The Southern African Solar Thermal Training and Demonstration Initiative (SOLTRAIN) presented the project’s remarkable progress since 2009 during a conference in Midrand, South Africa, on 11 February 2016. “Between 2009 and 2015, about 2,150 people have been trained in 80 courses, and nearly 187 solar thermal systems ranging from 2 to 250 m² collector area per system have been installed in the five target countries South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe,” Project Coordinator Werner Weiss, Managing Director of Austrian institute AEE INTEC, summed up the results. The photo shows the presentation of Dr Thembakazi Mali, Senior Manager Clean Energy Solutions at the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) on 11 February. The one-day conference was attended by 63 stakeholders from the SADC region.
German IT company Cloud&Heat offers its customers two products which would have seemed totally unrelated a couple of years ago: cloud computing and heat for space or water heating. To extract usable heat, Cloud&Heat has developed a special water cooling system for server cabinets to achieve temperatures of 55 °C. Usually, 90 % of the electricity consumed by servers is waste heat. As a consequence, much additional power is required to dissipate the heat. “Our Green Cloud doubles down on saving energy by covering both the cooling and heating demand of residential buildings,” explains Jens Struckmeier, one of the three founders of Cloud&Heat. So far, the IT specialists have installed about 650 servers supplying heat to 25 building projects. Cloud&Heat estimates that the growing number of cloud servers worldwide consume as much energy as an entire country – more than India but less than Japan (see chart on the left.
Professor Dr Bülent Yeşilata is one of the key experts of solar heating and cooling research in Turkey. He is Professor and Dean of the Engineering Faculty of Harran University in Şanlıurfa, Turkey, and a member of the IEA SHC Executive Committee. Yeşilata was the scientific chair of the international solar thermal conference SHC2015, which took place in Istanbul at the beginning of December 2015. Solarthermalworld.org spoke with him about the challenges and the highlights of the conference.
Dr Bastian Schmitt can look back at more than ten years of experience in the field of solar process heat. As part of his doctoral thesis, the mechanical engineer developed a classification system for the integration of solar thermal systems providing process heat on industrial premises. Today, he is a member of Task 49 of the IEA’s Solar Heating and Cooling Programme and heads the working group Process Heat at the Institute of Thermal Engineering (ITE), a department of the University of Kassel, Germany. Solarthermalworld.org spoke with him about the latest research into solar thermal integration and the goals set in last year’s guidance document.
Against all odds, the solar heating tax credits in the USA were extended again by 5 years. On 18 December 2015, the Consolidated Appropriations Act was signed, including an extension of the so-called federal Investment Tax Credits up to 2021. Originally, the tax incentives were expected to end on 31 December 2016 after an eleven-year period since 2005, with one previous extension in 2008. They allow both residential and commercial investors of solar PV and solar thermal systems to deduct 30 % of the investment costs at the next tax declaration.
The European Commission published its long-awaited EU Strategy for Heating and Cooling on 16 February 2016. It was the first time that the commission took the initiative to address exclusively renewable energy use for heating and cooling in buildings and industry, which accounts for 50 % of the EU´s annual energy consumption. Two documents were presented in a press conference on that very day (attached to this news article): a 13-page position paper entitled An EU Strategy on Heating and Cooling, which explains the most important barriers and action fields, and the 200-page Commission Staff Working Document – Review of available information, which was published in two parts.
Between 8 and 11 March, Berlin will be the venue of choice for standard and certification experts from all corners of the globe. Then, the city will host three international meetings to discuss standard and certification issues at European and global level: First, there is the meeting of the Solar Keymark Network (SKN), which will be held on 8 and 9 March and will be headed by Jaime Fernández González-Granda (left); second, there is the one of the Global Solar Certification Network on 10 March led by Harald Drück (middle). The third event that will take place in the same week is the kick-off meeting of the newly created Task 57, Solar Standards and Certification, which will be held on 10 and 11 March and will be headed by Jan Erik Nielsen (right).
According to the ISOL Index by solrico and market data from the industry association Austria Solar, the solar thermal industry is heading into another year of declining markets. Low oil prices and corresponding campaigns of the fossil heating industry have had a substantial impact on this renewable technology. The banner shows the slogan “Heizen mit Öl – das zahlt sich aus” (The Benefits of Using Oil to Heat Your Home) on the website of the Austrian mineral oil industry, which offers grants of EUR 2,500 for the installation of a condensing oil boiler in a single-family building. Austria Solar has also criticised the reduction in the renewable budget of the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund as well as the complicated incentive scheme rules throughout the states. The large-scale project market is what keeps the industry alive.
The latest statistics of Conto Termico in Italy show that the national incentive scheme has still not been used enough: As of 1 January 2016, it had supported only 62 solar thermal plants for public buildings, while the private sector figure was 10,634. Assuming an average plant size of 7 m², as estimated by Gestore dei Servizi Energetici (GSE), this corresponds to a total subsidised collector area of 75,000 m² – a fairly low result over the 30 months of the scheme. The subsidy volume for solar thermal now amounts to about EUR 27.5 million, around half of the total incentives which have so far been distributed by Conto Termico. This is again a rather small figure compared to an originally planned budget of EUR 900 million. GSE, the state-owned administrator of Conto Termico, has therefore modified the scheme rules.
Since the win at the general election May 2015, the UK Conservative Party has made significant changes to policies that were related to energy and environment protection. These include the currently in parliament discussed reduction of subsidies for wind and solar PV with the Feed-In tariffs and the reduction of the renewable quote for electricity suppliers, that are stipulated to source an increasing proportion of electricity from renewable sources. Also the climate change levy (CCL) exemption from renewable electricity schemes has been removed and the Green Deal and ‘zero carbon’ homes initiatives have been abandoned. These cuts were justified by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) who announced these would be “….Reducing energy bills for hard working British families and businesses and meeting climate goals in the most cost effective way ….. ”