CyboEnergy debuts an inverter air conditioner (no batteries required)

CyboEnergy has released a family of off-grid and on/off-grid CyboInverters that can run Inverter-Air-Conditioners (IAC) without batteries.

“Inverter-Air-Conditioners (IAC) are becoming more popular,” saud CyboEnergy CEO George Cheng. “They can start with small amounts of surge power; therefore, our special off-grid CyboInverters can run these air conditioners with just solar panels. No battery is required. We believe off-grid solar air-conditioning has huge market potential in many parts of the world where the electric grid is poor or there is no electricity.”


Solar panels and CyboInverters can be installed on the roof with “plug-and-play” installation. The AC output wire runs down to connect to the IAC. Since the system is so simple and easy to install, the total system cost is affordable, especially as the solar panel price has dropped substantially.

There are a few configurations that are possible here.

  • 4-channel 1.2-KW off-grid CyboInverter that directly connects to four 250W to 330W solar panels with MC-4 connectors. It can run a 9000 to 12000 Btu IAC.
  • An off-grid CyboInverter Twin-Pack that connects to eight solar panels and can run an 18000 to 24000 Btu IAC or multiple smaller IACs.

Most off-grid inverters on the market require batteries to operate. This battery-less solar air conditioning system is unique, cost effective, and can work in high temperature and high humidity areas.

Solar thermal Q&A: What are the trends in 2017, and how does an installer get started?

— Solar Builder magazine

Ice Energy cooling, energy storage system achieves world record efficiency

The Ice Bear 20 home cooling and energy storage system from Ice Energy has achieved a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of 14.56 when operating like a conventional AC unit, and when operating in its ice cooling mode using stored ice, an unprecedented Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) of 150 — more than three times greater than the next best rating, which is a geothermal system with an EER of 46.

Ice Bear explained

Ice Energy

The Ice Bear 20 is a hybrid system, able to create cooling just like a conventional air conditioning unit, as well as to create, store and deliver cooling in the form of ice. The Ice Bear 20 is based on Ice Energy’s award-winning Ice Bear 30 energy storage system for commercial and industrial air conditioners, but unlike the Ice Bear 30, completely replaces the conventional home AC unit. The system cools the home 24/7 to the temperature set by the homeowner, and for four hours can eliminate 95 percent of the electricity load by cooling with ice.

The Holistic Home: We peer into the future of home energy generation, usage

“The Ice Bear 20 is unlike any other home cooling system, combining the best of conventional AC technology with Ice Energy’s thermal energy storage technology,” said Mike Hopkins, CEO of Ice Energy. “There currently are no energy efficiency standards for a product of this kind, but we decided to put it to the test and engaged a leading accredited third-party lab to perform the industry standard AHRI SEER rating test. We were delighted to learn that when tested as if it were a conventional AC unit, the Ice Bear 20 achieved a SEER of 14.56, higher than required anywhere in the U.S. — a remarkable accomplishment given that there’s much more to an Ice Bear 20 than a conventional AC unit.”

Large-scale manufacturing of the Ice Bear 20 is set to begin this summer to fulfill contracts already in hand for utility-sponsored programs in California and Massachusetts. Later this year the product will be made available directly to homeowners in certain regions, including California, Hawaii, Australia and the Middle East. In California, net of applicable rebates, it will cost less than a conventional AC unit, save homeowners hundreds on their utility bills, and if they have solar PV, also store their solar energy.

— Solar Builder magazine

California State Assembly passes bill to extend solar thermal incentives

California assembly

California’s solar thermal incentives might live to see another day. The state’s Assembly passed AB 797 by a vote of 48 to 22 yesterday, which will extend consumer incentives for solar thermal technologies that reduce natural gas use in homes and buildings. The bill is part of the state’s ongoing efforts to reduce natural gas use, meet greenhouse gas reduction goals, and support economic development.

“I am pleased the Assembly took the important step of passing this bill and sending it to the Senate,” said Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), author of the bill. “Using California’s warm sunshine to do something as simple as heating water is sensible for our state and a key way to protect public health, clean up our air, and support local jobs.”

The largest markets for solar thermal technologies, such as solar water heaters, are multi-family housing buildings and commercial swimming pools, such as at schools and community centers. A typical residential solar hot water system can help homeowners reduce up to 80 percent of their natural gas use for water heating, and costs around $7,500. Under the program extended by AB 797, consumers would receive a rebate that can be coupled with the 30% federal tax credit to reduce the overall cost of the system.

The bill reported out of the Assembly would extend the existing California Solar Initiative (CSI)-Thermal program for two years to 2020, continuing the program seamlessly. The California solar thermal market is growing, especially in the multifamily housing sector – with 32% annual growth between 2015 and 2016 in natural gas savings. The bill would also target significant resources for solar thermal on low-income housing and buildings in disadvantaged communities.

Solar thermal Q&A: What are the trends in 2017, and how does an installer get started?

“To meet our statewide climate change goals, especially on the heating side of the equation, we need consistent programs that increase access to the sun for California homes and businesses,” said Kelly Knutsen, Senior Policy Advisor of the California Solar Energy Industries Association, cosponsor of AB 797. “We thank Assembly member Irwin for her strong leadership on this important issue.”

“There’s no better way to heat our water than by the sun, and AB 797 is critically needed to promote the continued growth of solar heating technologies,” added Michelle Kinman, Clean Energy Advocate with Environment California, the other cosponsor of the bill. “The CSI-Thermal program is an essential part of how we can meet the challenges of our heavy natural gas use, and at the same time further the state’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.”

