One of the ways that solar thermal can grow exponentially in the U.S. is through its widespread installation and use by the U.S. military. According to the solar thermal advocacy organization, Eneref Institute, the Department of Defense ’s (DoD’s) domestic hot water usage is approximately 50 to 100 million gallons per day (MGD), taking into account showers, food service, hospitals, and equipment maintenance.
Recognizing this huge potential solar thermal need, Eneref recently announced that it’s convening stakeholders in the U.S. solar thermal industry to work directly with the Department of Defense’s office of Installations and Environment (DoD I&E)
Eneref estimates that solar hot water could meet 30-50% of the military’s hot water needs, or about 35 MGD.
In terms of solar thermal collectors, that would mean that 25,000 thousand square feet (KSF) of collectors would be needed to meet the 35 MGD demand. However, the solar heating and cooling industry currently ships approximately 1,000 KCF of collectors per year, according to Eneref. Ramping up to 5,000 KSF/year would be needed to meet the estimated requirements of 25,000 KSF demand in 5 years.
The good news, says Eneref, is that the solar thermal industry is only operating at 25% capacity. Increased demand by the DoD would substantially reduce production costs across the industry, perhaps by as much as 50%, while improving industry-wide product quality and innovation.
Of course, estimating demand and getting the U.S. Military to invest in installations are two different animals. Eneref envisions military adoption of solar thermal technologies through a multiphase process.
In the first phase, Eneref is organizing a consortium of solar thermal industry participants and financiers to meet with DoD I&E and provide accurate guidance on equipment specifications/standards, contractor qualifications, third party finance and monitoring practices. Their goal will be to build a greater confidence for solar heating technology within the DoD, which will then lead to actionable parameters for the implementation of solar heating and cooling on DoD facilities worldwide.
Eneref Institute plans to present four solar hot water DOD imperatives: technology, monitoring, financing, and internal communication.
Beginning with the technical challenges, the first report Eneref provides to DOD will offer recommendations on equipment specifications/ standards, life cycle cost analysis, energy modeling strategies, as well as help to define qualifications for engineers and contractors.
Evidence will be drawn from well-established guidelines, including ASHRAE, IAPMO, SRCC, EPA, buildingSMART, and USACE.
The recommendations for solar heating policies, programs, practices and investments will cover all sectors of the industry, including buildings, panels, monitoring systems, and finance.
In coordination with DOD, Eneref will lead the effort to bring industry stakeholders to the table. Beyond the participants from the DOD and solar thermal industry, contributors will also be drawn from other government agencies, as well.
Free Hot Water commends Eneref for organizing this solar thermal effort—and we hope to participate with our commercial scale solar thermal design and engineering expertise.