WASHINGTON — According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a growing sector of the U.S. solar energy industry has reached a major milestone, with 5 million square feet of building-integrated solar air heating collectors now installed in North America. Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the SEIA, says these systems represent 250 megawatts (MW) of thermal energy.

“Building-integrated solar air heating systems are often overlooked in the discussion about renewable energy,” Resch said. “We need to change that mindset. These cost-effective, energy-efficient systems can reduce by 20 to 50 percent the amount of conventional energy used for heating buildings — or for agricultural or process drying applications. That can represent a huge savings to companies, business owners, and farmers nationwide.”

Solar air heating systems work by heating incoming ventilation air before it is brought into a building’s HVAC system, using wall-mounted collectors that are typically made of metal and have 30-plus year lifespans, said SEIA.

“By our estimates, we can create more than 50,000 new American jobs and save $60 billion in energy costs over the next 30 years by expanding the use of innovative solar heating and cooling systems (SHC) across the United States,” Resch said. “Today, approximately 44 percent of all American energy consumption is attributable to heating and cooling. As a nation, it’s time to re-think our strategy for generating energy for our homes, businesses, schools, and government buildings.”

According to BEAM Engineering, a Boston-based energy consulting firm, SHC is a highly efficient renewable technology for generating thermal heat and costs are as low as 6 cents per kilowatt (kWh) hour.

For more information, visit www.seia.org.

Publication date: 4/28/2014

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