The first commercial installation of a hybrid solar thermal-natural gas water heating system now is in use.
Originally designed for residential use, the system is
also an efficient hot water delivery system for industrial and commercial applications
up to 195°F (90.5°C). "What makes this system attractive for commercial
applications is that you can ‘gang’ the tanks up to a quantity of eight,
offering the potential to supply a vast amount of hot water to particular applications,"
says David Cygan, the Gas Technology Institute's industrial R&D and solar
GTI, headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., with its
manufacturing partner Solar Usage Now, Hamilton, Ind., installed the Sun
Equinox system at the Samuel Billings Center, a county-owned building in
The installation includes two tanks, each with a 132-gal
capacity and five solar collectors. The installation replaced a 100-gal water
heater, giving the building more capacity. The tanks are polyethylene, "which
can easily last 25 years or more," Cygan says, noting that the system has
the potential to deliver energy cost savings of 40 percent and a corresponding
reduction in greenhouse gases.
"It’s very cost-effective," says Thom Blake,
president of Solar Usage Now. "Everything on the system is assembled and
ready to snap into place, limiting expensive labor costs."
Natural gas is the cleanest-burning fossil fuel, which makes
it an ideal complement to solar and wind, which is available only intermittently,
GTI says. Pairing natural gas with renewable energy sources represents a real
opportunity to move toward more environmentally friendly energy sources.