The lack of meters for solar water heating technology hinders the advancement and legitimacy of the technology. Less than fifteen firms worldwide make performance meters suitable to residential solar water heating systems. The price of a residential heat meter relative to total system cost is too expensive: sometimes more than 10%.
Amatis meters change the paradigm.
To be useful, performance meters must report real-time data to the Cloud and provide a user-friendly Energy Dashboard. Interviews with 26 utility executives and manufacturers in North America identified common concerns. Performance metered residential systems remedy the worry.
i) Meters assure that Solar Water Heat systems remain functional long-term;
ii) Meters enable participation in the Renewable Energy Credit, CO2 reduction, or pay-for-performance markets;
iii) Meters verify that public subsidies or rebates for Solar Water Heating are well-spent;
iv) Meters capture “Big Data” to innovate design or develop competitive advantage;
v) Meters provide the information key to “bragging rights,” which compel pride in ownership
All Amatis Controls solar thermal instruments include a heat meter, real time data posts to the Internet, an energy dashboard, and state of the art communication protocols. Our meters set the standard.
The first technical conference on solar thermal technologies sponsored by the International Energy Agency was held last week in San Francisco. It drew nearly 300 participants from all over the world. Growth forecasts for the sector foresee 500 GWth of new solar thermal to be installed by 2017.
A big takeaway for many participants is the latent potential solar thermal offers industrial processing.
- German firms Dürr and Industrial Solar can reduce the energy needed to make an automobile by nearly 50%. While the average automotive manufacture process demands between 700 and 900 kWh per car body (73% of embodied energy is attributed to painting the vehicle), the innovative use of industrial solar thermal Fresnel collectors reduces this to 430 kwh per car body.
- Stapleton-Spence Packing Company is one of the largest US industrial dried fruit packers. Annually, 8,000 tons of prunes are packaged at their California facility. The company will offset 37,000 therms of natural gas with their 20,000 ft2 of FAFCO all-polymer solar collectors. FAFCO is the US’s oldest and largest solar thermal manufacturer. The system was installed for $800,000 but reduced to $60,000 thanks to State and Federal tax credits. Payback at the prune facility is expected to be 3.5 years; ROI is 25%.
In all sectors of the economy — from residential domestic hot water and space heating, to commercial buildings like laundromats and car washes, to industrial process heat — solar thermal technology is proven, affordable, and viable.
So let’s do it.
The Internet of Things is a vision for the connectivity of everyday objects.
Just as websites and computers have unique IP addresses today, imagine assigning an IP address to objects from virtually every sector — from Spanish vocabulary flashcards, to reading glasses, to medical records, to the boiler in your mechanical room, to running shoes, light switches or checked baggage. Essentially, the Internet is a network for vast data exchange. Instead of connecting websites across the globe, The Internet of Things connects a universe of objects. If the World Wide Web connects the cosmos, The Internet of Things connects the infinity of molecules.
Kevin Ashton from Birmingham, England is credited with first articulating the vision for The Internet of Things in 1999. Ashton was inspired with the potential of Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID) to economize supply chains while employed by Procter and Gamble. RFID tags were the first building block for The Internet of Things. RFID tags, unlike a bar code, are 3D objects that can be planted on an object and read remotely. Examples include:
- Several casinos in Las Vegas have embedded high value chips with RFID tags to track individual player’s betting habits, dealer’s mistakes, and counterfeit chips. In 2010, $1.5M of chips were stolen from the Bellagio. Thanks to the RFID they were immediately invalidated, making the cash value $0.
- 7-Eleven, MasterCard and Nokia have developed a touch-free, pilot payment system that will enable automatic payment from a cell phone at any store worldwide.
- The University of Arkansas tested inventory management via RFID for Walmart and reduced the incidence of Out of Stocks by 30%
Yet RFIDs can only identify products and objects. The objects can’t be monitored or controlled. As a controls company, Amatis sees great advantage in engineering devices that can be tracked, monitored and guided remotely.
So, we’ve worked actively for 27 months to build-out the open standard called 6LoWPAN. The term 6LoWPAN stands for Internet Protocol version 6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks.
