Romania can hardly be said to have taken the lead in solar thermal deployment: With only 5.6 kWth of installed solar thermal capacity per 1,000 people in 2015, the country ranked below average in the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) statistics. Even its neighbour south of the Danube river, Bulgaria, had 13 kWth installed. An overall lack of awareness of solar thermal benefits among Romanians seems to be the main barrier preventing large-scale market penetration, a team of authors from the universities in Brasov, Galati and Bacau write in Economic and Environmental Analysis of Investing in Solar Water Heating Systems. On 8 December 2016, the extensive study on the economic potential of SWH systems and their contribution to energy saving and CO2 reduction (see the attached PDF) was made available on the Basel-based open-access platform of the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI).
After several months of consultation about removing new solar thermal systems from the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) starting in 2017, the British government announced on 14 December 2016 that the support will in fact continue. The government published the results of the consultation in a document called The Renewable Heat Incentive: A Reformed Scheme (see attached pdf). Here it was announced that support for new solar thermal installations will in fact continue through the RHI scheme without changes. Hence the tariff for the households will remain at the current level of 0.1974 Pound Sterling (GBP)/kWh paid over seven years and for non-households the tariff will remain at the current level of 0.1028 GBP/kWh over 20 years. Solar space heating is still not eligible. The chart shows the small portion of solar thermal accredited installations (1.57 %) in the non-domestic RHI between Q2 2014 and Q3 2016 – in total 223 solar applications since the start of the programme.
The Solar Thermal Federation of India (STFI) and the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce (IGCC) have teamed up for the international Solar Payback project, which aims to increase the use of solar thermal energy in industrial processes. The photo shows the partners during the Kick-Off Meeting in Mumbai, India, on 16 December 2016. Supported by the German Federal Environment Ministry funded by the International Climate Initiative, the three-year project will be implemented in India, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil. It is coordinated by the German Solar Association BSW-Solar and eleven partner organisations: three German companies, plus each target country’s national solar industry association and German chamber of commerce.
India has been witnessing renewed interest in solar thermal in the wake of some successful installations. Dish-type concentrating systems have the potential to generate hot water above 100 °C. But in many places, insufficient space or unsuitable roof structures are roadblocks to increased deployment. Several Indian start-ups have used evacuated tube collectors (ETC) with compound parabolic concentrators (CPC), popularly known as non-imaging collectors in India, for solar process heat applications which require medium-pressure steam at around 150 °C. These collectors consist of evacuated double-glass tubes with bent aluminium mirrors underneath. The CPC mirror guarantees that fewer tubes are required per unit area and over 90 % of the gross collector area is used optically. So far, the aluminium sheets for the systems have been imported, but one local manufacturer will start operations soon.
Throughout the past decades, Bulgaria’s governments have focused almost exclusively on large conventional energy projects, such as nuclear plants or gas and oil pipelines, whereas small and decentralised renewable energy systems haven’t received much attention from politicians. But the large-scale projects are complex and expensive, so none of them have come to fruition. This is where the most current study by the Bulgarian Institute for Zero Energy Buildings (IZEB) comes in: It sends an important message to all stakeholders by describing a way to keep the entire Bulgarian capital of Sofia and its 1.2 million inhabitants warm without the use of any combustion fuel.
The Romanian Ministry of Energy has published a draft of its Energy Strategy 2016-2030, including an outlook until 2050. The roadmap is based on five strategic objectives, which have been combined to resemble a building (see figure on the left). The roadmap’s authors also propose several key areas for strategic intervention as described below. In 2007, Romania adopted a National Energy Strategy which will last until 2020. The new document will soon be subject to parliamentary debate and is expected to be approved by parliament in the first half of 2017. Both the English summary and the complete Energy Strategy draft in Romanian have been attached to this news article.
The 191 solar process heat projects which have made it into the online database add up to an installed capacity of 0.11 GWth (0.159 million m²), which is only a small fraction of the potential estimated for this type of application. To quantify the technology’s global opportunities, the researchers from the now-completed four-year Task 49 / IV, Solar Heat Integration in Industrial Processes, analysed the results of several national studies which had tried to determine the potential of solar process heat while considering restrictions such as temperature range and the space available for the systems (see the chart on the left). “For Europe, where mainly non-concentrating collectors had been investigated, the percentage of technical potential for solar process heat related to the total industrial heat demand is around 3 to 4 %,” was the conclusion by the authors of the attached report Potential studies on solar process heat worldwide.
On 24 November, the fifth Solar Heat Switzerland (Solarwärme Schweiz) conference organised by the solar industry association Swissolar, the building services association suissetec and the Federal Office of Energy was held in Lucerne, Switzerland. As 2017 funding for solar heat incentives remains in doubt in several cantons and the priorities of the country´s energy policy haven’t been announced yet, the market outlook for solar thermal has not been very encouraging. But there seems to be a ray of hope in the form of low-temperature collectors for borehole regeneration and solar district heating. Click here to download the German-language presentations from the conference.
The ranking of the largest flat plate collector manufacturers is headed by the same four companies as last year: Greenonetec from Austria, Fivestar from China, Soletrol from Brazil and Bosch Thermotechnik from Germany. But aside from the continuity at the top, last year shows what different paths some markets have taken. Whereas Australian-based Solahart, one of the pioneers of global solar collector trade, as well as Soletrol, the largest Brazilian manufacturer, have lost ground, several others – such as Sunrain from China, Hewalex from Poland and Eraslan from Turkey – were able to report above-average growth for 2015 and rise through the ranks. The produced collector area of the overall 21 companies added up to 4,212,462 m². The number was 21 and not 20 because the last and second-last spot were occupied by companies with equal production output.
After seven years, the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme (IEA SHC) is planning to launch another international research cooperation on PVT technology. PVT includes panels which combine photovoltaics and solar thermal into one unit either as glazed or unglazed systems. The first and only task on PVT systems was completed in June 2010. The new one, entitled Application of PVT Collectors and New Solutions with PVT Systems, is in the definition phase. It is expected to start in July 2017 and run for 3.5 years. Interested researchers and industry representatives have been invited to attend a two-day workshop at ETH university in Zurich, Switzerland, from 16 March (1 p.m.) to 17 March (12 a.m.) in order to discuss crucial aspects and the structure of the global initiative.
Chart: Jean-Christophe Hadorn, Swiss energy consultant, contracted by the SFOE, Switzerland