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The Not-So-Obvious Commercial Solar Thermal Applications Being Used Today

The obvious solar thermal application: apartment buildings

Often when you think of commercial water heating systems, you may think of the obvious: Apartment buildings, hotels, Laundromats, and pool heating.

However, when you take a look at the U.S. Department of Energy’s registry of projects in their Utility Solar Water Heating Initiative (USH2O), you get a birds-eye view of many other applications for solar thermal being used today.

Here are just a few examples:

The Sonoma Wine Company in Sonoma, California is using 5,400 square feet of collectors to heat water for its wine processing, sanitation, and barrel services operations. Solar collectors heat water to 165°F for the facility’s tank wash and wine barrel washing machine. The solar thermal system will displace 12,500 therms of natural gas annually, as well as electricity through a co-generation system.

The University of San Diego’s UCSD Village II housing project features 8,298 square feet solar of collectors on top of a dorm, one of the largest installations at a North American university. The system is designed to meet the domestic hot-water load of the 807 residents, offsetting the costs of showers, sink faucets, and all consumable/potable hot water.

Stapleton’s Packing Company in Gridley, CA is using solar thermal for process heat for fruit packing. The solar water heating system’s 20,000 square foot of collectors preheats well water for the fruit packing plant. Utilizing incentives from the CSI Thermal program and federal incentives, the owners expect a 3.5 year payback and 25% ROI, with its $60,000 investment cost after California’s solar water heating rebates and incentives.

The Navy (and tax payers) are also seeing the cost saving benefits of utility scale solar thermal solutions. The Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) has installed a solar water heating system that heats pool water and other domestic needs for its premier water survival training facility. By installing 168 solar thermal flat plate collectors (a total area of 6,720 square feet), the Navy reports that it will save approximately $100,000 per year in energy costs with its indirect drain-back system and 270,000 gallon storage tank system.

Prisons and correctional facilities are also turning to solar thermal. Tennessee’s Knox County Detention Center (pictured above) has installed a 300-collector/12,000 square feet  system that is capable of generating 14,400 gallons of hot water per day. The system is ground mounted and serves six detention buildings.

How about some solar thermal space heating? In Vermont, The Radiantec Office Building and Warehouse in St. Johnsbury has installed 768 square feet of collectors for solar space heating. Using creative solar thermal engineering and a large thermal storage mass, solar energy is actively gathered during the day and sent into the storage mass for passive heating discharge. The result? In the harsh Northern Vermont climate, only 500 gallons of propane was used between October 2009 and May 2010 for a 12,000 sq. ft. building.

Looking at the complete USH2O list, you can see that there are many more solar thermal applications in use, including solar thermal process heat for breweries, and water heating for nursing homes,  hot water for a Wisconsin regional airport, and even a zoo!

If you have a commercial solar thermal project, please consider adding it to the registry. The more people realize how useful and cost-effective solar thermal is, the more we will grow our industry.

This entry was posted in 30% Investment Tax Credit, CSI Thermal Program, Hotel Solar Hot Water, Solar Hot Water, Solar Hot Water for Apartment Buildings, solar hot water for hospitals, Solar Tax Incentives, Solar Thermal & Solar Hot Water News, solar thermal engineering, solar thermal for breweries, solar thermal for process heat, Solar Thermal Space Heating. Bookmark the permalink.

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