|Rooftop solar installation saves $ and CO2 for Cheesecake Factory|
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Case Study: The Cheesecake Factory's Solar Installations
The Cheesecake Factory is already known for its commitment to social issues such as reducing hunger in America. Now a new test project uses rooftop space above the restaurant to reduce or eliminate the need for hot water heater use, saving restaurants money and also reducing their carbon footprint.
Excerpt: "When consulting with the chain, Sun Light & Power investigated both solar hot water and solar electricity options, says Gary Gerber, president and CEO, who founded the firm in 1976. A limited amount of roof space, however, limited the restaurant to a solar hot water versus full-fledged solar power.
'It's not unusual for a restaurant to already have a lot of equipment on the roof; with all the refrigeration and HVAC and ducting, it's often hard to squeeze the solar panels in,' Gerber says.
'One hint is if you're doing a remodel or anything involving the roof, give some thought to leaving as much open space as possible because that roof real estate is very valuable,' Gerber says.
At 40 square feet each piece, these collectors are not tiny, but they are powerful; 1 square foot of solar panel can heat about 1.5 gallons of water. In the case of The Cheesecake Factory, for roughly 800 square feet, 850 gallons of water can be pre-heated using the sun, Gerber says. 'But there's no reason why you can't put in a smaller system with six or seven collectors.'
The solar water systems work by collecting sunlight using insulated panels outfitted with an aluminum frame to deflect wind. Creating a greenhouse gas effect, the heat collected by the panels gets transferred to black rubber tubes with circulating water. With each pass, the liquid gains 10 degrees, passing more than 10 times to reach a target temperature of 120 degrees F to 160 degrees F. Operators can pre-set limits to prevent overheating. The preheated water then heats the storage tank intercepted with cold water.
While the solar panels can't supply 100 percent of the restaurant's hot water, in The Cheesecake Factory's situation, there is carryover from one day to the next, Gerber says. In less sunny parts of the country, this carryover capability comes in handy."