Aqua Care Solar owner Steve Ruby was featured in an article in the Boulder Weekly:
Boulder Weekly/Boulderganics section
You might call it “the other solar power” — the kind that won’t be affected no matter what happens with Xcel Energy’s debated rebates for photovoltaic panels.
It’s solar thermal, which converts the sun’s rays into heat rather than into electric power.
The Colorado Solar Thermal Alliance claims that it’s more efficient than PV (photovoltaic) systems, capturing and using 70 percent of energy as compared to 17 percent efficiency for PV and 30 percent for coal.
“PV systems today are where solar thermal was in 1983,” says Steve Ruby, who may be biased as the owner of AquaCare Solar of Boulder, but who insists that the research backs him up.
“Anywhere you need a bunch of heat, for hot water, to warm your house, run your washer and dryer, that’s where solar thermal rules.”
But, Ruby also adds, PV solar has its essential use where solar thermal may not work as well.
“Electric power,” he says. “Think of PV taking the place of your conventional electric utility and solar thermal taking over for your natural gas. Every household needs a mix of energy systems.”
Solar thermal collection panels look a lot like PV panels, and are also mounted on roofs. (Unlike PVs, they can also operate in partial shade.) Solar heating systems are generally tied into the existing heat-distribution and water heater set-up.
Solar thermal technology has improved over the years, but Ruby says that even older systems dating from the mid-1980s hold up well — he services many of them.
There are rebates for solar thermal systems and energy-efficient water heaters — separate from the Xcel incentives for PVs — that reduce the price of installing them considerably. Ruby reckons that most systems will “pay for themselves in about 10 years.”
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