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The drowning man is not troubled by the rain. (Provb.) Why wait to deal with the flood that is coming. You're better off dealing with it beforehand.

Does Solar Make Sense?

At first look Solar doesn't have a place in the North East.
But with newer technologies we can use solar to help mitigate the costs associated with fossil fuels.
Lets get some background and real facts.

Solar Thermal

Solar thermal energy is designed to harness solar energy for space heating, domestic hot water, and to generate electricity. Solar thermal, also referred to as Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) differs significantly from photovoltaics. Photovoltaic technology generates electricity directly from sunlight whereas solar thermal energy uses flat panels, vacuum tubes, lenses and reflectors to concentrate solar radiation and convert it to heat or elctricity.

The modern solar industry began with the oil embargo of 1973-1974 and was strengthened by the second embargo in 1979. In recent years the solar thermal market has experienced renewed growth and a number of technologies have emerged which include evacuated tubes, high tech coatings, solar dishes, solar troughs, solar towers and linear fresnel reflectors.

Increasing demand for renewable energy and solar power

Renewable energy sources are becoming a very important component of the global energy mix. Under the International Energy Agency's 'Alternative Energy Scenario', the share of renewables in electricity generation could rise to 25% by 2030.

McKinsey estimates that the global solar capacity will rise from 6 GW in 2005 to over 200 GW in 2020.

As can be seen from the map below the areas with the greatest potential for solar thermal power include North America, Africa, Middle East and Australia.

Global locations suitable for harnessing solar thermal power

Map of World showing locations suitable for harnessing solar thermal power

Source: Pharabod and Philibert, 1992

Solar and the North East U.S.A.

Although northeastern USA is not a suitable area for full scale 100% thermal heating and electricity generation, domestic hot water generation from solar can be an effective application which is not to costly and where paybacks can be achieved considering today's energy costs. An average house-hold can derive up to 70 per-cent of it's DHW requirement from solar. A family of 4 using 80 gal electric water heater, compared with a domestic solar DHW heating system can achieve payback within 5 years depending on usage and DHW water heating costs above $1000.00.

Space Heating applications can be combined when using geothermal and radiant applications using and although short paybacks may not be achieved in the nearterm or over the life of the system our analysis can only be based on what is currently the cost of fossil fuels and not on what they may be in the future.