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Something old and something new in commercial solar energy

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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 12:10 PM
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Something old and something new in commercial solar energy

Something old and something new in commercial solar energy

August 23, 4:31 AM - Marvin Goldberg

About 30 years ago, a pioneering effort by Steven J. Strong, the Exxon Solar Thermal Energy Systems Division, and developers William and Peter OConnell, began solar energy commercialization in Massachusetts. For the first time, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic and hydro-geothermal systems were combined and applied to residential buildings in Quincy, Massachusetts. Since then, solar energy systems have been applied to many residential and commercial facilities here in New Jersey and around the nation including Government buildings, military facilities, residential buildings, schools, hotels, manufacturing facilities, and research and development laboratories.

Peter OConnell, developer-owner of the senior residential apartment building in Quincy - Granite Place - stated in 1979: The problem is cost. The person responsible for designing and constructing a building is primarily interested in first costs while those responsible for operating a facility are interested in operating costs. The two perspectives must be married. Historically, it has been much better to invest in fixed costs using low present-value loan rates to hedge against future operating costs. The more variable operating costs, such as energy expenditures, the greater the business risk. If increased rents cannot be levied because of economic considerations or if rent control is present, increased costs cannot be spread over the tenant base. Absorption of costs by the building operator is a precarious business situation. Spiraling fuel costs in 1973-74 forced many housing project operators into default. The senior apartment complex at Granite Place is my firms first attempt to invest in solar energy devices resulting in lower future operating costs.

OConnells second solar energy development was the retrofitting of Hancock house, an older apartment complex within walking distance of Granite Place. Monitoring of this project indicated that 25 percent of the buildings total energy cost was consumed in the heating of hot water. Ninety-two flat plate solar thermal energy panels were installed and their output monitored. Within short order, the system provided 80 per cent of the heat energy for the domestic hot water system. The heating/air conditioning system at that complex employs deep hydro-geothermal heating/cooling technology that employs a massive underground 1Mgal storage tank feeding individual apartment heat pumps.

The Granite Place system solar system design by Steven J. Strong, the pre-eminent authority of renewable energy systems in buildings, won a $156,000 award from HUD, a welcome bonus for the building owners. Total solar system cost was $200,000. Aside from the savings provided by the solar energy system, the building employs double-insulated glass windows with thermal breaks, six inches of fiberglass in the outside walls and 13 inches in the ceilings, low-flow shower heads, fluorescent fixtures throughout the building, and high EER-rated appliances.

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