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 ….. ”
After two shorter application periods, the Czech residential subsidy scheme Nova Zelena Usporam (New Green Savings) started into the third round on 22 October 2015 and is planned to run until the end of 2021. Whereas the first round had Czech Koruna (CZK) 1.9 billion allocated to the programme (April to December 2014) and the second one had to be content with CZK 0.9 billion (May to July 2015), there is now a total budget of CZK 27 billion, corresponding to CZK 4.4 billion per year. In absolute figures, it seems like an increase, but in view of the larger number of subsidised technologies, it is rather a budget reduction. Photovoltaic systems and connections to district heating and heat recovery are among the newly supported technologies. The good news for solar thermal system investors: There is no longer a requirement for an energy audit of the building before solar space heating is purchased. The first and second round required this audit in case of a combi system.
The Spanish incentive programmes for solar thermal have become decreasingly generous. Some companies are starting to offer credit lines and alternative schemes to consumers, allowing clients to pay or benefit from solar systems equivalent to their energy saving amount. The business models seem to be successful and may enable solar thermal system suppliers to create a viable non-incentivised market. The photo shows the Pez Espada hotel near Malaga in Andalusia where 60 collectors installed during the former Andalusian incentive scheme, which was halted in June 2015, heat the pool and the domestic hot water. Photo: Sumersol
Standardisation and prefabrication of solar thermal systems remains key to the delivery of high quality, cost-optimised solutions. Solar pumping and refilling stations attached to and insulated with the storage tank have already been standard in residential systems in Central Europe. Current developments from German system supplier Aschoff Solar and Belgium system supplier Sunoptimo show that prefabricated solutions are also possible for large-scale, commercial systems between 50 m² and 2,000 m² of collector area. Both companies use containers equipped with a storage tank and all other hydraulic components. The photo shows the most current installation of Aschoff Solar at the Severin Sea Lodge in Mombasa, Kenya. The 260 m² vacuum tube installation on the roof provides hot water for the guest and staff lodges, with one container including the storage tank and the hydraulic.
The calendar of events on solarthermalworld.org shows around 60 events relevant to the solar heating and cooling sector. This article will highlight some of the upcoming conferences dedicated to the sector in the first half of 2016. If not mentioned otherwise, the conference language of the listed events will be English. Photo: Stephanie Banse
After a politically unstable last quarter of 2015, Portugal’s path for the next years seems to be finally set. The new socialist government, led by António Costa, took office by the end of November and brought back the old promise of supporting renewable energy sources. At least, this is what the government programme shows, the intention to encourage solar thermal use. The industry looks slightly more optimistic into 2016. According to the ISOL Index survey carried out in September 2015, more than a third of the participating 13 solar thermal system suppliers in Portugal expect a growing market, while 39 % expect a stable one this year.
Last December, the Spanish Advanced Technology Center for Renewable Energies, CTAER, and the Solar Concentra forum in Spain released a study which evaluated the potential of medium- and low-temperature solar thermal concentration technologies across Spain (between 100 and 400 °C). The study, entitled Applications and market potential of medium-temperature concentrating solar power technologies in Spain, concludes that these technologies have already been cost-competitive with some alternatives, such as oil and gas, in the industrial and residential segments, and it provides some recommendations to promote this promising market. The photo shows one of the very few solar process heat installations in Spain with concentrating technology. It is a pilot plant with a Fresnel collector which has been supplying the animal feed production unit of Spanish company Grasas del Guadalquivir in Cordoba since in March 2015.