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
For more than 35 years, Thermocell collectors have been exclusively manufactured in New Zealand. Developed and commercialised in the late 1970s by Professor Emeritus Arthur Williamson from the University of Canterbury, these patented collector types have been produced in Christchurch ever since. In the peak years of 2005 and 2006, about 12 staff worked for Thermocell in administration, production and installation. As New Zealand’s solar thermal market has declined significantly over the past ten years, only two of those people are left today. “Arthur developed a reliable technology and we are maintaining systems which are more than 30 years old,” confirmed Ian Johns, General Manager of Sunstream Solar, a Thermocell collector reseller and installer from Christchurch. The photo shows Williamson in front of a “heat sheet”, the unique feature of Thermocell systems.
Photos: University of Canterbury / Sunstream Solar
The Solar Keymark Network (SKN) discussed and approved new complaint procedures during its most recent meeting on the Greek island of Crete in mid-October 2016. Action had to be taken, as the first series of complaints filed in late 2015 against Swedish test lab SP about the certificates of Danish collector manufacturer Arcon-Sunmark was not resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved. The results of the October meeting are described in a publicly available draft of the minutes on the SKN webpage.
The IEA’s Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report or MTRMR 2016 again includes a chapter on renewable heating and cooling – and it’s growing in size. The 282-page document published from Singapore on 25 October analyses on 47 pages the current and future market development of four renewable heating technologies: biomass, solar thermal, geothermal and heat pumps. The IEA began to add a renewable heating chapter to its MTRMR in 2013 – back then, it had only 14 pages. The authors of this year’s edition emphasise the fact that onshore wind and solar PV are the only renewable technologies on track for a 2 °C target.
In September 2016, Roger Hackstock returned as Managing Director of Austria Solar after having already occupied this position between 2002 and 2013. In the three years that he was not at the helm of the Austrian industry association, Hackstock published a book on the “Energiewende” (energy transition), worked as programme manager for the country’s Climate and Energy Fund and coordinated the Storage initiative as an independent consultant. During our interview, he spoke about the challenges solar heat has had to face over the years, as market demand for system solutions is steadily on the rise, and noted that he was happy to support the industry in this new era.
The Canadian Drake Landing Solar Community has hit a new performance milestone, recording its first year of solar-only space heating during heating season 2015-2016. The community’s SDH plant, which has been in operation since 2007, was initially designed to achieve a solar fraction of 92 to 93 % for space heat in an average year. System improvements have increased that share and have made last winter the first time that solar energy was able to meet 100 % of the space heating requirements of the 52 energy-efficient residential buildings. The families heat their hot water with their own solar water heaters and gas-fired boilers. The initiator of the project was Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), which has since remained the central technical support.
The recording of the webinar Think big - Design rules and monitoring results of solar district heating systems is now available. Experts from Austria, Denmark and Germany reported on the hot topics in SDH development: Use and performance of seasonal heat storage units for increasing solar coverage, distributed SDH plants connected to specific points of district heating grids as well as large centralised SDH plants employed in particular in Denmark and combined with other renewable energy sources. They emphasised the fact that solar district heating has an enormous potential and monitoring data shows the high reliability of the systems as well as the high performing new generation of collectors. You find the presentations as attachments below.
The new interest subvention scheme for Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) technologies administrated by the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) is now open for applications. The scheme has been developed in cooperation with the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) during the GEF-UNIDO-MNRE project, which focuses on increasing the deployment of concentrating solar thermal systems for process heat applications in India. “Technology providers or beneficiaries can use a short-term bridge loan at normal interest rates for pre-financing the 30 % capital subsidy that the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy grants for CST technologies,” explained Dr Anil Misra, National Project Manager at UNIDO (see photo). IREDA also hands out long-term loans covering up to 45 % of the benchmark system cost at 5 % lower-than-usual interest rates. The remaining 25 % are required as equity by the beneficiary.
Last year, the amount of newly installed glazed collector area added up to 2.7 million m² (1.9 GWth) in the European Union’s E28 and Switzerland combined. It is another decline compared to the previous year, this time by 7 %. The annual market statistics of the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) show 23,700 people to have been employed by the solar thermal sector Europe-wide, whereas turnover was EUR 1.9 billion overall. The four-page market survey published in November includes the country-specific figures of all 28 EU countries and Switzerland. Most of the data was provided by national associations, energy agencies or industry companies, although the markets of six smaller countries were estimated by the ESTIF team. The survey can be downloaded by filling in a form on the organisation’s website. A full report will be available to ESTIF members in early December.
Arcon-Sunmark has announced the completion of a second solar-heated copper mine project. In September 2016, the Danish company installed a 6,270 m² collector field (4.4 MWth) at La Parreña in central Mexico. A 30 September press release said that the solar field would cover 58 % of the mine’s demand for heat. The field consists of 456 components of nearly 14 m² each and a storage tank of 660 m³. The first project of its kind, a field of 39,300 m² (27.5 MWth), was completed with a joint-venture partner at the Gabriela Mistral mine in Chile in 2013. Being the world’s largest solar system for process heat application, it had produced 142,000 MWh in the first 35 months of operation, the press release said. This corresponds to a specific yield of 1,112 kWh per m² and year.