After two years of slight improvement, the Spanish market reached 169 MWth (241,165 m2) of solar thermal capacity in 2015, which meant a 5.5 % drop compared to 2014. This is the result of a market study published by the Spanish solar thermal association, ASIT, in March 2016. The main reason for the disappointing sales figures was the lack of new construction and a poor performance by Andalusia’s regional incentives, which came to a halt in June 2015. The 2016 outlook, however, is another story: Spain has recently seen an upturn in the economy and construction segment and a growing number of unsubsidised systems. The Spanish solar thermal sector generated a revenue total of EUR 193 million in 2015 and provided employment to 4,800 workers.
In the desert in the south of Oman, solar steam is cheaper than gas-produced one. State-owned Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) commissioned Californian Glasspoint to install the world’s largest solar steam producing plant, Miraah, next to the Amal West oilfield. Construction of the concentrating solar thermal collector field of 1 GWth began at the end of 2015, and first steam generation is expected to start in 2017. The steam is used for heating the heavy crude oil in order to improve flow properties and make it easier to pump the oil to the surface. This process is called enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and the heat is currently provided by gas-fired steam boilers. The photo shows the 7 MW pilot plant of parabolic trough collectors enclosed in agricultural glasshouses. The installation offered promising results during the test phase.
A study by US non-profit organisation Clasp, British management consultancy Waide Strategic Efficiency and other partners has analysed the market potential of efficient water heater technology, among them solar thermal systems and heat pumps in China, India and the USA. The 176-page document Policy Opportunities for More Efficient Residential Water Heating shows the key differences between markets and policies and gives advice on policy measures to reduce the energy consumption of water heaters. One central recommendation is to implement energy efficiency labels, which would allow customers to compare different water heater technologies. No such labelling has been in place yet in any of the three countries. The chart shows the Chinese energy label, which is only used for gas combi boilers, the Indian label for electric storage water heaters and the US label for gas-storage water heaters.
The Austrian municipality of Graz is preparing for the post-fossil fuel heating era: On 27 February, the front page of national newspaper Kleine Zeitung (copies sold each day: around 300,000) read “Graz plans largest solar storage worldwide”. According to the news article, regional energy provider Energie Steiermark and Austrian solar thermal system supplier S.O.L.I.D conducted a feasibility study for a huge solar district heating plant called Big Solar – with promising results. The study and the news article both references the world’s largest collector field in Danish Vojens with 70,000 m² (49 MWth) as a successful example of how to undertake such a large project. At the beginning of April, Energie Steiermark confirmed the plans for Big Solar’s realisation in a press release about 2015’s annual financial statement.
The solar heating and cooling (SHC) sector needs to increase visibility on social media channels. This was the shared belief of the three major SHC institutions – the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF), the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme (IEA SHC) and solarthermalworld.org – which met at the beginning of 2016 to discuss relevant strategies. The group saw Twitter as an important communication channel among policy makers, lobbyists and industry associations – a tool which is also used by a growing number of journalists worldwide for their research. The institutions decided to campaign for harmonised hashtags regarding content related to solar heating and cooling on Twitter, in order to increase visibility and improve the search functionality.
Two solar thermal conferences have recently extended their abstract submission dates. The EuroSun 2016 conference, which will take place on the Spanish island of Mallorca between 11 and 14 October 2016, will still accept submissions until 24 April. Step-by-step instructions, including abstract guidelines and an abstract template, are available on the EuroSun website. The SASEC 2016 conference, which is planned for 31 October to 2 November in Stellenbosch, South Africa, extended its submission deadline to 18 April 2016. Here, abstracts of 400 to 600 words can be uploaded as PDFs to the conference page. One of several key topics of both conferences: markets and technologies for solar heating and cooling. The photo shows participants of the EuroSun 2014 conference, which took place in France in September 2014.
To have a solar thermal system on the roof of one’s home may be a good thing if it does work well. But the probability that solar water heaters perform as they should and as long as they are supposed to is higher when they are installed by real experts familiar with the best practices of the industry. But how is one to know whether an installer is a real professional? Certification may be a viable indicator of whether or not a plumber can be trusted with installing a modern solar thermal system. That is why certification is gaining importance not only in manufacturing, but also in other parts of the industry.
As in previous years, Denmark remained the country dominating Europe’s solar district heating market. Twenty of the 23 new and upgraded district heating plants in Europe above 350 kWth (500 m²) from the statistics compiled by Jan-Olof Dalenbäck from the Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, went into operation in Denmark – whereas Austria, Italy and Sweden had only one each to show for. Dalenbäck’s database shows 211 large-scale district heating plants currently in operation, with combined output at 708 MW (1.01 million m²). This means that only every fourth district heating plant in Europe uses solar energy compared to the 5,400 district heating systems a database from Swedish Halmstad University lists from across the EU-27. The map shows 2,188 cities with 2,445 larger district heating systems. The highest plant densities can be found in Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Source: Heat Roadmap Europe 2050 - Second pre-study for the EU27 (see the attached document)
The Union Budget in India for 2016-17 – announced by the Finance Minister on 29 February 2016 – includes good and bad news for the solar thermal industry. On a positive note: The government has again increased the coal tax from Indian Rupee (INR) 200 to 400 per ton, after already doubling it in Finance Bill 2014-2015. The additional tax revenues will be used to support renewable energy technologies. The overall financial support for renewable energies will increase to INR 50.6 billion (EUR 725 million) during financial year 2016-17. Additionally, the customs duty on solar-tempered glass and solar glass was raised to 5 % besides a Special Additional Duty of 4 % to strengthen domestic manufacturing. On the downside, there is the increase of basic customs duty from 7.5 to 10 % under Harmonised System (HS) code 84191920.
The Solar Keymark Network has decided to establish a working group in order to revise and improve the complaint procedures and put them into one document, as they have so far been described in several different papers and various articles: The Solar Keymark Scheme Rules, Article 2.2, includes instructions on how to handle complaints and there is Article 6.3. Special Test, whereas the CEN-CENELEC Internal Regulations Part 4, Article 7.4, describes the appeal procedures (see the attached documents). This move is deemed necessary because at the end of 2015 – for the first time since the Solar Keymark label was launched – several complaints were submitted to one of the empowered certification bodies. “In our network meeting, we informed the members about the first big complaint and discussed the need for putting the complaint procedures into one document, to make it clearer for the solar thermal industry how to use them,” said Jaime Fernández González-Granda, Chairman of the Solar Keymark Network and Product Officer at the Spanish certification and standardisation body, AENOR.