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Fat Spaniel Spreads Out To Cover Solar Thermal Monitoring

Fat Spaniel Technologies today announced a new web-based monitoring service for commercial-scale solar hot water installations. FST also announced a new integration with Outback equipment for off-grid and grid-tie photovoltaics. The news indicates the company is expanding its market focus into emerging niches of renewable energy information and analysis. (photos)

Fat Spaniel expanded their line of monitoring and reporting services for distributed renewable energy systems today. The company's new monitoring service gives owners and installers revenue-grade reports for their solar water heating systems.

Click image to enlarge. Screen snap of Fat Spaniel Technologies' new monitoring system for solar thermal hot water systems. (Fat Spaniel Technologies photo)

The new monitoring service provides both real-time and historical system performance and status data over the web. It uses flow metering and temperature sensor hardware from Sweden’s Metrima.

The service is integrated with the company's Insight Manager portal, a tool for system integrators to manage maintenance for multiple solar thermal installations. Partners such as Mondial Energy can use it to monitor system performance for their hot water purchase agreements.

The introduction was spurred by recent California legislation that created the nation's largest solar hot water incentive program. Bill AB 1470, the Solar Water Heating and Efficiency Act of 2007, signed into law in mid October, puts a quarter of a billion dollars on the table to promote solar thermal systems.

"We're already feeling the impact, even though the program is new," says Gordon Smith, vice president of marketing for Fat Spaniel.

The California incentive uses funds collected from utility ratepayers to pay commercial and residential building owners to install solar water heaters. The cash incentive for San Diego commercial customers can be up to $75,000, according to the nonprofit California Center for Sustainable Energy. The goal of the program is to reduce natural gas consumption. California isn't the only state to offer solar thermal incentives, but the dollars are unprecedented.

Solar thermal is an efficient, versatile way to capture the sun's energy. It can be used to provide hot water to heavy commercial users, like restaurants and hospitals. The boiling water also can be used for space heat, or directed into heat pumps for air conditioning.

"Solar thermal was developed before solar electricity," Smith observes, "and now it's coming on strong because the economics have become attractive."

Outback integration

Workers on the roof at right install solar power for the Guemes Island, Washington, fire station in 2007. (Solar Energy International photo)

A new solar electric system integration, also announced today, enables a service for managing solar inverter and battery systems from Outback Power Systems, Inc.

Fat Spaniel’s monitoring system now communicates directly with Outback's hardware to deliver real-time and historical energy system data about charge status, output, faults and greenhouse gas avoidance.

The integrated offering helps system installers and operators monitor and maintain remote, off-grid solar installations, as well as grid-tie battery backup systems.

"What broadens our market reach the most is the off-grid portion," says Smith. Fat Spaniel already has a few Outback and Morningstar off-grid installations. Notable examples are the recent Guemes Island, WA installation, and a Vodafone station on a remote Fiji island. Outback was involved with both installations.

What's the common theme of these two announcements? Smith explains: "Both are market expansion plays for us, both make use of our core technology and infrastructure, and both leverage our years of experience in monitoring a variety of RE systems."


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Gerard Mourits