What’s that on top of the building? A new solar water heating system goes online as its developer enters the US market

(Inside Climate News, 23 Nov 2023) Solar thermal energy could be a “sleeping giant” in the push to reduce emissions from heating and cooling.

From a distance, the energy system on top of a college residence hall in Omaha, Nebraska looks like photovoltaic panels.

But as you get closer, it becomes clear that this is something different, with rows of vacuum-sealed glass tubes that are collecting heat, as opposed to light, from the sun.

The project, which went online this summer at Creighton University, is a carbon-free system for heating the water used by the 400 or so freshmen who live inside.

The system is an example of solar thermal energy, something at the fringes of today’s market that will need to grow a lot in the coming decades if the world is going to make a transition away from burning fossil fuels for heating.

“It’s very visible,” said Andrew Baruth, Creighton University’s director of sustainability and a physics professor. “You can’t walk down our central mall without seeing it. And so it gets students curious, it gets students thinking, it gets them to ask people like me, ‘What are those things?’”

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Inside Climate News, 23 Nov 2023: What’s that on top of the building? A new solar water heating system goes online as its developer enters the US market