U.S. university deploys high density solar thermal system


Illinois-based ELM Solar, the US reseller of UK-based Naked Energy's solar thermal and photovoltaic thermal (PVT) systems, has installed 240 of the British company's TÜV-certified collectors at a student dormitory at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

The university student residence installation is claimed to generate solar heat up to 120 C, with an annual peak capacity of 69.9 kW thermal energy. It is the first North American project for the British company.

The VirtuHOT HD collector uses a heat plate to absorb the sun’s energy and transfers it to the solar fluid to a high-efficiency heat plate. The absorber plate has a low emissivity coding reducing radiative heat loss. The vacuum in the glass tube reduces additional heat loss, resulting in a maximum of efficiency.

Naked Energy also makes PVT systems in a vacuum tube form with an absorber plate, conventional silicon solar cells, a borosilicate glass tube, and an integrated reflector in a mounting system with a 25.4 cm profile.

The absorbers can be tilted towards the sun optimising performance on pitched roofs, flat roofs, and vertical facades. A single tube unit measures 2,165 mm x 300 mm x 265 mm and weighs 20.9 kg. Its aperture area is 0.64 m2 and the absorber area is 0.331 m2. Its peak thermal output is 275 W and the electrical output is 70 W.

“The business development teams at ELM Solar and Naked Energy are currently in conversations with a variety of leads in the United States,” Christophe Williams, Naked Energy CEO, told pv magazine, noting that potential customers in the US range from paper and pulp manufacturers, health care facilities and restaurants, to pilot projects with international utility companies.

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“Solar heat technology has enormous potential because it takes the task of heating water, a major energy cost in any building, either off the power or gas grid, resulting in financial and carbon savings for the building owner,” said Lee C. Graves, chairman, ELM Companies, owner of ELM Solar.

According to its CEO, Naked Energy is developing a software platform to ease the planning and modeling of new PVT installations, including cost, performance, and return on investment calculations for PV-generated electricity, solar heating and cooling. Williams also said that a first German project is slated to start construction in January, without providing further details.

Naked Energy claims that its technology quadruples the reduction of greenhouse gases per square meter compared to traditional solar PV panels.

The article was amended on October 20, 2023 to reflect that it was a thermal system and not a PVT system as originally reported.

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