Solar Thermal

Thermal energy is a key component of energy use in the United States and around the world, particularly in the industrial sector. Energy used for process heat and space heating accounts for 75 percent of global final industrial energy demand. In the U.S., fossil fuel combustion to produce heat and steam creates about 52 percent of U.S. industrial direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

At present, renewable energy meets only 13 percent of global industrial heat demand. Solar thermal technologies produce less than 1 percent of global industrial heat, despite having a much greater technical potential.

At the end of 2020, the RTC convened a Solar Thermal Working Group to gather information on the major technical, market, economic, institutional, and policy barriers impeding the scaling the development and deployment of this technology as well as its potential to deliver cost-effective and sustainable, lower-carbon thermal energy in the short-term (by 2030) and the long-term (2050). 

Solar Thermal Technology Assessment

The Renewable Thermal Collaborative (RTC) is currently developing a series Technology Action Plans (TAPs) to accelerate the deployment of specific renewable thermal technologies and solutions. On May 19, 2021, the RTC released the Solar Thermal Technology Assessment (TA) to provide the substantive basis for RTC members to consider developing a full solar thermal TAP.

The Assessment addresses four primary questions:

  • What is the potential of both non-concentrating and concentrating solar technology to deliver cost-effective, sustainable, low-carbon thermal energy in the short-term (by 2030) and the long-term (2050)?
  • What are the major technical, market, economic, institutional, and policy barriers impeding accelerated development and industrial deployment of solar thermal technologies?
  • What priority solutions would ensure that solar thermal technologies are sustainable, cost-competitive (especially relative to natural gas), and scalable?
  • What actions could large industrial, corporate, and institutional buyers implement, perhaps in collaboration with others, to help accelerate and scale solar thermal technologies?

Report In Brief

In our factsheet, we provide an overview of our Solar Thermal Technology Assessment, including an introduction to the report and the questions we addressed, the results of the working group, and the current solutions that large energy buyers find the most helpful when it comes to solar thermal development and deployment. 

Heating Up Decarbonization: Scaling Solar Thermal

On May 19, 2021 at 3:00pm EST, the RTC hosted a webinar to introduce their new report. 

Speakers Included:

  • Blaine Collison, Executive Director, Renewable Thermal Collaborative
  • Claire Dougherty, Research Analyst, Renewable Thermal Collaborative
  • Don Frank, Founder and Owner, SolarUV Solutions
  • Michael Intrieri, Founder and CEO, SunDrum Solar
  • Dr. Nate Thomas, Lead Simulation Engineer, Heliogen
Watch a full recording of the webinar here. Download the slides from the presentation here