combination of eligible solar thermal technologies to qualify for the PBI.
The Host Customer must be a natural gas customer of PG&E, SDG&E or SCG utilities.
The Solar Process Heating Incentive
The incentive rate will step down as more projects take advantage of the PBI. In Step 1, the highest level step, project owners will receive $7.27 per annual therm displaced. Additionally:
- All projects must be metered by solar thermal metering equipment that has been approved by the CSI Thermal program.
- Incentive will be paid based on the estimated annual savings provided by the applicant, certified by P.E. and will not exceed $500,000.
- Incentive payments for PBI systems will be made quarterly over two years.
- The first installment of the incentive amount will be paid after the customer
completes the project, the utility inspects the project and approves the Incentive Claim Form (ICF), and the first quarter’s actual performance data has been submitted and verified. (No partial month’s data can be submitted.)
Of course, solar process heat is more complicated than traditional solar water heating projects. Free Hot Water’s engineers are known for our innovation. In fact, we won an Intersolar Award for a combination solar space heating and hot water system. Contact our engineering team to learn more.