Shining the Light on the Solar Thermal Potential in Colorado

Becky English, Rebecca English and Associates; Sam Weaver, CEO of Cool Energy; Willie Mein, Custom Solar; Ken May, Abengoa


Solar thermal energy is a cost-effective, one of the most efficient forms of renewable energy available an efficient way to heat and cool buildings. According to NREL researchers, Colorado’s sunshine, climate, and heating requirements make solar thermal technologies perform better in Colorado than in any other state in the U.S. Also, the solar thermal industry has strong economic and job creation advantages: local labor comprises two-thirds of total system costs related to solar thermal installation.

According to the Solar Thermal Alliance of Colorado, “Solar thermal deployment is the most glaring gap in Colorado’s clean energy economy”. The Solar Thermal Alliance of Colorado (STAC) has formed to help spread the amazing potential of solar thermal and to advocate for increased awareness and implementation of the technology. The vision of the STAC is to make Colorado a global leader in solar thermal adaptation, installation, manufacturing, and R & D to boost Colorado’s economy, generate jobs, and help build a sustainable energy future.

Speaker Bios

Becky English assisted with the formation of STAC, the Solar Thermal Alliance of Colorado, formed in the Fall of 2010. Ms. English is a member of the board of directors of one of STAC’s sponsoring organizations, CRES, the Colorado Renewable Energy Society. She also chairs Sierra Club’s energy committee for Colorado, and serves on the state chapter’s executive and legislative committees. Her business consultancy, Rebecca English and Associates, specializes in corporate sustainability initiatives and reporting on corporate responsibility. Ms. English participated recently in an effort to gain legislative endorsement of a study of a feed-in tariff for Colorado, HB 1228 Economic Development through Distributed Generation.

Sam Weaver is CEO of Cool Energy, an energy conversion technology company which has developed a high-efficiency, low-temperature Stirling engine for waste heat recovery and solar thermal power systems. A pilot solar CHP system is operating in Boulder currently, and initial orders for engines are scheduled for delivery in Q3 2011. This presentation will focus on the development and deployment of the first non-tracking solar-thermal-Stirling combined heat and power system in Boulder. Sam holds 14 patents, and sits on the Board for the Colorado Clean Energy Development Authority and the Board for the Colorado Solar Energy Industry Association. Sam is an advocate for prudent policies on energy and the environment and holds a BS from Caltech in Engineering and Applied Science.

Willie Mein is the owner and operator of Custom Solar, a Boulder based renewable energy service firm that specializes in full service residential and commercial solar electric and solar thermal system engineering and installation throughout Colorado since 2008. Mr. Mein is an active member of the Colorado Solar Energy Industry Association (COSEIA), a supporter of the Center for Resource Conservation, the Boulder Green Build Guild, and has served on the Solar Thermal Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) for the Governor’s Energy Office. Mr. Mein is NABCEP (National American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) solar thermal installer, NABCEP solar PV installer and a licensed professional engineering in California and Colorado.

Ken May earned a MS in Chemical Engineering from CU Boulder and in 2009 and in 2009 was honored with the School of Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award. In 1979, Mr. May joined the solar thermal division at Solar Energy Research Institute to pursue projects in research and development, and solar thermal technology promotion. In 1983, Ken and an associate founded Industrial Solar Technology (IST).

IST developed a new generation of parabolic trough technology and deployed a number of large scale systems. These systems proved for the first time the reliability and effectiveness of the technology to automatically deliver high temperature solar heat. The opportunity to grow IST technology was presented by his current firm, Abengoa, in 2006. Abengoa is building the largest solar thermal electric plant in the world; the 280 MW Solana plant in Gila Bend, Arizona. Seeking to drive down the cost of renewable energy, Abengoa Solar is conducting major research efforts involving DOE and universities, such as CU Boulder.


Solar Themal Presentation

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Colorado Renewable Energy Society