Partnership Opens up Solar Thermal to REC Markets

At this week’s Solar World Congress, two solar thermal heating companies teamed up to offer something new for the solar thermal industry. At the heart of the companies’ approach is the conversion of solar thermal energy to kWh, opening up solar thermal technologies to the green credits markets.

The new commercial solution, from Solar Direct and TCT Solar, is named “Azteca.” The two believe the approach will help pave the way for volume purchases of solar water heating (SWH) solutions. “For the first time in the 100-year history of Solar Water Heating, the Industry is now entering a market-driven phase,” said Dale Gulden, CEO of Solar Direct, “This is fueled by several factors: heightened concern over energy price hikes, education via the green building movement, and more recently, the emergence of ‘Green Marketing’ programs.” Azteca will link Solar Direct’s engineering expertise with TCT Solar’s ProgressivTube technology. With this joint venture, Solar Direct and TCT Solar aim to make SWH more accessible to large-scale commercial and industrial projects, such as multi-unit residential and hot water intensive industries (e.g. Hospitality, Agricultural, and Food Processing). The systems are specifically designed with a meter so the solar energy use can be measured in equivalent electrical kWh. These meters are PV-based, making the system completely energy-independent. This can be applied to either individual SWH unit or to an array of SWH units. The significance of this is that thermal energy expressed in kWh can be net-metered in a way similar to solar PV. All the environmental and social attributes of the energy can be measured and traded like those from other renewable energy sources in the Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) markets. Solar thermal systems have historically not been able to do this. This means owners of “Azteca” SWH systems will be able to calculate in real-time the demand reduction of fossil-fuel based electricity associated with their investment as well as include solar tradable renewable energy credits (TREC’s) as a component of their project financing and ROI. Jeff Curry, of Lakeland Electric, a Florida utility, pioneered the use of TREC’s. He is a strong supporter of using TREC’s with Solar Thermal applications, and heralded the “Azteca” plan as a “major step in bringing viable solar energy technology to the commercial marketplace.” The new product solution is slated for availability to select customers for early access during the 4th quarter of calendar year 2005, with full roll-out in 2006. For more information, see the companies’ full press release at the following link.

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