Solar energy pays back

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-111583457716286.jpg’, ‘Photo by Sonia Vogl’, ‘Solar hot water panels at the Lowell Park Road Kreider Services, Dixon, IL’);

The most efficient use of renewable energy is solar power for space and water heating. Recognizing its value, Kreider Services in Dixon has installed 1,840 square feet of flat plate collectors to furnish 80 percent of the institution’s annual needs.

The units, installed by Solar Service of Niles, Ill., include one large combined heating and hot water system and 10 residential systems. Two of the residential systems also provide building heat, displacing electrical usage for heating. Individual panels are either 4 feet by 8 feet or 4 feet by 10 feet.

An estimated 600,000 gallons of hot water annually will be provided by the units. At 10 percent inflation of energy costs, the calculated payback time is seven-and-a-half years. This is good news for the Kreider budget. According to Bob Bartles, director of programs, “It’s a wonderful thing for an organization like us who serve people with disabilities. We’re trying to get costs down and this is a fixed cost.”

Grants from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity supplemented by Kreider’s own contributions paid for the systems. Eventually, the institution plans for more installations by both Solar Service and Spire Solar Chicago.

Several forms of passive solar energy will be displayed at this year’s Renewable Energy Fair. Solar Service of Niles, Illinois’ largest installer of solar hot water systems who installed the Kreider system, uses flat plate collectors. Backward to the Future uses evacuated heat tubes. Both companies focus on homes and small businesses. Solargenix, which recently opened a new production facility in Chicago, uses a combination system for their installations on municipal buildings and schools.

The owners of both Solar Service and Backward to the Future will present workshops to help fair visitors better understand solar water heating in general and their specific installations in particular.

From the May 11-17, 2005, issue

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