Reducing carbon footprints is good for investors and regulators and also for a building’s budget and profitability. One strategy is to mount solar panels on a building to generate electricity. But another is to use solar power to heat water. Creighton University has the first building in North America to use a new solar technology — a “next-generation solar thermal collector” called VirtuHOT HD from Naked Energy — implemented by the company’s regional distributor, Elm Solar. “Placed on the roof of Graves Hall, VirtuHOT HD collectors use the sun’s power to heat the dormitory’s water while saving money on energy costs,” says a press release. “VirtuHOT HD‘s low profile (measuring 10.4 inches high) and modular design feature angled absorber plates that collect more sunlight than traditional solar panels. This maximizes the potential of the roof space by generating more energy per square foot than any other solar technology. The installation at Graves Hall is expected to generate 237,000 BTU (69.9 kW) of thermal energy.” Hot water could be used to provide water for washing and bathing or heating spaces in winter. The companies say that according to the Department of Energy, heating water is responsible for about a fifth of household energy use and grid connection requests grew by 40% in 2022. “Solar thermal technology has enormous potential because it takes the task of heating water, a major source of energy cost in any building, off the power grid, resulting in savings for the building owner and less stress on the grid,” said ELM Founder and Chairman Lee C. Graves in prepared remarks. According to Naked Energy, the Virtu product is a solar thermal collector that can heat water to 120°C (248°F). “Virtu products are easy to install and fully modular, mounted on frames in sets of five evacuated tubes,” Naked Energy says on its website. “Reflectors are positioned between tubes to maximize energy capture. We use the highest energy density solar collectors available globally, designed to optimize outputs and deliver maximum energy with limited installation space.” The company claims 100% zero-carbon energy, 3.5x carbon savings compared to solar photovoltaic, and increased financial returns. It says that the technology can reduce scope 1 emissions, higher energy-density than solar thermal panels, modular assembly, integrated mounting self ballasting with no need for roof penetration, compatibility with any roof type, and offers a low profile.

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Erik Sherman



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