If the name intimidates, just remember, 6LoWPAN is a language. (Our software engineers will quickly say that it is actually a communications protocol. But for us laymen, It’s a language.) Like WiFi, Bluetooth or ZigBee, 6LoWPAN is used to communicate data across radio frequencies.
Until recently, 6LoWPAN was an infant. Engineering students used 6LoWPAN for experimental research projects. Amatis Controls is one of the first firms to use 6LoWPAN for commercial applications.
This new communications language enables conversation with objects rather than simply tracing them. It takes the RFID a step further.
Amatis Controls’ Peter Pan is the backbone of all our technology. Peter Pan is a unique ID that is programed with 6LoWPAN. It enables real-time reports to the Internet, and can be monitored or guided by a user located anywhere. For example, Peter Pan is what makes our Solar Water Heating Meters, and controls for Direct Current Suspended Ceilings as interactive, responsive and useful as they are.
We welcome the chance to blow your mind with the future. Be in touch to learn more.
Many thanks to Mick Jagger for telling us that anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Solar thermal is usually an individual affair — rooftop by rooftop — in the US. But in Europe, a central solar thermal plant, composed of the same types of collectors, can supply hundreds of houses at once. District heat grids, as they are called, make this possible. Renewable energy geeks: Hark! This is our kind of overdoing it. (Who’s got the moves now, Jagger?)
In March I went on a research mission to the Island of Samsø, one of Denmark’s 400 islands. Like Mick Jagger, Samso is out there: it took a day of travel by train, bus and ferry from Copenhagen to finally arrive. In 2008, The New Yorker described Samsø as the “site of an unlikely social movement.” Samsø is the first place in the world to generate 100% of its required heat and electricity from renewables. Within ten years of establishing the goal, Samsø did it. Offshore wind, solar, and biomass district heat are the primary sources.
Outside the Samsø villages of Nordby and Mårup, I visited a solar thermal collector field that has 26,900 ft2 (2,500 m2) of panels. It’s snuggled beside a wood-chip biomass plant. These compose the central boiler – just like your mechanical room at home – which feeds the district heat network. The central boiler thereby heats 80% of two villages. The day of our visit, a romantic fog made us a bitskeptical about production capacity, but typically the sun shines brightly.
Sure, fields of solar PV panels are increasingly common in the US. But fields of solar thermal?
District Heat relies on a network of well-insulated pipes underground to deliver heat in the form of steam or hot water to various end users, generated from a central source (powered by anything from solar thermal to natural gas, to biomass). A district heat network usually has a radius of up to 20 miles (32 KM). The 17 x 4 miles island (28 x 7 km) is home to 4000 residents. The utility company, NRGi, operates these facilities and connects new homes to the networked heating infrastructure just like an electric company manages and operates transmission lines. Although NRGi intended to build one plant on Samsø, locals went door-to-door gathering signatures to persuade a broader build-out of the system.
Today, there are four central boilers serving 60% of all Samsø residents.Cheers for over doing it! Mick Jagger would be proud.
Many of us live on “islands” of a sort: our neighborhoods, city districts, or watersheds are sites with an aptitude for 100% local, renewable generation. Starting now! People from Samsø describe themselves as neither wealthy, well-educated, idealistic nor even particularly adventuresome. In 1997, a former teacher called Søren Hermannsen was asked to lead Samsø’s energy independence initiative. Hermannsen attributed the success to strong relationships between friends. When one neighbor heard that another had invested in the jointly-owned wind turbine cooperative, he also would join. Social connections verified and promoted the renewable initiatives, repeatedly.
A takeaway from Samsø is that sincere friendships are the foundation of transformative political capital. And in the friendship department, we can never overdo it.
Further reading and Sources:
Modern buildings are complex. There are many moving parts, often operating in aggressive environments. Measuring electrical or gas consumption, tracking efficiency efforts, or renewable generation, at the meter level is fundamental. Displaying the data with graphs proves that mechanical systems and lighting controls are functioning optimally. Meters cultivate the “pride of ownership” essential to helping residential customers repair and keep up their projects. Metering alerts facility managers of inefficiencies or failures. This reduces waste promptly and insures a return on investment.
