Solar thermal panels capture heat from the sun to heat water, which is a form of thermal energy. This is different from solar photovoltaic technology which captures the light from the sun to generate electricity. A pump pushes water through pipes in the solar panels, which are heated by the sun, and then the hot water returns to the inside of the building. Heat from this solar hot water can be transferred to the building water to be used for washing hands, showers, laundry, or for heating building space. The water flows in a continuous loop, getting heated in the panels, distributed and used, and then the lower temperature water returns to the rooftop panels to be heated back up. The installation atop the Saint Paul RiverCentre generates hot water for the building to use and when the building has all the hot water it needs, extra hot water is sent into a citywide grid of pipes so the energy from the hot water can be used by other buildings. This system of pipes is part of the district energy system. The six rows of solar thermal collectors can reach temperatures above 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Where can I find solar thermal?
Solar thermal is atop the Saint Paul RiverCentre and can be seen from many places along Kellogg Boulevard as well as areas south of downtown.