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Solar Thermal energy systems are extremely popular in Canada, Europe and Asia. The reason is simple: generally speaking they are more economic than solar photovoltaic systems and often need no government subsidies to deliver profitable results.
Solar thermal energy systems as a whole represent a much larger business segment than do solar photovoltaic. According to Solar Heat Worldwide (May 2008), installed global capacity of solar thermal was 100 Gigawatts, while installed global capacity of solar photovoltaic was just 12.4 Gigawatts.
Although the solar photovoltaic (PV) business segment is expanding worldwide, so too is the solar thermal market. Just in the USA, there are 100 million existing homes and over 1 million factories and commercial buildings that could benefit from solar thermal systems.
So although solar PV is popular in the US, that market is in fact dwarfed by the solar thermal sector.
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Solar PV systems create electricity. Solar thermal systems create heat. Solar thermal systems are roughly twice as efficient at collecting the sun's energy as are solar PV systems. Enertopia Corporation designs and installs both kinds of systems and we want to provide you the best system for your
individual needs and circumstances.
European markets for solar thermal are more advanced than they are in North America. Europe was a $4 billion market in 2008 and is expected to grow by five times - to $20 billion - in 2012. By 2020 it is expected to be an $80 billion market sector.
However, although North America is behind Europe in the adoption of this proven technology, growth rates here are expected to be similar. In North America solar thermal was only a $100 million market in 2008. Using similar growth rates, that market could expand by 4,000% by 2012 to $4 billion.
Enertopia is strategically positioned to be a significant participant in the design and installation of solar thermal systems across North America. Already, it has partnered with leading clean energy providers in the USA and Canada to provide service and expertise to as wide a geographic base as possible. Our Canadian partner has completed many of the largest solar thermal installations in the country.
How Does It Work?
By absorbing the sun's radiant energy and converting it to heat energy, solar thermal technology pre-heats cold input water or other liquids and transfers that heat to where it is needed. In a home, the heat is transferred via simple heat exchangers to the existing domestic hot water tank, offsetting some or all of the energy consumption of the existing hot water tank. Most domestic solar thermal systems rely on the existing natural gas or electric tank heater as auxiliary back-up. A solar thermal system has several parts:
- Collectors. There are two main kinds - Flat Plate or Evacuated Tube.
- Flat Plate solar collectors consist of a series of pipes set into a flat copper or other metallic plate under a glass-covered insulated frame. The glass cover traps the heat produced when solar radiation falls on the plate. The accumulated heat is transferred to a fluid in the pipes, usually a mixture of water and glycol.
- Evacuated Tube solar collectors consist of a series of small copper pipes encased in separate highly insulated glass vacuume tubes. The vacuume prevents heat loss and maximizes heat to be transferred to the circulating fluid in the pipes. For even higher temperatures, reflectors are used to focus the solar radiation onto the tubes.
Enertopia can assess which of these technologies is best for you as our experience has shown time and again that a collector with a slightly higher "bench" performance is not necessarily the best one for your real world application. Each well built solar thermal panel can generate 500,000 btu's of energy per year - or even much more - depending on where it is located and many other factors.
Solar Thermal technology is more established than solar PV and has been in proven use for several decades, with steady improvements in efficiencies. But a well-designed solar thermal system is much more than just the collector. Proper sizing of heat exchangers, proper liquid transfer rates, and proper control mechanisms all contribute to the efficient transfer of heat from a rooftop to the inside-building location where it is most needed.
Some heat exchangers are more efficient at transferring lots of heat from very small differences in temperature with large pumps and pipe sizes. Others are better at achieving high efficiencies transferring heat with very wide temperature variations with slower fluid flows.
Controllers can automatically switch directional valves, moving the heated fluids from one storage tank to another; from domestic water heating to swimming pool heating to hydronic floor heating to solar powered roof-mounted air conditioning units during summer months. (YES! Did you know we can provide most of your air-conditioning using solar thermal-produced hot water as your energy source?)
PC-based or chip-based software can report outputs and conditions in real time, and users can modify operations via keypads or keyboards; not with wrenches and elbow grease.
Enertopia is a part owner of Pro Eco Energy, whose President Roger Huber is also an advisor to Enertopia. Roger has designed and installed many of the largest solar thermal systems in Canada, including many landmark installations. That experience benefits you our customer, as we use our wealth of knowledge to improve the efficiencies and economics of your systems. Transferring and storing heat efficiently can present challenges for inexperienced installers, but at Enertopia we can help you design any size solar thermal system up to an including the largest contemplated in the world.
- Building Heating: Multi - and Single-Family Homes, Commercial, Industrial.
- Off-Grid locations.
- Industrial Processing, Mining, Oil & Gas, etc.
- Any application currently using propane, natural gas or diesel.
- Villages and communities in disadvantaged third-world locations.
- Air Conditioning powered by solar hot water.
- Disaster sites.
- Every location that wants to use renewable energy.
- Partnered Ownership
Enertopia Corporation will go so far to say that EVERY new home constructed in North America today should include solar thermal heating systems. The reason is simple: solar thermal is economic and can in most installations pay for itself in reduced energy costs in five years or less when integrated into new building design.
