Solar water heater systems in the state of Wisconsin: The number of commercial systems made a big jump in 2009, whereas the market for residential systems stagnated. The photo shows a collector field on the roof of a high-school swimming pool.
Photo: Focus on Energy
The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) organizes the Solarthermal ‘10, the second National Solar Heating & Cooling Conference, which takes place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on 30 September and 1 October 2010. “There are many conferences dedicated to the solar electric market and we recognized a need for a professional level conference for the growing solar thermal market,” Doug Stingle, Programs Director of MREA, explains the motivation for creating such an event. “Also, MREA is a national level educational facility that trains students on solar thermal installations. A professional level conference to provide continuing education for our students who have moved into the solar thermal industry was a natural fit.”
Milwaukee, which lies at the coast of lake Michigan and is the biggest city in Wisconsin, seemed to be the right place. It is one of 25 solar cities, which receive funding from the US Department of Energy to promote the use of solar technology in their communities. “An offshoot of the Milwaukee Solar Cities programme is the Milwaukee Solar Hot Water Business Council,” says Stingle. The Council was formed after a study conducted in 2009 suggested Milwaukee as well-suited for becoming a manufacturing cluster for solar thermal components. Bubbling Springs Solar is the first solar manufacturer located just outside of Milwaukee. It started producing flat plate collectors two years ago.
MREA announced Lisa Frantzis, Managing Director for Renewable and Distributed Energy at Californian consultancy Navigant, as the conference's keynote speaker. She will present the results of a study about the solar thermal market in the US, which was commissioned by the Milwaukee Solar Hot Water Business Council and regional energy supplier We Energies. Besides a view on the entire US solar thermal sector, the study will additionally focus on the market in Milwaukee.
Wisconsin’s solar thermal market shows constant growth, which is even more evident in the commercial than the residential sector. Of the 104 residential systems, which received funding by the incentive programme facilitator Focus on Energy in 2009, 40 % (43 systems) were combi systems supplying hot water or pool/space heating. 18 installations included vacuum tube collectors.
Source: Focus on Energy
“In Wisconsin, we are lucky to have a public benefits programme administered by Focus on Energy that provides information on renewable energy systems, as well as financial incentives for home and business owners who install renewable energy systems,” says Stingle. The programme grants about 25 % of the investment costs for residential systems and 35 % for solar thermal systems in non-profit and governmental bodies (for more information, see the attached presentation).
Stingle sees the greatest barriers for solar thermal market growth in a lack of education and high upfront costs. But faced with rising energy prices, as well as environmental concerns, many people in Wisconsin are turning to renewable energies for reducing energy expenses and damages to their environment.
According to the annual market survey of the US-American Department of Energy (DOE), the “Midwest” contributed only 5 % to domestic collector shipments in 2008 – pool and hot water / space heating included. The region comprises of the following seven states, in order of their significance for solar thermal technology: Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa.