Solar Heated Air Not Hot Air In New Hampshire

What looks like a wall of architectural glass is actually a custom-engineered solar air heating system covering 8,000 square feet of Sanborn Regional High School’s southern walls. The Kingston, N.H., school is the first customer ever in what could become a new market for solar-heated air. The school’s Lubi wall-mounted solar hot air collectors by Quebec-based Enerconcept Technologies will preheat air using thermal energy from the sun, and deliver it to the school’s HVAC system. The company says the system will cut Sanborn’s heating bills by at least $17,000 annually, with no upfront capital investment from the school district.

Under an innovative 10-year power purchase agreement, Sanborn will purchase solar thermal heat at a rate equivalent to $2.50 per gallon. By comparison, heating oil market prices have averaged between $3-$4 per gallon over the last 10 years, and are expected to climb in the future. According to the project developers, the school could conceivably save more than $1.5 million, displace 400,000 gallons of fuel oil and eliminate 1,440 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the system’s 30-year lifetime.

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image via Enerconcept Technologies

The system was installed by Shift Energy, a Biddeford, Maine-based contractor. The power purchase agreement was made possible by funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and a partnership between Enerconcept, and Dover, N.H.-based Revolution Energy, which owns the system and is responsible for its maintenance over the 10-year contract period. The school will have the option to purchase the system at a fair market value when the 10-year contract expires.

“Using stimulus money to partially fund a solar concept (solar hot air) that’s significantly more efficient than solar electric, and combining it with the accountability of private financing is a better return on investment for the taxpayer,” Christian Vachon, president of Enerconcept Technologies, said in a statement.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

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