"Business owners are sometimes concerned that solar thermal may not provide enough energy for their needs," said Nigel Cotton, OEM Team Leader for the International Copper Association (ICA) and founder of Solarthermalworld.org, a leading international website on solar thermal energy. "But there are many ways to combine solar thermal with other types of renewable energy that will allow it to provide more energy while continuing to refrain from adding carbon emissions to the environment."
One interesting system with a high level of synergy is solar thermal combined with geothermal pumps. Geothermal heat pumps bring heat up from under the ground to combine with the heat of the solar thermal system. And at other times, the geothermal exchanger can serve as a storage tank for excess heat from the solar thermal system. These kinds of innovations in solar thermal systems can be used in settings where hot water is either essential or secondary to the operations of the organization.
At an aquatic center at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, a hybrid system of solar thermal and PV provides heat for the building and hot water for the swimming pool. Combining the two solar technologies thusly has proven a great boon to the technology, and could possibly be a big step forward for the industry.
"Solar thermal is an extremely versatile technology," said Cotton. "Combination systems are the next step in the application of solar thermal as a leading renewable energy technology."