Interest in Solar Water Heating Growing

September 4, 2014 By Karen Henry

rooftop-solar-energy-manageSolar hot water heating arrays installed on the rooftops of dairy farms on King Island, Tasmania, are expected to lower power costs for the dairy farmers by 10–15 percent, The New York Times reports.

The solar arrays, which were financed with an $188,000 grant, will be used to heat the water necessary to clean and flush out dairy equipment.

Unlike solar PV panels, solar hot water heating uses solar collectors—plates or tubes—rather than semiconducting materials to capture solar energy.

Although not as popular as solar PV panels, interest in solar hot water heating is slowly growing around the world. The market grew about 10 percent from 2011 to 2012, with China leading the pack, according to an International Energy Agency report. Cyprus has the highest numbers of solar hot water heating units per capita, followed by Austria, Israel and Barbados. The technology has not been widely embraced in the United States because of the low cost of natural gas.

Because the systems are generally less expensive than solar PV—an unpressurized rooftop installation costs around $300—they are particularly attractive for developing countries, especially those in remote locations that make the delivery of fossil fuel cost prohibitive.

Other industries that, like dairies, require large amounts of hot water are exploring solar hot water heating as well. For example, firehouses are ideal locations for solar hot water heating. Five solar hot water heaters were added to New York City firehouses earlier this year.

Photo of rooftop solar collectors via Shutterstock.

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