Solar thermal projects installed under the CSI-Thermal program reduced natural gas use across the state by over 5.6 million therms each year, equal to the annual amount of natural gas used to heat water for roughly 31,500 homes. The program has offset over 30,000 metric tons of CO2(eq) annually, comparable to taking over 6,400 cars off the road each year.

— Solar Builder magazine

FAFCO crowdfunding its new solar electric, solar thermal combo system

fafco solar thermal coolpv

FAFCO has been around since 1969 in the solar thermal manufacturing space and is taking its latest brainchild to crowdfunding. The concept they are looking to crowdfund is CoolPV — an enhanced solar electric panel that generates electricity and heats water using the same panel on the same valuable solar roof space. Because CoolPV cools the solar electric module, it can increase the electrical output of the PV module by up to 20 percent. Including the thermal energy, FAFCO says CoolPV can generate up to four times the power of PV alone and can convert 60 percent of the sun’s energy into usable power compared to approximately 20 percent for PV alone. For the past eighteen months, customers across the U.S. have used CoolPV to heat their pools and power their homes.

“After more than ten years of development, we were finally able to combine a PV module with one of our engineered polymer heat exchangers and create a commercially viable combined solar thermal and solar electric panel. In addition to heating their pools, the electric power generated by the solar panels in CoolPV can reduce a customer’s electrical bill by 50% or more,” said Free-man Ford, Chairman of FAFCO. “Now all types of investors can capitalize on our latest innova-tion, including the customers, fans and followers that we’ve built over the past 47 years through our extensive dealer network.”

The crowdfunding page is located here.

For more on solar thermal, here is our recent Q&A with the leadership at FAFCO.


— Solar Builder magazine

Solar thermal Q&A: What are the trends in 2017, and how does an installer get started?

solar industry question

For an update on what’s going in with solar thermal, we chatted with Bob Leckinger, CEO of FAFCO, the oldest and largest US commercial and residential solar thermal manufacturer with more than 200,000 customers.

FAFCO recently launched the nation’s first-ever, commercially viable, combined solar electric/thermal system, CoolPV. This panel technology provides maximum energy output for residential and commercial customers, allowing them both power their house or building with electricity and use energy to heat water using the exact same roof space. In addition, the technology gives 60 percent more energy production from solar panels for customers.

What’s the big storyline for the PV/solar thermal segment in 2017?

The U.S. PV market has thrived, but the U.S. thermal market has not. Why? U.S. thermal was growing just a few years ago to a billion-dollar market. Today, it is less than $50 million and declining mostly due to very low cost natural gas. Solar thermal will not grow again until natural gas prices rise substantially.

Solar thermal does have a place in all electric markets and for solar pool heating. “Solar” today means electric, so opportunities are there for both in our current market. In addition, for years, solar thermal manufacturers have been trying to develop a solution that combines solar PV and thermal in a way that drives more energy output in a cost effective and efficient way. At FAFCO, we even spent 10 years working on this type of technology and, just last year, we were finally able to roll out a solution that meets this goal.

What are the upcoming solar thermal technology trends to note?

Thermal technology has not changed much since FAFCO introduced polymers to replace copper back in the late 1960s of the last century. Combining solar thermal and electric into a PVT (solar electric plus thermal) makes very good sense for the dealer for several reasons. Cooling the PV modules makes them deliver more electrical power. A hybrid or PVT panel can deliver as much as four times more total energy than energy delivered by a PV module alone. This means a PVT panel incorporating a 275W PV module can deliver over 1000 watts of thermal and electric power. This is good news for the dealer. His selling and installation cost can be amortized over much more power produced with one catch. There needs to be a thermal load.

RELATED: Solar dealers boost revenue with power conditioning equipment sales 

What customer opportunities should installers be paying attention to?

There are several attractive markets for PVT with large thermal loads, especially throughout the sunbelt region. Residential and commercial swimming pools are near the top of the list. Pools use a lot of low temperature energy during the summer when solar is most plentiful. Pools also provide a great deal of storage. Storage means the energy produced is used exactly when it is generated. But it gets better. Pools also use a good deal of electrical energy for pumping power. This in turn is provided by what FAFCO calls CoolPV.

In terms of incentives, the U.S. has the Federal Investment Tax Credit that is very beneficial and various state incentives like in California include a thermal incentive that often accelerated depreciation and financing that can tie to the end-user’s property tax. Other countries have a variety of incentives as well.

In addition, CoolPV is tested, certified, locally code compliant and passes the class A fire rating. Most of these are required to qualify for the incentives. Other requirements such as meeting the live weight roof loading standard must also be secured to meet the more rigorous codes.

Why might it make sense for a solar installer to also include solar thermal into their portfolio of options? And how would they get started?

Residential and commercial PV dealers today face an increasingly competitive market as PV becomes a commodity product with multiple product lines with little differentiation. Selling in the home is expensive and installations can be complex. PV dealers have an opportunity to differentiate their offering and increase value added when their electrical customers also have a thermal load.

Here are some insights that dealers should strongly consider for including solar thermal solutions into their service mix.

  1. Dealers in the sunbelt frequently run into prospects with swimming pools. These are ideal for a combination of thermal and electrical using the same valuable roof space. Commercial pools simply scale to much larger installations with much larger dealer value.
  2. In addition to prospects with pools, commercial pre-heat systems are very attractive to any large daily users of heated water in warm to hot climates with high energy cost. Examples of ideal commercial PVT customers are destination resort pre heat for central boilers, laundries, bottle washing, pharmaceutical and food processing, paper and textile production, etc.
  3. Incentives are helpful; pools are a great place to start and California has over a million residential and commercial pools. Florida, Texas and the sunbelt states have plenty of sunshine with both residential and commercial pools. The sunbelt states also have commercial pre heat customers with central boilers waiting to be pre heated.

— Solar Builder magazine