Imagine a solar array that provides your electric needs and your hot water—and that you could put on your home for no up-front costs. That's what EchoFirst Inc. did when it introduced its new Echo system on July 10. It’s the first time a hybrid solar thermal solar photovoltaic system is offered with a zero-down lease, according to the company.
Like it’s big brother, the Echo+ system, the Echo harnesses both thermal energy and electricity by combining a photovoltaic array with a solar thermal mechanism, boosting the amount of solar energy collected by the system significantly. Unlike the Echo+ system, which provides heating, cooling and hot water, Echo’s thermal collection mechanism just produces hot water.
“The method of thermal capture for the new product is different than with Echo+,” said Gordon Handelsman, EchoFirst chief marketing officer and co-founder. “While both utilize air as the working fluid to harness the waste heat from the PV modules, Echo utilizes glycol as the working fluid at the panel level, while Echo+ is entirely air based, even at the thermal panel level,” he said.
The systems are PV module agnostic and are installed in a fashion similar to regular PV and solar thermal systems, according to Handelsman. “Most installers can do it. However, we always qualify all installers to ensure quality installations,” he said.
The new system is also designed to make it easy to install on small roofs. “The new Echo product is very energy efficient and therefore generates a lot of energy in a small space,” Handelsman said. He added that it is highly configurable, with the system requiring only a small, fixed-shaped core.
Like the Echo+, which the company said is already on more than 1,000 homes—some existing, some new—the Echo system is now available in select states, including California, Nevada, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Utah and Arizona. Unlike the Echo+ system, homeowners can get the Echo system under EchoFirst’s CompleteLease, the only residential solar PV lease that also harnesses solar thermal technology. The company partnered with Washington Gas to create a dedicated $50 million fund to support the leases.