Costa Ricans currently spend up to 40 % of their electricity bill on hot water supply. With an average annual increase of 5.3 %, the demand for electricity has quadrupled over the last 20 years and prices have more than doubled during the same period. Therefore, one should assume solar water heaters to be popular in a country where solar irradiation is as high as 2,100 W per m² and year. Unfortunately, the Costa Rican Statistical Office does not provide any figures on the total collector area installed across the country.
Tanks with high storage capacity and reduced losses are key to an increased solar heat share in households. Austrian research institute AEE INTEC has recently inaugurated a pilot research facility which promises exactly that: greater storage capacity than water and almost zero energy losses even in seasonal mode. The heart of the test facility are two low-pressure vessels filled with 750 kg of zeolite beads or spheres each. “Our first measurements since the beginning of October were very promising,” confirms Wim van Helden, head of the research project at AEE INTEC. “We reached a storage density of 180 kWh/m³, which has never been achieved before in a device of this size.” The research is part of an EU-funded project called COMTES – Combined Development of Compact Thermal Energy Storage Technologies and was co-financed by the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund. Theresia Vogel (second from left), Managing Director of said fund, joined the official starting ceremony on 11 November 2015.
The One World Solar Collector developed by Austrian company Sunlumo finally received a Solar Keymark certificate in October 2015 (see the attached PDF). This is a milestone in the long design and development process, which started in 2009. “We designed a completely new collector model optimising weight, performance, logistics and raw materials,” Robert Buchinger (left), Managing Director of Sunlumo, says about the long term R&D project. The photo, which was taken at machinery supplier Fill’s booth at the 2014 edition of Fakuma, the international trade fair for plastics processing, in Germany, shows Buchinger and Wilhelm Rupertsberger, Head of Competence Center Polymer Technology at FilI, holding up the pilot collector with a gross collector area of 0.95 m² and a weight of only 8.1 kg. Sunlumo is looking for investors who want to purchase a complete production line as well as the license and produce the polymer collector locally. The One World Solar Collector is the third 100 % polymer collector with a Solar Keymark certificate. The other two are Eco Flare 3M by Israeli manufacturer Magen Eco Energy and a collector from Norway’s Aventa.
Overcapacities in the collector industry, declining demand and the associated drop in collector prices have given European manufacturers a hard time. Over the last 12 months, four well-known collector manufacturers in four different countries have had serious financial troubles: Watt in Poland, Astersa in Spain, Solvis in Germany and Clipsol in France all followed fairly different approaches to cope with their financial problems. Only one, Astersa, has disappeared from the market – the other three manufacturers are still in business. The photo shows the inauguration of Watt´s production unit in Poland in 2011 which is put on hold at the moment.
São Paulo’s around 30,000 new building permits per year and a municipality bylaw (Number 14449/2007) which has required construction companies to make solar water heating part of almost every newbuild since 2008 have created expectations for a flourishing solar thermal sector in this Brazilian city. Independent consultancies estimate that the local solar obligation has led to 110,000 m² of collector area installed at residential buildings.
The Indian industry imports 80 % of the oil it consumes for heating, boiling, drying or other purposes. The government of India has spent USD 112.748 billion in financial year 2014-15 on the import of these 189.43 million tons of crude oil. Solar thermal is seen as a key technology for reducing government spending and greenhouse gas emissions in the industry on the subcontinent. Despite being heavily subsidised, solar process heat installations are still rare across the country. Now, the solar thermal industry is calling for additional regulations in form of a Renewable Heating Obligation to speed up the deployment of solar thermal technology in the manufacturing sector. The photo shows a solar concentrating system on the roof of bearing manufacturer SKF Technologies in Mysore in southern India.
In a country with a high market penetration of solar water heaters and a decline in new installations, companies have to look for new business opportunities elsewhere. For example, Austrian installation company Mysolar specialises in replacing old solar water heaters which have been losing efficiency because of aging collectors. At a fixed price, the company will replace old collectors by new ones.
The new collector label Solergy has just been created and has already sparked a lot of debate in Germany. On the one hand, there is a growing number of collector manufacturers, associations and also the certification body DIN Certco – which are supporting the implementation of the label (see the list of logos at the beginning of November). On the other hand, there are the European bodies relevant to the solar thermal sector, such as the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) and the Solar Keymark Network (SKN), which are not in favour of Solergy, although they do fancy the idea behind such a collector energy output label. To understand the reasons for the controversy, one has to look at the evolution of the label.
During IEA SHC Task 51, Solar Energy in Urban Planning, the project partners evaluated the legal, process and education issues of solar in urban planning across the twelve member countries. What they found was: Planners and architects know little about the opportunities of solar energy usage. Solar energy in urban planning is also rarely a topic during university courses for architects or urban planners. The photo shows participants of the latest Task 51 meeting visiting a big PV installation. The meeting was held on the French island of Réunion from 28 September to 2 October. The task is about all types of solar energy.
The one-day workshop of the French solar sector to discuss the General State of Solar Heat in 2015 (États Généraux de la Chaleur Solaire 2015) took place in Nantes on 20 October with around 130 participants. The market is still decreasing, but the industry is closing its ranks to get out of the difficult situation. Multi-family housing and large-scale solar fields could give solar a second chance – that's at least what the French solar sector has been betting on. The workshop was organised by Enerplan, the Union of Professionals in Solar Energy, and supported by the French energy agency Ademe, as well as French gas supplier GrDF, a subsidiary of French utility Engie, formerly GDF Suez.