Smart Energy Living - January 2012

Boost the Economy by Heating and Cooling with the Sun :


Jerry Brown and Rebecca Cantwell

     Colorado has the best weather conditions in the nation to use sunlight for heating and cooling, and the technology also holds enormous economic potential, industry leaders say.

     recyclingSolar-energy advocates called the Solar Thermal Alliance of Colorado (STAC) have proposed a roadmap for solar-thermal development they say would make Colorado a global leader in solar heating and cooling and provide a major boost to the state’s economy for decades to come.

     Using what they described as conservative and pragmatic projections, the group said their roadmap for solar thermal development could add more than 24,000 jobs and $1 billion in revenue to Colorado’s economy by 2050. The goal is to develop projects generating 16,500 MW of solar thermal energy in the next four decades.

     Citing research by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Florida Solar Energy Center, STAC leaders said “solar thermal heating technologies perform better in Colorado than in any other state.”

     “Our intense sunshine, wide temperature swings and high heating loads can help Colorado became the national bull’s-eye for solar thermal performance and we need to take advantage of that unique situation,’’ said Neal Lurie, executive director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA)  in rolling out the plan.

     The backers unveiled the plan at the Denver Housing Authority’s Mulroy Opportunity Center, a  public housing apartment complex that features a Solar Thermal Trellis which is the first solar thermal project developed for the agency. It meets about 50 percent of the hot water demand of the complex and will pay for itself in  about 11 years, displacing about 20 percent of natural gas use.

     Resident Christine Blair, left, and manager Gina Allen say the solar thermal system has improved life at the Mulroy apartmentsResident Christine Blair has noticed the difference. She used to find that hot water was non-existent or lukewarm when she showered at certain times. “”Now night or day, I never have any problem at all!’’ she said. ”We always have hot water—it has made a big difference.’’

     In spite of remarkable progress with other forms of renewable energy, Colorado is noticeably behind in solar thermal deployment. One reason for the lag in solar-thermal development, STAC said, is that “an exceedingly large percentage of people simply are not aware that there is more than one type of solar technology.”

Resident Christine Blair, left, and manager Gina Allen say the solar thermal system has improved life at the Mulroy apartments.

     Most of the attention to solar energy over the years has focused on photovoltaics, using solar energy to produce electricity. Solar-thermal systems typically use solar energy to heat a liquid that is then used to produce space heating and hot water for residential, commercial and industrial applications. Through a process known as thermally driven cooling, solar-thermal systems can also be used to cool buildings.

     Laurent Meillon, director of Capitol Solar Energy LLC said solar thermal systems have many advantages: they retrofit easily on many existing buildings, pay off quicker than many alternatives including solar photovoltaic systems, will help clean up the environment and use local labor.

     The roadmap identifies obstacles to wider deployment and how to overcome them.

     Tony Frank, executive director of CRES, said boosting the deployment of solar thermal systems will require increasing consumer awareness, developing new financing mechanisms, leveling the state energy policy playing field and solving local regulatory issues so permitting is more uniform.

     “Fragmented permit processes and installation requirements continue to increase costs among the state’s more than 200 municipalities, 64 counties and 65 utilities,” the group claims. “Issuing permits for a standard residential solar installation can add up to 20 days to solar thermal project times in some Colorado communities, while others complete the processes in less than one day.”

     “Lack of focus on solar thermal deployment is the most glaring gap in Colorado’s clean energy economy,” STAC said. “Our vision is to make Colorado a global leader in solar thermal adoption, installation, manufacturing, and R&D to boost Colorado’s economy, generate jobs, and help build a sustainable energy future."

Colorado’s Solar Thermal Roadmap is available here:

Video of the event:


Jerry Brown | 303-781-8787 | 303-594-8016 (mobile) |

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