Utility companies meter our water, electricity and thermal consumption to bill us each month. So shouldn’t homeowners or facility managers have as precise if not stronger data about their own property’s performance?
The recent Empire State Building retrofit reduced energy consumption and expenses by 40%. Project investment costs were recovered in just 3 years. According to building owner Tony Malkin, “it would have been bad business not to do this.” For Malkin, the rate of return isn’t just theory: the building’s meters and controls prove the savings. In fact, monitoring analysis shows that a single degree increase in building temperature costs $56,000, annually.
Facility managers can reduce building occupants’ energy consumption without investment in new equipment. When monitors help occupants become energy-aware, it’s possible to realize measurable energy savings. Metering will reveal a building’s top 5 inefficiencies. Armed with information, then owners and managers pick high-leverage upgrades objectively, thereby investing in capital improvements that deliver a payback. Monitoring electrical draw, HVAC functions, and renewable generation is fundamental to building profitability equations.
Energy monitors are either direct or indirect. Direct monitors are wall-mounted with real-time displays. Indirect monitors push data to smart phones or a web-based interface. Numerous international, academic studies show that at least a 15% energy reduction is achieved once a home or building is monitored. Some gains were as high as 50%. Any Amatis Controls monitoring package offers direct wall mounted displays and indirect cloud-displayed data. A 2009 study from the Minnesota Department of Commerce concludes that monitoring “goes beyond educating consumers and provides tools for individuals to better understand the nature of how their actions relate to their energy consumption.”
Amatis Controls knows that commissioning your building should not be a one time event, but rather occur hour by hour. A gallery of precise and cost effective meters, monitors and controls are available at www.amatiscontrols.com
The solar water heating sector might take a cue from pork.
You know, like the famous late ‘80s campaign: “Pork, the other white meat.” Tired of being overlooked in favor of chicken, or turkey, The National Pork Board invested $7m in helping American consumers consider another way to cook cordon bleu or casserole.
Solar thermal should adopt a similar strategy. Just imagine it: “Solar Water Heating: the other solar panel.”
Does “solar” means more than shimmering, deep blue PV panels atop a roof? It’s news to most people. Yet the reasons add up why American households should become familiar with solar for domestic water heat.
Even without a catchy slogan, there’s hope. Two events of note took place over the last 30 days in Colorado:
- the Solar Thermal Alliance of Colorado unveiled its Solar Roadmap for the State
- the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association’s annual conference furthered the momentum
Either by clamoring or credentials, solar water heating is fighting successfully to draw attention to its many attributes: affordability, reliability, and simplicity.
Solar Thermal Alliance of Colorado (STAC)
On 24 January, a twelve-month effort culminated when STAC released its Solar Thermal Roadmap for the State. The technology, also known as Solar Water Heating, is especially well positioned to succeed in our State, according to researchers from the National Renewable Energy Lab and the Florida Solar Energy Center. Colorado is the single best place in the country for solar water heating thanks to numerous days of sunshine, a large temperature swing between day and night, significant annual heating loads, and the temperature of our ground water. Recognizing this, STAC’s eleven-person working group identified opportunities to expand the sector.
STAC’s goals are ambitious: grow the SWH market from $16M in 2010 sales to $677 million by 2030. Worldwide, solar water heating is engineered into homes as a modern element of the mechanical system. It’s only an “alternative technology” in the US. Thanks to STAC’s leadership, this can change. The Colorado Renewable Energy Society should also be credited for providing essential impetus.
Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA)
The Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) held its annual conference, Solar Power Colorado 2012 on 9 and 10 February. Though COSEIA has been around for 23 years, and was accustomed to hosting its annual meeting at Beau Jo’s Pizza in Idaho Springs for most of those years, the sector has really gotten dressed of late. In 2012, more than 500 attendees and 60 exhibitors were present.
