A couple of weeks back, I posted that our experiments in renewable energy had been expensive. I also voiced a desire to find projects that are not just renewable, but cheap and reliable as well.
Here’s one: the “batch” solar hot water heater. “Batch” simply means that the water is heated in a tank rather than a collector. That’s what makes this system simple– and cheap. All you need is a tank with good heat conductivity, enclosed in an insulated box with a window. No expensive collectors, no roof mounts… Why didn’t I think of that?
I first encountered the idea in a Mother Earth News article (“Wiser Living Series: Guide to Country Living,” p. 60 – 68) that is also available online. The article opined that the U.S. lags so far behind other countries in solar hot water installations. According to MEN, Cypress leads in solar hot water with over 650 kWth per thousand people, followed by Israel (almost 500kWth) and Austria (200 kWth). The U.S. has about 10 kWth per thousand people.
Meanwhile, in 2005, China led the world in new solar thermal installations with1.9 million square meters, followed by Germany with 850,000 and Greece woth 221,000. The U.S. had only 65,000 square meters of new installation.
Perhaps we’re too infatuated with sexier (and more expensive) PV systems. Or just too hooked on fiossil fuels to bother. In any case, we lag far behind other nations in utilizing the free energy of the sun.