Solar Today Fall 2016 : Page 24
Courtesy of UC Merced XCPC array ited to Europe and the Southwest US. These applica-tions are in every community and city in the nation. Industry, Universities like the University of California Merced Solar Lab and National laboratories contin-ues development of high temperature concentrating technologies that are capable of temperatures from 230 o F to 350 o F or higher and the U.S. DOE are invest-ing in R&D for advanced Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technologies up to 1200 o F. The important fact is solar thermal technologies capable of temperatures reaching 350 o F for SIPH plants are currently economical and available today in the marketplace. In today’s renewable energy market Solar Ther-mal Collection Systems provide lower Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) than any other solar energy tech-nology due to technological efficiencies and cost advantages, therefore making a better business case than any other technology for broader market accep-tance. When the LCOE, the relatively low US market penetration, and manufacturing demand needs of the Solar Thermal market are collectively considered, a tremendous investment opportunity is revealed. Most high temperature thermal technologies in the market, require large surface areas and tracking sys-tems adding significant hardware and O&M costs. These concentrating technologies also need direct beam radiation which limits their applications to the desert and dry environments and generally have sig-nificant production losses in diffused radiation which makes up the majority of the US and all of the Carib-bean. Some of the Evacuated Tube collectors which 24 FALL 2016 SOLAR TODAY can be mounted on either the roof or ground use both Direct Normal irradiance and Global Horizontal irradiance to generate the efficiencies for high tem-peratures without tracking. And they generating up to 400 o F temperatures for use anywhere in the US or Caribbean. Clearly, solar thermal has earned a place in the national and global energy mix. In fact, solar water heating and solar industrial process heat has the potential to be the largest contributor in the next growth era of renewable energy and emission reductions. The solar thermal collection technologies are field-proven. In the past 15-20 years, product research and development and improved manufac-turing have created a new generation of simple, reli-able, efficient solar water heating systems. Modeling tools are available to predict system performance, costs, energy savings and return on investment based on local sun and weather conditions. At present, solar thermal technology faces some headwinds, but longer-term trends appear to work in its favor. For the time being, the price of natural gas – the main fuel solar heating displaces – are at low levels as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) opera-tions dramatically increase domestic supplies. At the same time, commodity prices for glass, copper and aluminum used in solar thermal collectors are rising as the economy improves. There is also a shortage of contractors trained in solar thermal installations, and the same financing obstacles exist as for solar ther-mal as for many types of renewable energy. Finally, prospective users of solar thermal energy may not fully understand it or appreciate its versatility and value. All these conditions are likely to be temporary. Fuel and commodity prices are cyclical by nature. In 2008, prior to the great recession, natural gas prices stood near historic highs. Prices may rise again as the U.S. exports more gas, as utilities add gas-fired peaking power plants and replace older, polluting coal-fired power plants used for base load with smaller gas turbines. Also with potential to tip the scale are the increased production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export and wider acceptance of compressed natural gas (CNG) as a fuel for buses, taxis, cars, and a wide assortment of fleet vehicles. Growing numbers of states and utilities offer incentives and rebates for renewable energy instal-lations. In addition, renewable portfolio standards (RPS) or some kind of Renewable requirements have been passed in about 40 states, requiring utilities to derive specified percentages of their power from renewable sources of those about 16 allow solar ther-mal to meet the goals. Electric utilities, municipalities and some state legislatures have developed incentives and mar-keting campaigns using photovoltaics to meet RPS requirements. As I just said, the 16 States that include Solar Water Heating, 13 states allow Solar Space Heating and 11 states include Solar Industrial Process Heat to qualify for the RPS. Much more could be done to develop Solar Thermal incentive programs for resi-dential, commercial and industrial applications. A simple and reliable metering technology would enable conversion of solar thermal energy to its kilo-watt-hour equivalent, allowing solar water heating or cooling to count toward RPS compliance, as well. A growing number of states now allow solar thermal projects to qualify for utility incentives or may qualify for renewable energy credits (RECs) under their RPS programs. The California Energy Commission, again leading the way to Energy Independence, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency to reduce carbon emissions has issued a RFP for Advanced Water Heating System Demonstrations, Advanced HVAC and Building Enve-lope Demonstrations, Integrated Natural Gas System Demonstrations, and Applied Research Strategies for Copyright © 2014 American Solar Energy Society. All rights reserved.