Municipal and Commercial solar installations are a completely different game than residential. Here we have many decision makers and the motivations are different. With anything new or a little different there will always be a great deal of difficulty getting everyone on board. Its very important we all learn from the mistakes of the past.

municipal flat roof solar

Powerstrips on a flat roof.

municipal solar pool

The largest solar pool heater in Canada by a factor of 2

  • The banner at the top of this page shows 6000 sq ft of an 8000 sq ft Powerstrip solar heater that heats a 25m indoor pool as well as preheats water for showers at an Aquatic Center in BC Canada. The Powerstrips are connected to the roof using screen under the existing roof ballast. Concept drawings are available in our drawings section. Systems of this size where appropriate can be done very cost effectively. This particular system was commissioned by an energy service contractor who had to guarantee the energy savings. The city didn't risk any tax payers dollars. This type of solar heating is competitive with natural gas and this system will prove it once we have collected at least a year's worth of data.
    Powerstrip solar

    The Coronado High School Solar System

    Solar pipe run

    Note the movement with temperature

  • One of our first municipal installations was for the Coronado High School in Coronado California. This document details some of the technical aspects of a good solar pool heating installation and compares the earlier Heliocol system with the newer Powerstrip showing many of our advantages on a shingle roof.
  • flat roof solar

    Powerstrips on a flat roof.

    municipal solar pool

    The South Arm Outdoor Pool

  • The South Arm Outdoor Pool has a 3000 sq ft Powerstrip system used for just the summer months. The data we collected in the first year is available here
  • Our dealer, Eco Solar was awarded a contract to upgrade two solar heaters at The Hyatt Grand Manchester Hotel in San Diego. The original two systems used Heliocol solar panels. Every other bidder put in a price to replace everything with brand new. Our proposal was to remount one system and clean it up and replace just one of the two systems. The one to be replaced wasn't in a smart location. Our proposal included SWIM PC monitoring and control systems for both pools and new variable speed pumps to drive each system. The Heliocol system is monitored here. Once we had data flowing in we could see that something wasn't right. If you look at that earlier data you'll see the return from solar temperature is 8 degrees below pool temperature all night. We recognized that after all this time nobody had ever figured out that solar wasn't set up right. How could they? The system wasn't monitored. It was plumbed in parallel with the gas heaters meaning the pressure drop through the gas heaters was driving flow through solar all the time even at night. The gas heater was firing all night to make up for the heat lost by solar. We remedied this on Nov 5, 2013 and after that you can see much better data.

    hotel flat roof solar

    Powerstrips at the Hyatt in San Diego.

    Hotel pool solar

    The Eco Solar crew in production

    The system we replaced with Powerstrip solar collectors had some issues as well and they have also been remedied thanks to the transparency allowed by the SWIM PC technology. You can view that system's data here. Now that both systems are operating properly for the first time since the initial investment 12 years ago was made its becoming very clear that Powerstrips are a lot more effective at heating pools. We're getting twice the energy delivery per square foot from the Powerstrips. We believe this is due to the fact this is a windy seaside location and the separated tube design of Heliocol maximizes heat loss to the wind as the air is free to encircle the flow tubes fully.

  • The City of Cache Creek BC Canada got themselves a solar heater in 2010 as part of Canada's EcoEnergy Program. It was a miracle they used swimming pool heating solar panels to heat this swimming pool. It wasn't uncommon for this program to assign too much money to solar and force the use of inappropriate glass covered solar panels. Glass covered solar panels , contrary to popular misconceptions in many engineering circles and solar circles, are not more efficient. In fact they are usually less efficient per area never mind per dollar. Anyway, here's the story of what we found looking at this 3 year old Fafco system and the lessons we should all learn from the use of this type of solar panel.

    municipal solar hot water

    Powerstrips at the Minoru Aquatic Center

    vented storage

    5000 gallons of solar storage!

    Commercial solar water preheating systems can and should be done with Powerstrips. When heating hot water it starts as cold water. We can heat cold water at close to 100% efficiency with Powerstrips when a boxed and glazed or evacuated tube is 50-75% efficient. The glazing and insulation gets in the way when the water being heated is colder than the air. Powerstrip systems can be a lot less expensive, many times less, meaning we can cost effectively heat the cold half of the temperature range many times more cost effectively with Powerstrips than we can heat the upper range of the temperature spectrum with glazed collectors. So why are we throwing money at solar thermal systems that focus on the least cost effective energy displacement? Its because we're a bunch of dummies, us humans. We get behind a solar technology because it can save the world and we throw taxpayer's dollars at subsidies for it so it earns a bigger market share. You can't sell something that takes 100 years to pay for itself without being either ignorant of the economics or deliberately deceitful. In our experience in this industry for the last 3 decades we've run into plenty of both. Meanwhile we've had these cost effective competitive technologies available all along but we've been in so big a rush to displace all the energy we use heating hot water with solar that we forgot the first step. To tackle the part of the loads we can do cost effectively with technology like Powerstrip. It may not be very sexy but for cost competitiveness with cheap natural gas we need to start with things we can do that make the most sense. The road to a sustainable energy future has to be a footpath before it can be a highway.

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