Near-Term Viability of Solar Heat Applications for the Federal Sector

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    Solar thermal technologies are capable of providing heat across a wide range of temperatures, making them potentially attractive for meeting energy requirements for industrial process heat applications and institutional heating. The energy savings that could be realized by solar thermal heat are quite large, potentially several quads annually. Although technologies for delivering heat attemperatures above 100 degrees C currently exist within industry, only a fairly small number of commercial systems have been installed to date. The objective of this paper is to investigate and discuss the prospects for near-term solar heat sales to federal facilities as a mechanism for providing an early market niche to aid the widespread development and implementation of the technology. Thespecific technical focus is on mid-temperature (100-350 degrees C) heat demands that could be met with parabolic trough systems. As the largest energy user in the United States, the federal government represents a large market for the sales of solar heat technology. Federal facilities have several features relative to private industry that may make them attractive for solar heat applicationsrelative to other sectors. Key among these features are specific policy mandates for conserving energy, a long-term planning horizon with well-defined decision criteria, and prescribed economic return criteria for conservation and solar investments that are generally less stringent than the investment criteria used by private industry. Federal facilities also have specific difficulties in thesale of solar heat technologies that are different from those of other sectors, and strategies to mitigate these difficulties will be important in achieving sales. For the baseline scenario developed in this paper, the solar heat application was economically competitive with heat provided by natural gas. The system levelized energy cost (LEC) was $5.9/MBtu for the solar heat case, compared to $6.8/MBtu for the life-cycle fuel cost of a natural gas case. A third-party ownership case would also be attractive to federal users, since it would guarantee energy savings and would not require initial capital funds from the federal agency. The baseline third party ownership case appeared to be marginally attractive to investors, with an after-tax return on investment (ROI) of slightly more than10%.
    Original languageAmerican English
    Number of pages8
    StatePublished - 1991
    EventASME International Solar Energy Conference - Maui, Hawaii
    Duration: 4 Apr 19928 Apr 1992


    ConferenceASME International Solar Energy Conference
    CityMaui, Hawaii

    Bibliographical note

    Prepared for the ASME International Solar Energy Conference, 4-8 April 1992, Maui, Hawaii

    NREL Publication Number

    • NREL/TP-250-4602


    • concentrated photovoltaics
    • federal facilities
    • solar energy
    • solar thermal


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