Despite being the most robust solar thermal market across North and South America in terms of growth (8 % YoY in 2015), Mexico is still struggling domestically to harmonise its quality standards for solar thermal heaters. The lack of understanding between local producers and equipment importers has been the main hurdle to legally binding and uniform rules. However, the process is ongoing and the market’s stakeholders expect a draft of the official NOM-027-ENER-2015 to be available for public consultation by the end of 2016.
On 13 July, Arcon-Sunmark, the Danish large-scale solar heating specialist, officially announced that as the chosen turnkey provider, it was beginning construction on the 156,694 m² solar district heating system (110 MWth) on behalf of the Danish city of Silkeborg and its district heating company Silkeborg Forsyning. The plant is scheduled for completion by the end of the year and will then be the largest solar district heating system worldwide.
German Vaillant has launched a project which has stirred controversy among installers: Online platform heizungonline.vaillant.de can be used by manufacturers to directly address those end customers who wish to shop online – and send them a “price indication” for a complete heating system. Recent discussions have revolved around the question of whether this is a help to installation companies or if it interferes with their entrepreneurial freedom.
The SoPro India project has scientifically monitored two solar water heating systems for a year with the aim of presenting reliable data on system performance (see the attached PDFs). The measured 20 % solar efficiency would put the ROI between 2 and 3 years, depending on the development of fossil fuel costs. The researchers from German institute Fraunhofer ISE see new systems offering “good opportunities for further technical improvement.” SoPro was implemented by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) in cooperation with the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
The German solar thermal market is still stuck in recession. Although incentives are higher than they have ever been, demand has not really picked up over the first five months of this year, according to the market statistics by the two associations BSW Solar and BDH. The total collector area sold until the end of May was again down by 5.3 % compared to the previous year, although vacuum tubes have been more strongly affected by the slump (-18 %) than flat plate collectors (-4 %). Installers are viewed as the bottleneck in the supply chain and an increasing number of solar thermal suppliers have run advert campaigns to try and reach end customers on their own. Solarthermalworld.org has already reported on the new end-customer sales strategies employed by Thermondo. This article describes how the campaigns of another German system supplier, Sonnenkraft, have changed over the years. The image depicts an advertisement for the campaign from 2005 (left) and one from 2015 (right).
Seasonal storage is a key component in the transformation of today’s energy industry. Besides storing energy in summer for heating in winter, it can also be used to save waste heat from the industry and to increase the electricity production from biomass CHP plants. Experiences gathered with the technology during case studies were summarised as part of the study Seasonal thermal energy storage – Report on state of the art and necessary further R+D, which was published by Task 45, Large Scale Solar Heating and Cooling Systems, of the IEA SHC programme. Together with the Guidelines for Materials & Construction on the two most common storage types, borehole (see the chart) and water pit, it provides a good overview of the current advancements in this field (all three documents attached). Additional research into the design of seasonal storage will be carried out in follow-up Task 55, Towards the Integration of Large SHC Systems into District Heating and Cooling (DHC) Network. Interested stakeholders have been invited to join the kick-off meeting of Task 55 in Graz, Austria, between 19 and 21 October (see contact details below).
Crystalline PV modules utilise only 12 to 15 % of the incoming sunlight, while the rest is usually treated as waste heat. Hybrid solar panels, also called PVT elements, will channel this unused low-temperature heat, as shown by a large-scale demonstration plant in Switzerland. The PVT system’s 1,300 m² are used to regenerate a borehole field in a Swiss multi-family housing area. Monitoring data of the system’s first year in operation between August 2014 and July 2015 resulted in an annual thermal yield of 330 kWh/m² in addition to the 163 kWh/m² of electricity produced by the PV modules, according to a statement made by researchers from the Swiss SPF – Institute of Solar Technology earlier this year. The borehole field serves as the energy source for the heat pumps, which supply hot water all-the-year and space heating in winter. Most probably, the recommendations that the SPF researchers made to optimise the system in a paper published in May 2016 will even lead to a higher thermal yield during the installation’s second year.
In 2015, the solar collector area newly installed in Switzerland shrunk by 16 % compared to 2014. Imports outperformed domestic production, and larger systems for multi-family and commercial buildings, particularly those with vacuum tubes, have gained market shares. These are some of the key findings of the annual study published by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (see attached study in German and French). Some cantons will completely halt incentives for solar heat because of budget restrictions.
In April 2016, British company SolarCool Energy put into operation its largest SolarCool system, which was installed on the roof of Chingford Fruit’s processing plant (see photo) in Dartford Kent, UK. Fifty-four retrofitted vacuum tube collectors totalling 160 m² have since reduced the power consumption of the existing compression chillers with a cooling capacity of 1 MW. According to Central Services Manager Colin Ormerod, Chingford Fruit has saved 100,000 kWh of electricity during process cooling (16 °C) over the two full months that the system has been in operation (May and June). The SolarCool technology was developed in 2009 in the USA, and reached European markets in 2013/2014. In the meantime, there have been around 6,000 systems set up across all continents – the majority in Latin America, Caribbean and South East Asia, according to Dr Kurt Orthmann, Joint Managing Director at SolarCool’s European subsidiary, SolarCool Europe.
Mexican company Inventive Power helps industrial customers to reduce their energy costs, which in turn reduces pollution in major cities. “Besides traffic, industrial boilers are responsible for much of the pollution in urban areas,” Ángel Mejía Santiago explained during the Intersolar Europe. The founder and CEO of Inventive Power emphasised that concentrating solar systems could offer energy at significantly lower cost than thermal power generation by natural gas or oil. Santiago sees great market potential in the technology, as there have been 32,000 boilers and water heaters installed across the country – at hotels and hospitals as well as food and beverage companies. The photo shows a parabolic trough installation with 433 m² of mirror aperture at the Nestlé dairy factory in Lagos de Moreno, central Mexico, which started operating in 2014.