[caption id="attachment_31259" align="alignright" width="314" caption="An worker installas an EchoFirst system solar."][/caption]

NORTH BAY -- A new and unique photovoltaic solar system that provides both hot water and air in addition to electricity will be rolled out in the North Bay by Western Pacific Solar of Santa Rosa.

The long-time construction-turned-solar company has partnered with Fremont’s EchoFirst Inc. (formerly PVT Solar) to distribute the Echo system, a patented technology that does away with cumbersome solar thermal panels, using waste heat from solar panels to heat water.

“The technology has been five or six years in development,” said Harry Adams, president of Western Pacific Solar. “It’s currently performing very well in about 115 field trials and EchoFirst is selecting distributors to roll it out in California.”

Primarily designed for retrofits, the system can also be used for new homes. Mr. Adams already has an agreement with a large home builder to make Echo systems part of a new housing development in Santa Rosa.

The system works by creating an enclosed space, or plenum, beneath the rooftop solar panels and using an energy transfer system – a fan, heat exchanger and filter – to capture the heated air which is a byproduct of solar collection.

Water is brought into the attic from the street and preheated before it enters the water heater, reducing or eliminating the amount of propane, natural gas or electricity normally used to heat it. The excess heat is pumped into the forced air heating system.

“With the exception of the heat exchange technology, sensors and control software, the components of the system are already on the market,” said Mr. Adams.  “That allows costs to be kept down. The system comes out to be the same as a solar voltaic installation.”

Because it doubles as a thermal system, rebates and incentives are doubled as well. In Sonoma County, the energy independence program (SCEIP) will cover the cost of installation.

[caption id="attachment_31258" align="alignright" width="314" caption="A solar thermal system on a roof in Reno"][/caption]

Traditional thermal solar systems, separate from solar voltaic, are difficult to install, take up a lot of roof space and are subject to leaking, said Mr. Adams.

“This system, which essentially runs on waste heat, makes much more sense,” he said.

It has the added advantage of high grade filtering of outside air and continuous air flow through a residence, a boon to allergy sufferers, said Dan Holloway, Northern California territory manager for EchoFirst.

Western Pacific Solar has already received orders for retrofits, and will most likely increase its 14-employee staff in anticipation of more installations.

The company was chosen by EchoFirst as exclusive regional distributor because of its construction background, engineering and architectural expertise and history of good customer relations, according to Mr. Holloway.

For more information call Western Pacific at 707-523-1101 or email the company at www.info@westpacsolar.com. For information on EchoFirst visit www.pvtsolar.com.