Market for Solar Thermal Heating Up

Most of the buzz about solar is for generating electricity, but much of our natural gas is used for space and water heating, when this is the easiest and cheapest way to use solar to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve the resource, particularly in the Northern US and Canada. It is a simple, straightforward technology that is more cost-effective than photovoltaics, but As Tyler Hamilton says, solar thermal has always presented a better business case than solar photovoltaics but has never taken seriously.

But with peak oil and possibly peak gas around the corner, it should be; there are lots of ways to make electricity but how will we heat our homes?

Now with Government incentives and interest free loans, it is getting interesting. The City of Toronto is converting its swimming pools to solar, and Wal-Mart is testing a system on one of its big boxes in the Toronto area. The Provincal government announced the goal of having 100,000 solar electric or thermal systems installed across the province. A lot of older houses (and some new ones with radiant floors) are heated hydronically, and these are a natural for conversion; it can provide all of the heat some of the time and in really cold weather it certainly cuts down the fossil fuel needed. The hot water can also be run through coils to adapt to hot air heating systems.

System prices are dropping quickly now that evacuated tubes are made in China; at a trade show recently we saw a package unit with evacuated tubes, a strorage tank and controls for under six thousand dollars, about the same as we paid for our high efficiency furnace. ::Toronto Star

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