Minnesota Public Radio - Interest in solar thermal energy heating up
Minnesota Public Radio story by Stephanie Hemphill
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Minneapolis — Interest in renewable energy continues to grow in Minnesota. In fact, state money for one form of solar rebate is already used up, but there’s still money available for a different system, one that’s considered more efficient at converting the sun’s rays into energy we can use.
People have used the sun to warm themselves forever — we can all appreciate a south-facing window in the winter — but new technologies use solar energy far more efficiently.
Typical photovoltaic panels only convert about 15 percent of the sun’s potential energy into electric power. Solar thermal systems are much more efficient, like 50-to-60-percent efficient.
On the roof of an apartment building at the corner of Franklin and Portland Avenues in Minneapolis, 24 panels face the sun.
“There’s a great view of downtown from up here,” says Will Delaney with Hope Community, the non-profit group that built the Wellstone building.
The panels are designed to provide about half the energy needed to heat water for showers, dishwashers and so on in the 29 apartments. They’ve only been connected since November, and since there’s less sunshine in the winter, Delaney says so far they’ve only supplied — on average — about a quarter of the energy needed for hot water here.