Solar thermal jockeys for its place in the sun
By Lee van der Voo , Sustainable Business Oregon
Sustainable Business Oregon
Mt. Hood Athletic Club owner Paul Reed uses a solar pool heating system. (Image courtesy of Energy Trust.)
Oregon will plug $2.36 million in tax credits into boosting the solar thermal market here, aiming to revive a once popular method of heating water that now holds nascent promise for commercial water users.
Solar thermal systems heat water, using energy collected from the sun. They work by raising temperatures in tubes of liquid, which loop through water-holding tanks. The systems are said to have potential for large water customers like athletic centers with heated pools, college dorms, agricultural food processors, and most notably hotels, which can spend between 50 percent and 60 percent of their utility costs on water heating alone. Businesses already using solar thermal systems include Willamette University, East Portland Community Center and the Mt. Hood Athletic Club in Sandy, Oregon.
Last month, the Oregon Department of Energy announced the pre-certification of $2.36 million in tax credits for additional solar thermal projects in 15 counties in Oregon through the Business Energy Tax Credit program. The list includes projects proposed at Lane and Mt. Hood Community Colleges, Western Oregon University and the cities of Coos Bay, Corvallis and Dallas. It also includes solar thermal plans for farms, fish markets, apartments, condos, hotels and a nursery.
Solar thermal projects received the smallest amount of BETC pre-certifications, by comparison solar electric projects received $83 million in pre-certified tax incentives.
Officials say their goal is to expand solar thermal use in Oregon, which lags behind photovoltaic, which turns solar energy into electricity.
“It hasn’t caught on as fast. Photovoltaic has had a lot more organized effort to promote it but solar thermal — dollar for dollar — has a lot more potential to produce energy,” said Rob Del Mar, policy analyst for the Oregon Department of Energy.
Lee van der Voo, firstname.lastname@example.org, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.
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