BlueSky Energy

When I saw his presentation while on a sustainability home tour on Salt Spring Island I was elated. For the first time, someone was using what I thought at the time was the most logical approach to design a solar hot water system. Most of us have experienced the warm water that flows from a garden hose after it has been laying in the summer sun for a time. Why not apply that principle to heating our domestic hot water directly, without the use of toxic fluids like glycol.

So I reached out to the owner of Pacific Solar to see if we could put our heads together and build a company that helps to drive the solar revolution with affordable and glycol free thermal solutions for domestic hot water. After considering a number of business models we decided to focus on developing a turnkey solution that could be distributed to plumbers across British Columbia as a kit. In July of 2014 I filed the papers for BlueSky Energy Systems Inc. to incorporate the company federally.

Pacific Solar continued to install solar thermal systems in and around southern Vancouver Island and so I took the lead to develop the business structure, negotiate with suppliers and work out the pricing formulas. Soon we had signed up half a dozen plumbing contractors as dealers and were sourcing our solar panels and fittings directly from China. Even though I held a minority interest in the newly formed company, I was so energized by its prospects that I underwrote the working capital and my contribution as an angel investor financed all the inventory.

Alas, things did not work out as planned. Turns out, solar thermal hot water is too good to be true… literally. After we experienced a couple of failures in the field, I was tasked to prepare a detailed presentation of the system, document our investigation into the failures and address how we would prevent such failures in the future, to the Solar Colwood Steering Committee of the day.  This report resulted in additional safeguards being deployed to prevent any damage to homes due to systems overheating.

In addition to improving the performance and safety of the ComoSun system, the extensive research that went into this report also made it clear to me that there was one primary reason why solar thermal in any form was not going to be scalable. Simply put it produces too much heat at the wrong times.

In order to extend the heating season of hot water into the spring and fall, the panel capacity is generally deemed to be so large that during the longest days of the year, the panels simply overheat dramatically. Since there is no practical way of storing or even dispersing this massive amount of heat, it often results in the vaporization of water or the boiling of glycol, both of which have detrimental (and potentially dangerous) consequences.

The mitigation of these consequences proved to be so complex that, except for a few isolated applications, photovoltaic panels would prove much easier to deploy and safer to manage. And so BlueSky Energy was dissolved.

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