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Reconfiguring solar energy, thermal energy and storage

By Huck Fairman

Apr 13, 2017

A group of Princeton-area residents have put their experience and expertise together for the purpose of combining solar thermal energy collection with improved thermal storage. Their ideas came out of both their recognition of the world’s need to get off fossil fuels, because of accelerating global warming, and out of their own innovations that generate more efficiently the collection and storage of heat and cold, as well as generating electricity. Because their several systems can be efficient and local, they are also more cost-effective.

They, and others, have observed that the world is in the midst of an energy revolution, and the members of this new company, Seasonal Storage Technologies, (, are excited to be part of it. Leading the effort are Jeffrey Bisk and Gaylord Olson. Bisk brings a background in computers and real estate, along with a passion for preserving our environment. Olson has adapted his extensive engineering experience to envision and design several systems, patents, and patents-pending that will provide cooling, heating, and electricity generation that is cleaner and more cost-effective than fossil fuels. Joining them is a team of seasoned energy professionals from differing backgrounds but all with the common goal of designing and building clean, renewable, reliable energy systems, with little to no fossil fuel usage. Others in the group include: Dr. Yao Yu with a background in engineering and computational science. Dr Yao Yu has been running a variety of optimization simulations with Olson's guidance. Jim Thomas, business owner of Thomas Geothermal Engineering, has decades of experience in designing and installing energy systems. Peter Skinner, author and owner of Earth Environmental Group (solar thermal systems,) has similar experience and has been part of a net zero apartment project in upstate New York. Together they have positioned their start-up company, SST, to utilize their several innovative systems to take us forward.

While drawing solar energy from the sun, and drawing thermal energy and cooling from the air and the earth are not new ideas, the ideas and variations that this group has come up with should make both solar and geothermal (or underground) heating and cooling easier to install and access, more efficient, and thus more cost-effective.

Because the design is simpler, and the underground heat exchange array needs only shallow excavation, these improvements, along with the greater efficiency, will mean that SST’s systems will be more economical to construct and maintain for buildings of all sizes and functions. In fact these systems have the potential to eliminate the use of natural gas or other fossil fuel entirely, along with greatly reduced electricity usage purchased from the grid.

What exactly are SST's new systems to produce heating, cooling, and electricity? They are in fact four different multi-source systems, each designed to produce one of three essential energy needs for buildings. First, the year-around cool temperatures found in deep bodies of water (oceans, deep lakes, deep rivers,) can be a source of cooling when pipes and their liquid (water and/or antifreeze solution,) are run through those bodies, chilling their liquid and subsequently the buildings. Because the temperatures at those depths are relatively constant, those water bodies can provide a year round source of cooling.

Secondly, the converse phenomenon is available, from hot water sources. Those sources include: waste water heat, natural, subterranean heat, and a variety of solar thermal collectors. These solar thermal collectors are warmed by sunlight but are of four different designs and hardware: (a.) glazed flat plate collectors with metal absorber plates heating piped, or channeled fluids;(b.) evacuated tube collectors using an array of glass cylinders, within which a vacuum creates insulation, and also an absorber surface to heat water or other liquid; (c.) unglazed collectors consisting of black plastic absorber surfaces or cylinder arrays heating water or antifreeze fluid in small-diameter channels; (d.) concentrating collectors which are moving reflective surfaces that can maintain the optimum collecting angle to the sun and which are most-commonly moving parabolic, cross-section reflectors.

Naturally, each of these systems can be used jointly or separately (they can be multi-source systems,) and can be adapted to the needs and designs of different buildings, whether for hot water or space heating. The third variation in these heating concepts, briefly noted above, is underground thermal storage. With a large enough volume of earth for storage, and with an optimized pipe array to do the heat exchange with the earth, efficient storage durations of 6 months are possible. July heat will be available and used in December and January, and vice versa.

Finally, SST will offer on-site electricity by using Organic Rankine Cycle systems. (ORC is a system where heat is transferred to a liquid, vaporized and sent through a turbine driving a generator.) SST will use this technology with the above-described systems for thermal collection and storage. In summary, SST has a variety of means to capture and store both heat and cold, as well as generate electricity locally, efficiently, and cost effectively.

Because fossil fuels can be volatile in pricing, have dire environmental consequences, and lack reliability, Seasonal Storage Technologies offers reliable renewable energy alternatives through their own multi source systems which capture and store both heat and cold, as well as generate electricity locally, efficiently, and cost effectively. Through their advanced solar thermal collectors, their shallow horizontal underground thermal storage arrays, their heat exchangers, and their enhanced ORC systems, SST offers cleaner, cheaper alternatives to fossil fuels.