While the solar thermal industry has had a difficult time in several EU countries, the solar district heating (SDH) community is still growing: 180 participants from the EU, South Korea and China attended the 4th International Solar District Heating Conference, which was held at quite the peculiar location this year – Denmark’s Legoland – and was organised under the auspices of the Horizon 2020 project SDHp2m…from Policy to Market. The introductory session of the conference was really inspiring. Thomas Pauschinger, Project Coordinator of SDHp2m, underlined how Denmark’s construction of plants in the 100 MW range was proof of the country’s solar thermal strategy of “think big”. Impressive results, even more so if one takes the statement by Kim Behnke, Deputy Director General of Dansk Fjernvarme, the Danish District Heating Association, into account that “the Danish solar dream started just ten years ago”. Denmark’s solar installations have become so famous that they have even been turned into brick models at Legoland. The photo shows the 13 MW solar field in Braedstrup, Denmark.
Friday, 23 September 2016, was the inauguration date for the now largest solar thermal collector field in Germany. Since then, 8,300 m² of vacuum tube collectors (5.8 MWth) set up in the town of Senftenberg, 140 km south of Berlin, have been feeding energy into the municipality’s district heating network. The previously largest field since 2005 – a 7,100 m² flat plate collector installation (5.1 MWth) – is located in the southern German town of Crailsheim. The new Senftenberg solar field was designed, manufactured and implemented by German system integrator Ritter XL Solar. The 1,680 collectors, the heat transfer unit and around 6,600 m of pipework were installed within record time: All in all, the project took only six months. The general contractor for the EUR 4.5 million investment was Berlin-based E&G Energiebau, which had received support from the Integral Project, the company responsible for sizing and integrating the solar heat into the existing network.
Turkey dominated the headlines of daily news channels this summer, especially after the tumultuous coup attempt between 15 and 16 July and the purges that followed. But even before, at the end of June, news from Turkey had taken the solar thermal industry by surprise: Ezinç Metal had stopped producing at short notice. Without any prior announcement, management had laid off almost all workers and had closed down the collector and system production within just a few days in June, former employees reported.
District heating has a long history in Scandinavia: The international symposium on district heating was launched there in 1987. In the meantime, the technology has reached the global stage and the 15th International Symposium on District Heating and Cooling was the first one supported by the IEA District Heating and Cooling programme (IEA DHC). Dr Ralf Roman Schmidt had been invited to speak at this two-day conference held in South Korea in September and attended by more than 200 people. The research engineer from the AIT, Austrian Institute of Technology, is about to become Austria’s alternate country representative within the IEA DHC.
Approved and successful policies should be promoted – which is why the Southern African Solar Thermal Training and Demonstration Initiative (SOLTRAIN) should be implemented in West Africa as well. Since 2009, the programme has helped train about 2,150 people during 80 courses and install 187 solar thermal systems in the five partner countries Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The coordinator, Austrian organisation AEE INTEC, and the implementing body, ECREEE – ECOWAS Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency based in Cabo Verde, have now launched a similar four-year training and demonstration programme, SOLtrain West Africa, to increase SWH numbers in five additional countries: Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.
The Indian government should provide the same assertive publicity for solar thermal technology as it had for solar PV because the population still needed to be made aware of the benefits of solar water heating. This was the major concern raised during the panel discussion Policy and Regulatory Framework for Solar Water Heater Market Development in India moderated by Jaideep Malaviya (third from right), Secretary General of the Solar Thermal Federation of India (STFI). Five industry representatives took part in the event held during the Renewable Energy India Exhibition and Conference 2016 near New Delhi at the beginning of September (from left to right): Rigal Patel (Redsun Solar), Bhoovarahan Thirumalai (Aspiration Energy), Devinder Kaushal (Inter Solar Systems), Saurabh Bhandari (Solarmaxx) and Chandrakant Shah (Kosol Hiramrut Energies).
Renovating multi-storey buildings can be used to create new living space with an additional top floor. That’s where an Austrian consortium led by AEE INTEC comes in: It has developed the Roofbox, an entirely prefabricated modular living space. A Roofbox consists of a bathroom, a kitchen, a separate toilet or living room and bedrooms, and it can be ordered with an active solar water heater system already installed on its roof. Every Roofbox can be transported by an articulated lorry and is rigid enough to be lifted by crane for roof mounting. On 16 September, Austrian Haas Fertigbau showcased in its Großwilfersdorf factory a flat made up of two Roofbox prototypes – which, however, is still missing the solar thermal unit on top (see photo).
How can urban planners be convinced to consider solar energy technologies in municipality projects? This is the key challenge faced by the international group of researchers of Task 51, Solar Energy in Urban Planning. One way to attract interest from these planners is to present them with case studies of successfully implemented solar projects. So the members of Task 51 headed by Maria Wall, Professor at the Energy and Building Design department of Sweden’s Lund University, have collected around 40 solar case studies and are about to design a brochure for all of them. The authors distinguish between three types of studies: new urban areas, existing urban areas and landscapes.
South Africa’s solar process heat installations remain profitable when they have to compete against other heat sources, such as diesel, paraffin, petrol or gas, the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES) at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, has concluded in a recently published paper. The researchers at the CRSES conducted a feasibility study of a 120.7 m² collector field that was to cover 60 % of the existing hot water requirements of Cape Brewing Company (CBC) based in Suider-Paarl, Western Cape, and analysed ten proposals submitted after the company’s invitation to tender in January 2015. South African E3 Energy won by offering an installation with a levelised cost of energy of 7.9 EUR cents/kWh, an internal rate of return of 16.7 % and a payback period of 9.3 years. CBC´s daily hot water demand is estimated to be 7,000 litres at 85 °C during 245 days a year, i.e., during a full year except for weekends, public holidays and two weeks of summer holidays. The system went into operation in November 2015 and the COO of CBC, Andy Kung, seems satisfied with the performance and the energy saving it offers.
System cost reduction is one of the most urgent challenges of the solar thermal sector, especially in central Europe. The aim of Task 54 of the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme, Price Reduction of Solar Thermal Systems, is to lower solar heat prices by up to 40 %. Germany’s main scientific contributions to the task have come from the two research projects KoST and TEWIsol, which have been co-funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The corresponding Task 54 meeting will take place in Stuttgart on 6/7 October (see the attached programme) in conjunction with a workshop on 5 October to present and discuss KoST and TEWIsol (12 p.m. to 4 p.m.; held in German). The photo shows the Task 54 workshop organised in collaboration with the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation in Brussels in May 2016.