With a solar radiation of up to 2,550 kWh/m², Saudi Arabia seems destined to be a frequent user of solar thermal energy. Solar heating and cooling, however, are not very common in the Kingdom. A new housing programme launched by the government is now adding solar water heating to the list of eligible technologies, albeit companies selling to Saudi Arabia have so far only reported a small number of prestigious projects. The photo shows a solar cooling demonstration plant at the headquarters of the kingdom’s oil company, Aramco, in Dhahran. The system, which came into operation in November 2014, offers high-vacuum flat MT-Power panels by Swiss manufacturer TVP Solar and runs a double-effect absorption chiller with 180 °C to produce cold air for Saudi Aramco's Al-Munirah Community Library. Still, solar thermal energy seems to remain a niche market in the eyes of the government, which has just published a new energy strategy for the coming years – the policy document primarily mentions PV, CSP and nuclear energy to offset the rising domestic consumption of the nation’s main export commodity: oil.
The long-awaited support scheme for the utilisation of renewable energy sources in residential buildings, Green Homes, was launched on 1 December 2015 – finally, one might say, as its start had already been planned for August 2015. With the EU-funded programme, the Slovak government intends to get homeowners to transform their energy supply ecologically. Any kind of small-scale renewable technology is eligible for the programme. Not only residential homeowners will get back up to 50% of their project costs, but also associations of flat owners are eligible for financial support, whereas companies are not entitled to any incentive (see further information in the database of incentive programmes). The chart from the programme´s website shows the three most favourite technologies during the first allocation period: photovoltaics, solar thermal and heat pumps.
From 2 to 4 December 2015, the SHC2015 conference in Istanbul brought together 233 researchers, industry specialists and other experts on solar heating and cooling. With 14 video interviews filmed at the conference, solarthermalworld.org highlighted the trends and pinpointed the crucial issues of today's global solar heating and cooling sector. The videos were jointly financed by the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme and the European Copper Association. They are available for download on the solarthermalworld.org YouTube channel.
In December 2015, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) published a comprehensive report on how to establish a quality infrastructure (QI) for solar water heaters on small-scale markets (see the attached document). The 76-page study is part of a series on Quality Infrastructure for Renewable Energy, which uses information from 83 survey respondents and data from interviews with 34 experts on QIs for renewable energy sources. The report discusses established international system and collector testing standards as well as examples of implementation across selected countries. It also highlights market barriers and makes recommendations for developing solar water heater Qis, focusing mainly on emerging markets. The programme highlights the complexity of a quality infrastructure, including the establishment of a product label, test labs, installers’ certification and the involvement of inspection bodies.
One key aspect of the energy and cost optimisation of large-scale collector fields (called arrays in this news) is collector array hydraulics. Optimal connection is achieved when (1) the costs and length of the connecting pipes is small, (2) the pressure drop over the entire array is low and (3) there is homogeneous mass flow distribution across the entire field. “Homogeneous mass flow reduces power losses in the circuit, avoids inefficient pump operation and prevents local stagnation,” explains Philip Ohnewein. The researcher at Austrian institute AEE INTEC managed the four-year project ParaSol (2011 to 2014), which – among other things – analysed the advantages and disadvantages of different hydraulic designs of large collector arrays of several hundreds to several thousands of panels. The results were also discussed and published as part of Task 45, Large Systems: Large Solar Heating/Cooling Systems, Seasonal Storage, Heat Pumps, of the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme in a two-page info leaflet and a 44-page technical document (attached to this article).
Greece’s solar water heater manufacturers have proved to be highly resilient at a time when the country is in economic crisis. The collector manufacturers were able to increase both domestic (+19 %) and export (+16 %) sales in 2014, according to the Greek Solar Industry Association, EBHE. The industry provides a high level of vertical integration and exports 50 % of its annual production volume. EBHE promotes a number of measures to keep business growing for its members. At the beginning of the year, the association and industry sponsors commissioned the Greek Foundation for Economic & Industrial Research, IOBE, to carry out a survey on the economic impact of a domestic tax reduction scheme. The survey results are now available and EBHE’s President, Panayis Konstantinidis, has already been in several meetings with ministry officials and members of parliament. The photo shows Konstantinidis (left) with Kostis Hatzidakis, Member of Parliament and former Minister of Development, during a discussion in September 2015.
South Africa is back to the tender season. At the beginning of December, the Department of Energy (DoE) published its Invitation of Bids for the Manufacturing and Supply, Delivery and Warehousing of Solar Water Heater Systems for financial years 2015/2016, 2016/2017 as well as 2017/2018. It will end on 15 January 2016. The current tender was announced and expected since spring 2015. In her budget speech on 19 May 2015, the Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, promised an improved solar water heater programme operated by the DoE already within the 2015 budget. But nothing happened until the beginning of December. The industry was not at all amused about the delay, as several publications of the Sustainable Energy Society of Southern Africa (SESSA) show.
The best solar research results are of little use if they are not distributed and known to stakeholders from the industry, planning departments or public authorities involved in the related field work. This becomes an even more important point if the aim of the research is to “assist with the developing of a strong and sustainable market”. One example: Task 48 (Quality Assurance & Support Measures for Solar Cooling Systems) under the auspices of the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling programme. Between October 2011 and March 2015, a very dynamic group of 30 solar cooling experts teamed up to work on a wide range of topics. As many as 180 person months of research were at the disposal of the programme’s coordinators, which created a lot of interesting output. The cooling specialists accepted and met the challenge by presenting results in a clear structure on the above-shown diagram. The so-called Task 48 Results Diagram could serve as a best-practice model for other international research projects.
The implementation of voluntary collector label Solergy will enter into the second phase in 2016. The European Commission has confirmed that there was no likelihood of confusing the voluntary mark with the official energy labelling stipulated since September 2015 for heating devices across Europe, the Steering Committee of the Solar Heating Initiative said in a letter sent to selected stakeholders in the middle of December. The letter went on to explain that it would now be the responsibility of DIN Certco, the German certification body, to issue Solergy labels officially and register the certificates in an online database. During the first phase in the second half of 2015, it had been Stefan Abrecht, the initiator of the voluntary collector label and General Manager of German company Solar Experience, who had issued the certificates.
Cooling demand is growing worldwide and has already resulted in more than 125 million electricity-driven split chiller units installed in residential and commercial buildings each year. Danish company Purix aims at exactly this growing market segment with a green solution. “We offer plug & play solar cooling systems, either of mono- or multi-spilt design,” explains Lars Munkøe, Director and co-founder of Purix. The company was established in 2011 as a spin-off initiated by an R&D engineer in cooperation with Danish company Exima, a service provider for corporate responsibility. “Prior to the founding of Purix, the partners had designed and operated prototypes for a year, filed a patent application and gathered market intelligence,” explains Munkøe. The photo shows the outdoor unit of the cooling kit, including a Purix A25s chiller and two conventional collectors, which can be operated in a heating mode as well.