Different methods for capturing the sun’s energy have been used as an energy source for years. A system that is becoming more popular in the Northland, the transpired solar collector, will be used at the St. Louis County Government Service Center (GSC) in Virginia, MN. This system will help heat ventilation air for this new 63,000 square-foot facility that is scheduled to open in 2018. Gausman & Moore is currently providing MEP engineering services for this project, including the implementation of the transpired solar collector, said Jude Homola (Duluth Mechanical Lead).


G&M’s engineering team analyzed how much sunlight and heat the south face of the GSC will receive. Based on G&M’s Life Cycle Cost analysis using manufacturer cost data and energy modeling, it was determined that the solar collector has a great payback for the client.


Facing an alley, the south side collects sunlight, but doesn’t offer many aesthetically pleasing views for County staff, making it an easy choice for the solar collector. Made of perforated metal, the solar collector is attached to the building’s exterior and enclosed at the top. Once installed, the solar collector heats the incoming outside air and heats it before the air enters the air handling unit serving the building.


The solar collectors vary in size, depending on how much sunlight the building owners want the building to absorb, the available space, and amount of air being heated. They last longer than traditional solar panels and help improve the longevity and energy cost of the building. They are especially effective in areas with colder climates, like northern Minnesota, but can be effective in many different kind of climates.


For the GSC, the solar collector will help significantly with heating the ventilation air. St. Louis County was eager to incorporate the solar collector, given their commitment to sustainable design and reducing operating costs.


This heat-capturing system can also be used for many different types of buildings. While the Virginia GSC will be a government office building, Homola has seen industrial and retail buildings incorporate transpired solar collectors as well.



Jude Homola, project leader