Getting Practical with Solar Thermal

(#288) – While this column tries to stay local in its focus it sometimes, like last week,  describes major threats to our local economy and then ends with a short description of a practical alternative to mitigating these challenges.  That emphasis is reversed in this column through a very close look at locally available solar thermal systems which have taken a back seat to solar electric, geothermal and air source heat pump systems in the last few years. These are fine systems.  However, solar thermal systems for domestic hot water and home heating have a lot to offer.

Starting with commercial solar thermal systems, details below describe a small and a large system:

1. Commercial solar thermal system with USDA/RD grant and replacement of existing electrical hot water heating system.

  • Small ST system – total project cost $10,400, NYSERDA incentive $4,000, cost to owner before USDA grant and Fed’l tax credits $6,400, USDA grant $2,600, Fed’l tax credit $1,920, final cost to owner $1,880.
  • Large ST system – total project cost $45,000, NYSERDA incentive $25,000, cost to owner before USDA grant and tax credits $20,000, USDA Grant $11,250, Fed’l tax credit $6,000, final cost to owner $2,750.  Application deadline for the USDA grant is April 1.

Commercial solar thermal system without USDA grant and replacement of existing electrical hot water heating system.

  • Small ST system – total project cost $9,800, NYSERDA incentive $4,000, cost to owner before tax credits $5,800, Fed;l tax credits $1,740, final cost to owner $4,060
  • Large ST system – total project cost $44,000, NYSERDA incentive $25,000, cost to owner before tax credits $19,000. Fed’l tax credit $5,700, final cost to owner $13,300.

Residential solar system information for all electrical heating replacement:

  • Standard 80 gallon domestic hot water system where solar thermal replaces electric water heating – Total project cost $9,800, NYSERDA incentive $4,800, cost to owner before tax credits $5,800, Fed’l and NYS tax credits $3,190, final cost to owner $2,610.

Solar thermal system for existing building tied to existing hot water heating system:

  •  Small  ST system – total project cost $22,000,cost to owner before tax credits, $22,000, Fed’l and NYS ax credits, $11,600, final cost to customer $10,400.
  • Large ST system – total project cost $31,000, cost to owner before tax credits $31,000, Fed’l and NYS tax credits $14,300, final cost to customer $16,700.

Solar thermal system for new construction home heating with ST system tied to existing hot water heating system:

  • Small ST system –total project cost $22,000, cost of regular heating system $20,000, cost to owner before tax credits $42,000 Fed’ and NYS tax credit $17,600, final cost to consumer $24,000, net cost of solar thermal component $4,400.
  • Large ST system – total project cost $31,000, cost of regular heating system $31,000, cost to owner before tax credits $61,000, Fed’l and NYS tax credits $23,300, final cost to customer $37,700, net cost of solar thermal component $7,700.  If a still larger new heating system is installed, the net cost of the solar thermal component could fall to zero.

Bottom line is – the tax credit fund balance we have been paying into for decades comes back to our homes and businesses, our schools and businesses and new local jobs and revenue are created.

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