SEIA Releases Path Forward for Solar Heating & Cooling

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By expanding the U.S.’s solar thermal capacity to 300 gigawatts by 2050, the economy would save $61 billion annually.

A new report titled “Solar Heating & Cooling: Energy for a Secure Future” lays down a plan for the expansion of solar heating and cooling (SHC) systems.

By educating the public and policymakers about the benefits and availability of solar thermal water heating solutions, SEIA hopes to expand the rebates available for the technology as a way to increase the amount of solar energy usage throughout the United States.

Media coverage of the solar industry tends to pay more attention to its impact on the energy sector. Although this is certainly a crucial area where photovoltaic (PV) power can have a positive effect on energy consumption and carbon emissions, it should be noted that 44 percent of energy consumption in the U.S. comes from heating and cooling applications, such as water and space heating, air conditioning and steam generation. This is where solar thermal applications can play a larger part.

SEIA recommends that the United States set a goal of increasing its solar thermal capacity from 9 gigawatts (GW) to 300 by 2050. Doing so could provide the American economy with $61 billion in annual savings, while helping to create over 50,000 jobs and increase manufacturing output by $1.9 billion. It would also offset 226 million tons of CO2 emissions annually, which is similar to take 47 million passenger cars off the road.

Among the policy prescriptions that Pilgaard and his colleagues propose is an expansion of incentive programs that are already in place to encourage more homeowners, businesses and institutions to adopt solar energy for their heating and cooling needs. These include renewable energy tax credits, rebates for SHC systems and ensuring that renewable portfolio standards, which require utilities to procure a certain amount of their energy from renewable sources.

They want to make sure that when homeowners decide to rely on Orange County or Los Angeles solar power for their water heating and temperature control needs, they receive similar credits and rebates as if they had installed a solar electric system.

In the past few years, the United States has made great strides to better integrate solar energy into the electric grid. Hopefully, the American public and elected officials can make similar efforts to expand the role of SHC systems.