Solar offers businesses sustainable approach to heating, cooling

With the declining costs of renewable energy, solar has become an attractive option for water heating and cooling for businesses. Both processes account for nearly half of global final energy consumption, but most of the energy use is currently generated from fossil fuels.

Just like other renewable energy technologies, solar water heaters could play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs, improve healthcare and communications, and drive local commerce through the market and industry they build at the local level.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, the case for local industries is especially pertinent in the time of COVID-19, when countries experience disruptions in the supply of materials and workforce, and domestic supply chains have proved to be very essential for the economies.

For this to happen, policies are crucial to strengthening local industries, consequently expanding benefits along with all segments of value chains by leveraging local capacities to create domestic value.

Solar water heaters are a mature technology that has been successfully deployed in several countries for more decades, mostly in the residential sector, providing an affordable solution for many households.

Read also: Nigeria’s Havenhill, four others win funding to power hospitals in with solar energy

But it could also provide value for companies. Many companies use hot water in their everyday operations. Hotels, factories, spas, gyms, and even corporate offices have showers, bathrooms, cleaning, cooking, manufacturing. But they rely on oil, propane, or electricity, which raises costs for businesses in trying to generate hot water.

A commercial solar heating system will continually provide free hot water for decades to come saving costs. This is because a solar hot water system will continually heat up water for free, cutting operating costs, therefore, helping to increase profits and maximize return on investment.

Water flows in from a government waterboard, boreholes flow into the solar storage tank, where it is heated by energy from a solar collector. The controls generate an easy-to-read display, showing exactly what the system is doing and its overall performance.

A key benefit of using solar energy to fuel hot water needs contributes to a cleaner environment and shows that the company does its business sustainably.

One of the newer and more cost-effective ways to use solar hot water is for commercial and industrial processes or preheating applications. Many businesses today use large volumes of hot water during their manufacturing, cleaning, or sensitizing process.

According to IRENA, solar heaters can helpful in residential homes. It is estimated that a four-member household uses about 300 litres of hot water per day.

“Given that heating water accounts for about 18 percent of household energy use on average, and that demand for hot water is growing with household incomes, the decarbonisation of water heating, in particular, becomes a key element of the ongoing energy transition,” said IRENA.

In one of its recent reports, on Leveraging Local Capacity series, IRENA examines beyond the environmental benefits of solar water heaters by outlining the ample opportunities for the creation of local socio-economic value presented by the domestic solar water heaters industry.

Solar water heating involves a relatively simple technology, local manufacturers in most countries—often small to medium enterprises—can produce, install, and maintain the systems themselves.

The potential to create value mostly lies in the following phases of the value chain: manufacturing, wholesale distribution, sales, and installation, as well as operation and maintenance. Some of the technology’s main components—such as the collector, the pump, or the storage tank—can be manufactured locally, thus creating local jobs.

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