Viega fittings and solar thermal heating – it’s a combination that for AET Solar has proven to be a perfect match.
AET Solar, one of the oldest solar manufacturers in the United States, is working on the largest solar thermal project in the country currently being installed. Viega is playing an integral part. The project is in Hawaii at the U.S. Army’s Schofield Barracks. AET is installing solar water heaters to provide hot water for a portion of the barracks.
There are eight buildings with a total of 560 solar collectors and seven mechanical rooms with custom skid-mounted pumping stations. The installations are being done exclusively with Viega ProPress, copper and stainless, and AET is pleased with its choice of Viega.
“For us, it has been phenomenal to use the Viega components,” said Carlos Fernandez-Aballi, Ph.D. and Engineer with AET. “It’s a natural fit between a press fitting and the huge challenge of collecting the energy that the sun provides. Using Viega reduced our installation time and cost significantly.”
AET’s Executive Vice President, Andrew East, was aware of Viega prior to the Schofield Barracks job, and the company was looking for a more secure and labor-savings connection for its collectors. Viega Business Development Manager Sid Medina helped get the two companies connected and over the past couple of years the project took off.
“There are two attractive things about Viega for us,” Dr. Fernandez-Aballi said. “Once you set it up, there’s a huge savings in labor – thousands and thousands of dollars in savings in labor on a project of this scale. For a big solar collection system like this, you need large flow rates, which means using large-diameter tubing. When you’re talking about sweating large-diameter tubes on the roof in the sun and the wind and everything else, it’s very cumbersome, so a press solution is the ideal way to go.”
Using solar energy for the barracks will provide the Army enormous financial savings. Dr. Fernandez-Aballi explained that solar thermal solutions can provide 70- to 100-percent of water heating, creating huge energy savings over a traditional system. Solar collectors are seven times more efficient than photovoltaic panels and are the most economical alternative to hot water heating. In a location the size of a military base, the savings are phenomenal.
“In a place like Hawaii, the sun puts money in your roof at the rate of about $70 per square foot per year. That means a 1,000-square-foot system will give you $70,000 in value. What’s the cheapest water heater you can purchase? One that pays for itself!” Dr. Fernandez-Aballi said.
At the Schofield Barracks, when finished, there will be 560 collectors, each 40 square feet in size, soaking up a lot of Hawaiian sunshine.
According to Dr. Fernandez-Aballi, putting together the pump stations can be a challenge, but being able to pre-build them with Viega fittings made the process easier, as was the rest of the piping required to complete the systems.
“We put the systems up on the roof, and then it just takes a couple of hours to press it all together,” he said. “Threaded components can leak but the Viega components have been perfect.”
“We’ve also received tons of support from Viega. The relationship there is great. Anytime we’ve asked Sid for any type of help, he’s available and comes up with a solution, and the delivery times for product are spot-on. The quality of the component, combined with the advantage of the labor savings, has proven Viega was the right partner.”
Dr. Fernandez-Aballi noted the warranty of the connections provides peace of mind for the client and also for AET, knowing that the connections may outlast the solar system itself.