San Francisco solar brokers and energy CONSULTANTS help you choose... solar PV, solar thermal hot water, or fuel cell?

Choosing types of renewable and sustainble energies… which one is RIGHT for you?

Energy consultants and solar brokers help your business assess a variety of renewable and sustainable energy technologies:

Which one is right for you?

Having your site properly assessed is a process of elimination and not that difficult to do if you know some of the way(s) to pre-qualify your own project.  Though we wouldn’t recommend an all out diagnosis without consulting one of these companies yourself, or better yet, call upon an energy consultant to give you an impartial and unbiased viewpoint.  There’s more to qualifying then just a site analysis, such as finance strategies, energy rate analysis, and other energy efficiency considerations that may need research and implementation before you even consider purchasing an alternative energy source.

Solar PV electric or stand alone solar thermal hot water:

Shading obstruction via buildings or irremovable trees, roof and land limitations, engineering obstacles or inclement regional weather may preclude you from solar PV electric or solar thermal hot water creation.  However, if your ethics, values and price point require a purely renewable form of energy creation, than solar may be one of your few choices.

Micro fuel cells:

At a starting size of 5 kW, combined heat and power, otherwise known as micro CHP, fuel cells may be a better option if you need electricity and hot water generation at the same time, provided you have enough hot water demand to take the excess heat from electrical production and send it back into heating your hot water.  

Micro fuel cells are small, the size of a household refrigerator, and can be daisy chained together in 5 kW increments for higher energy requirements.  A single 5 kW fuel cell will take up an approximate 4 by 6 cement pad footprint, or less overall space when they are grouped together, and can be located indoor or outdoor.  This size fuel cell is ideal for large residential energy needs of $1,000 or more per month in at least a 4,000 square foot home. Alternatively, a micro fuel cell may suit a restaurant,  a laundry facility or apartment building. 

While these systems use natural gas and are not considered a pure form of renewable energy production, like the free sun that solar PV enjoys, fuel cells, which are considered sustainable, nevertheless sharply reduce the amount of electricity consumption.  So while your natural gas bill will go up mildly, the price you pay for electricity will fall a great measure more, where the exchange in price you pay for natural gas is much less than the price you pay for electricity.

Fuel cells may not be the perfect answer for those requiring 100 percent renewable energy production without the use of fossil fuels.  However, it’s an energy source that yields 24/7 energy production, unlike solar PV and solar thermal hot water, which can only deliver when the sun is out, though these micro fuel cells are NOT a substitute for emergency energy generation because the rely on electricity to process the natural gas into hydrogen power.

Large pure electric or combined heat and power fuel cells 200 kW or more:

For medium to large businesses who can only harness the power they need from fuel cell technology, either do to energy demands, weather, space or engineering challenges, or a MUST for 24/7 energy production, even in power outage emergencies, then large fuel cells hold the answer.   A large fuel cell can take up a footprint of one semi truck trailer to a larger sea worthy shipping container.  

Solar Co-generation:

A fairly new technology; commercial-industrial-institutional solar co-generation is a compelling combination of solar PV electric and solar thermal hot water combined in one system output.  This is pretty nice when you consider it as a heat and power alternative to micro fuel cell or conventional pure electric or CHP fuel cells.  The big selling point to solar co-generation is that you get both electricity and hot water creation in one, which used in its commercial industrial setting, is ideal for businesses that consume more than 1000 gallons of hot water per day.  Imagine a combined system that captures an average 15% of the suns power and takes the average wasted 85% heat and converts that into hot water heating; not bad.  What’s better is that the pay back for this breed of system is potentially four times faster at paying for itself then stand-alone solar PV electric; the recovered heat is offsetting the electric or natural gas cost to heat large amounts of hot water.

Again, as with solar PV electric, they buyer will need to have adequate land or load engineered roof- space to locate the solar co-generation system.  It won’t produce 24/7, but the financial feasibility of this technology along with hot water storage capabilities is worth a serious look if your business is a food processor, hotel, hospital, dormitory, multi-unit apartment building, hotel, health club, commercial laundry, brewery, winery, or other institution that uses 1000 gallons of hot water or more per day.  

Article written by Jennifer Coleman of Sun Source Solar Energy Brokers, providing impartial solar broker and energy consulting services for solar PV electric, solar thermal hot water, solar co-generation, micro fuel cells, including large  pure electric and combined heat and power fuel cells within Santa Rosa, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano and San Francisco Counties.


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Sun Source Solar Brokers
525 East Cotati Avenue, #220
Cotati, California 94931