Hot water is used in nearly every building in America. For domestic use this includes showers or washing dishes or clothes. In fact in most homes, after space heating or cooling, heating water for domestic use is the second largest cost of energy. Using solar thermal systems to pre-heat domestic hot water is easy, proven technology. Millions of homes in Asia and Europe have been doing this for years.
Many new homes use hydronic heating systems (also known as "in-floor" or "radiant" heating) to provide comfortable heat upwards through the floors. Typically these systems will have a gas or electric boiler that heats the water that then circulates throughout the home. Solar thermal is perfect for these sorts of systems as the final heat delivery is already in place!
Solar thermal would pre-heat the water prior to its entry into the boiler: if the solar intensity is strong enough that day, then it will reach the minimum set point and the boiler does not need to fire. If the intensity is partially blocked on a semi cloudy day, then the water might be only partially preheated, allowing the boiler to fire less often and thus consume less energy.
Regardless of the type of existing heating delivery system in your building, you should consider using solar thermal to partially or entirely offset your space heating needs. Remember: solar thermal is generally THE most economic renewable energy source you can use!
And whether your building is a single residence, an apartment building with 100 units, a large hotel, a commercial building or a factory - ALL of these buildings can benefit from solar heating. In fact, larger buildings generally offer better economic returns than smaller buildings, all things being equal.
Providing energy to any off-grid location is expensive. Propane or diesel trucks are often used to deliver fuel to storage tanks, which beyond the high cost, can present serious safety and environmental risks. It makes sense to provide as much of this energy as possible on-site, via the sun or even the wind.
Enertopia can help your lodge, worksite or cabin to provide modern conveniences utilizing natural solar energy sources. This can include the electrical energy to power water pumps, the solar thermal energy to heat water for showers and space heating; and the water filtration equipment to provide safe drinking water. Enertopia can provide the answers.
In industrial applications the choices of how, when, and where to apply the energy collected can be breathtaking. Successful clean energy system design is much more focused on total system usability and meeting the specific needs of each client, than it is with tiny fractional gains in efficiency between one collector plate manufacturer or another.
Industry uses prodigious amounts of energy to complete various processes. Mines and mills; Oil & Gas sites; Food processing; Bottling; Manufacturing; and, Commercial Laundry are just a few examples of industry that should be using solar thermal energy. Almost every industrial process requires either heat or electrical power at some stage.
And since energy costs are a never-ending input cost to whatever final product you are selling or delivering, solar thermal systems can not only improve your bottom line but they can also give you a competitive edge that keeps your factory operating when competitors are in distress.
As the manager or owner of a factory, you need to not underestimate the quantity of heat energy that you can produce with solar thermal. Commercial mid-sized systems can produce hundreds of millions of btu's per year and can have a significant impact on your bottom line.
Depending on the jurisdiction in which you are located and the fiscal situation of how you build/own/lease your solar thermal system, you might also generate meaningful carbon credits that can be sold for additional cash flow.
And, you may be able to advertise your environmentally responsible production processes to gain even more advantage over your competitors. Contact Enertopia's CEO or President to explore these ideas further.
Solar Hot Water for Air Conditioning
Technology in heat transfer has made strong advances in recent years. It is now possible to use a heat source to provide the energy that, once transferred with certain equipment, can result in cool air for your building. Instead of using electricity to drive a compressor, the hot fluids warmed by the sun offset much of the energy use. Electricity is still needed mostly just for circulating fans and pumps, which is a small fraction of total requirements.
Solar powered chilling is an important breakthrough not just for the "wow" factor. An old criticism of solar thermal systems is that they do not produce enough heat in the winter but produce too much heat in the summer - heat energy that cannot always be used. After all, once domestic hot water needs have been met, what is one to do with excess heat energy when the building does not require any heating?
Using solar heat energy to cool a building is a paradigm shift in thinking. Now the intense solar radiation of summer months can be put to good use to provide cooling, offsetting one of the largest demand factors for electricity for many buildings. This allows for more efficient annual use of solar thermal systems. Enertopia can provide solar thermal-powered air conditioning for you as an integral part of our thoughtfully designed systems.
Third World or Disaster Areas
Across the world in less advantaged areas there is great need for certain basic luxuries that are taken for granted in North America and Europe. A simple solar thermal system can create and store hot water for overnight use.
This allows not only the luxury of a hot shower, but a hot water tank located within a very small home can only help to battle cold night-time temperatures and provide some degree of warmth. In many areas, there is no reliable heat source for homes overnight other than burning of wood or dung. And increasingly, people have to travel ever-longer distances to find firewood. Even then, the destruction and defoliation of wooded areas can cause irreversible environmental damage that produces even more misfortune over time.
A simple, small solar thermal system can prevent environmental damage to local areas and reduce human suffering.
Renewable Energy Uses
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Enertopia Corporation is committed to solar thermal systems for a fundamentally simple reason: it is the most efficient and practical solar energy capture system available in the world today.
When we say "most efficient" we are saying it provides the most energy for the lowest cost.
This is the most important and significant factor that drives most decisions as to whether or not to utilize renewable energy: "How much is it going to cost me to go green?" Whatever the cost might be for a particular application, chances are very high that the lowest cost will be for the solar thermal system component of any overall system.
Converting heat energy into the most useful product for your needs is our problem. Let Enertopia Corporation work with you to design a practical solar energy system that can reduce your energy consumption and help you do your part as we march towards a clean energy utopia.