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Natural Gas and the End of Solar Thermal

It's mid-year, 2017 and the price of natural gas is hovering around the $3.25 per 1,000 cubic feet mark - or about 11.5 cents per cubic metre on the wholesale market. This price is lower than the price from 10 years ago - without accounting for inflation! Natural gas is a glut on the market and will remain so for the foreseeable future which will assure that the price of natural gas will remain low for at least 10 or more years. The only exception to this may be due to major weather disruptions - such as a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico - which can cause short-term peaks in the price.

In most of Ontario, after the delivery charges, taxes (including the carbon-cap levy), the net cost of natural gas is currently between 27 and 30 cents per cubic metre. Based upon a series of detailed solar pool heating simulations done using the well-known program RETscreen, we determined the energy and cost savings provided by a typical solar pool heating system in Southern Ontario. Quite frankly the results paint a bleak picture for the future of solar heating of pools and domestic hot water - when compared to the costs of heating with natural gas.

At  natural gas's current rate, the value of the heat delivered in a year/season by a 4' x 12' high-efficiency solar pool collector is only about $60 worth of natural gas. A 5 - 4' x 12' solar collector system, installed with an automatic controller will cost between $4,000 and $5,000 - making it's simple payback between 13 and 16.6 years - assuming no maintenance costs. These long paybacks are unpalatable to 98% of those interested in solar pool heating. The only way that solar companies are going to be able to sell pool heating systems is if they lie to their potential customers about how much money a solar system is going to save them. Solar Ontario will not do this.

Solar Ontario is winding down its solar heating business and focusing exclusivly on its commercial pool waste heat recovery products.