Governor Hickenlooper addressed the group. He acknowledged that clean technology firms are hanging on in Colorado and thanked them for their “resiliency” despite hard times.
“Our mission was to show Governor Hickenlooper the strength and professionalism of Colorado’s solar industry,” said RJ Harrington, COSEIA Policy Director. He noted that there are more than 6,000 solar jobs in Colorado according to the Solar Foundation. “We are the number one state in the nation in terms of solar jobs per capita.”
Though the COSEIA conference had only two sessions specific to solar water heating, there was strong industry representation and tangible dialogue among sector leaders. Best, COSEIA is actively supporting the Solar Thermal Alliance of Colorado. It agreed to include solar water heating in the scope of a nearly $500,000 Department of Energy grant on to streamline solar permitting in State municipalities.
Conscious leadership from COSEIA, CRES, and the volunteers with vision who founded the Solar Thermal Alliance of Colorado should be applauded. Going forward, I’m still thinking about pork. Solar water heating is one step closer to attaining its potential once it differentiates itself from PV. Even if “Solar Water Heating: the other solar panel,” doesn’t become a formal campaign (probably shouldn’t!), this is a mantra its advocates should repeat.
Solar thermal for domestic hot water heat is hardly a new technology. The first patent on solar water heating was registered with an entrepreneur from Baltimore in 1891, Clarence Kemp. Prior to World War II, more than half of existing homes and 80% of new construction in Miami were equipped with thermosiphon hot water heating. In 1947, the book, Your Solar House was published in the US to promote passive solar design. By 1950, Frank Bridgers and Don Paxton built the world’s first solar heated office building, 5,000 square feet, sited in New Mexico. It was featured in Life Magazine.
By 1974, the energy crisis spurred wider interest in solar thermal. Jimmy Carter installed solar hot water panels on the White House roof in 1979. In his dedication speech, Carter said, “In the year 2000 this solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy…. A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.” Sadly, Carter’s words were prophetic, just not the way he hoped. Seven years later, the Reagan Administration removed Carter’s gesture at the “most exciting adventure ever undertaken,” and the panels live now in several museums, most recently the Solar Science and Technology Museum in Dezhou, China.
At the dedication ceremony, the chairman of the largest manufacturer of solar hot water heaters in the world, a Chinese company, accepted the donation for permanent display in the museum. Though America led the early advances in solar hot water technology decisively, the gains in know-how and manufacturing have been forfeited. So as our solar thermal panels went to Chinese museums, America got their traveling troupe of Terra Cotta soldiers in return. But worse, our know-how was eclipsed. China has the most ambitious goals in the world for solar hot water capacity: to install 300 million M2 of residential scale solar hot water heat by 2020. This is 7.5 times the target of the nearest competitor, India. What’s more, China, already represents 66% of the global market.
Yet, Greg Katz, president of the venture capital firm, Cap-E said, “solar thermal is going through a very steep inflexion point right now,” in keynote comments before the National Renewable Energy Lab’s Partnership Accelerator conference in October 2011. The Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association announced that the number of solar thermal jobs doubled, in the US, between 2009 and 2010; “retail distribution of solar thermal increased 40% in 2009.” Amatis hails the harbinger that the US market is poised to launch.
Amatis provides knowhow and competence to to sustainable business, thus acting as a green ambassador; our controls enable business to meet its sustainability or self-sufficiency targets. We help corporate decision makers envision energy performance goals, benchmark progress, and achieve the goal. Without monitoring this sophisticated, how would any enterprise ensure that it successfully meets targets?
It’s interesting how long it takes to design a product, and make it well. Every product we market represents at least 24 months of R&D, often longer. We bring elegance, function and insight — through our products and our approach — to technologies which mainstream engineering misses.
Further, Amatis is part of a revolution in how we conceive of energy use. The monthly utility bill is an archaic and blunt tool with which to understand consumption. No one should have to command their business through such guesswork!
The climate crisis may be solved with a black swan. But we’re not gambling on that. Amatis’ solutions hinge on creative thinking. We’re committed to accessible, visible, and measurable and real-time energy performance. We stay a step ahead.