China’s shift away from residential towards commercial solar thermal applications continues: The collector area of newly installed solar water heaters in single-family buildings declined by 26 % in 2016, whereas the ‘engineering segment’ remained stable last year (see the table below). This segment is comprised of all non-domestic hot water applications, such as space heating and cooling as well as applications in industry and agriculture. Overall, its share in the newly installed collector area went from 61 to 68 %. All figures were taken from the Report on the State of China 's Solar Thermal Industry (July to December 2016), a document drafted by Dezhou-based consultancy Sun’s Visions on behalf of CSTIF, the Chinese Solar Thermal Industry Federation. CSTIF has presented this report – which also includes several development strategies – to the National Energy Board.
Last year, Chinese vacuum tube manufacturer Huang Ming internationally known as Himin Solar installed its largest system for solar process heat to date. The company said that it had set up a 9,903 m² installation in Shandong province in October 2015, a system which had since produced heat for a textile factory owned by the Ruyi Group. The RMB 12.46 million (EUR 1.66 million) project had been entirely financed by the customer, which had not received any public subsidies. Ruyi had had the plant built because of a lack of electricity. “The local government had restricted electricity supply to Ruyi, which meant that the business could no longer fulfil its annual output targets,” stated a press release by Himin.
The make-up of China’s solar thermal market is changing: The segment that used to guarantee the industry’s profits, the retail business of small thermosiphon systems for private households, has been declining in recent years. Other solar thermal segments, however, have been taking off in the meantime – for example, the market for more sophisticated solar thermal installations that are integrated into blocks of flats, hospitals, schools or universities. There is also growing interest in medium- and high-temperature solar thermal systems for industrial process heat. According to the annual surveys and market reports by Sun’s Vision, a consultancy located in Shandong province, the so-called solar thermal engineering market, which includes building integration and industrial process heat systems, increased by 50% in 2012 and 2013, after having grown by 35 % in 2011. The pie chart shows the individual categories of the building integration segment in 2013, which was the main driver of the national market.
Large Japanese and Chinese companies have recently taken a greater interest in solar cooling. The photo shows an installation by Chinese company Jiangsu Huineng New Energy Technology (Huin), which started supplying solar cooling systems this year. New system kits help drive down costs, although investments in sorption chillers are still higher than for compression chillers. After the Intersolar Europe conference in Munich, Germany, and its dedicated solar cooling session, Uli Jakob, Vice President of the German sorption chiller association Green Chiller, noted: “Solar cooling was one of the highlights of the conference.”