The German solar thermal market is still stuck in recession. Although incentives are higher than they have ever been, demand has not really picked up over the first five months of this year, according to the market statistics by the two associations BSW Solar and BDH. The total collector area sold until the end of May was again down by 5.3 % compared to the previous year, although vacuum tubes have been more strongly affected by the slump (-18 %) than flat plate collectors (-4 %). Installers are viewed as the bottleneck in the supply chain and an increasing number of solar thermal suppliers have run advert campaigns to try and reach end customers on their own. Solarthermalworld.org has already reported on the new end-customer sales strategies employed by Thermondo. This article describes how the campaigns of another German system supplier, Sonnenkraft, have changed over the years. The image depicts an advertisement for the campaign from 2005 (left) and one from 2015 (right).
Seasonal storage is a key component in the transformation of today’s energy industry. Besides storing energy in summer for heating in winter, it can also be used to save waste heat from the industry and to increase the electricity production from biomass CHP plants. Experiences gathered with the technology during case studies were summarised as part of the study Seasonal thermal energy storage – Report on state of the art and necessary further R+D, which was published by Task 45, Large Scale Solar Heating and Cooling Systems, of the IEA SHC programme. Together with the Guidelines for Materials & Construction on the two most common storage types, borehole (see the chart) and water pit, it provides a good overview of the current advancements in this field (all three documents attached). Additional research into the design of seasonal storage will be carried out in follow-up Task 55, Towards the Integration of Large SHC Systems into District Heating and Cooling (DHC) Network. Interested stakeholders have been invited to join the kick-off meeting of Task 55 in Graz, Austria, between 19 and 21 October (see contact details below).
Crystalline PV modules utilise only 12 to 15 % of the incoming sunlight, while the rest is usually treated as waste heat. Hybrid solar panels, also called PVT elements, will channel this unused low-temperature heat, as shown by a large-scale demonstration plant in Switzerland. The PVT system’s 1,300 m² are used to regenerate a borehole field in a Swiss multi-family housing area. Monitoring data of the system’s first year in operation between August 2014 and July 2015 resulted in an annual thermal yield of 330 kWh/m² in addition to the 163 kWh/m² of electricity produced by the PV modules, according to a statement made by researchers from the Swiss SPF – Institute of Solar Technology earlier this year. The borehole field serves as the energy source for the heat pumps, which supply hot water all-the-year and space heating in winter. Most probably, the recommendations that the SPF researchers made to optimise the system in a paper published in May 2016 will even lead to a higher thermal yield during the installation’s second year.
In 2015, the solar collector area newly installed in Switzerland shrunk by 16 % compared to 2014. Imports outperformed domestic production, and larger systems for multi-family and commercial buildings, particularly those with vacuum tubes, have gained market shares. These are some of the key findings of the annual study published by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (see attached study in German and French). Some cantons will completely halt incentives for solar heat because of budget restrictions.
In April 2016, British company SolarCool Energy put into operation its largest SolarCool system, which was installed on the roof of Chingford Fruit’s processing plant (see photo) in Dartford Kent, UK. Fifty-four retrofitted vacuum tube collectors totalling 160 m² have since reduced the power consumption of the existing compression chillers with a cooling capacity of 1 MW. According to Central Services Manager Colin Ormerod, Chingford Fruit has saved 100,000 kWh of electricity during process cooling (16 °C) over the two full months that the system has been in operation (May and June). The SolarCool technology was developed in 2009 in the USA, and reached European markets in 2013/2014. In the meantime, there have been around 6,000 systems set up across all continents – the majority in Latin America, Caribbean and South East Asia, according to Dr Kurt Orthmann, Joint Managing Director at SolarCool’s European subsidiary, SolarCool Europe.
Mexican company Inventive Power helps industrial customers to reduce their energy costs, which in turn reduces pollution in major cities. “Besides traffic, industrial boilers are responsible for much of the pollution in urban areas,” Ángel Mejía Santiago explained during the Intersolar Europe. The founder and CEO of Inventive Power emphasised that concentrating solar systems could offer energy at significantly lower cost than thermal power generation by natural gas or oil. Santiago sees great market potential in the technology, as there have been 32,000 boilers and water heaters installed across the country – at hotels and hospitals as well as food and beverage companies. The photo shows a parabolic trough installation with 433 m² of mirror aperture at the Nestlé dairy factory in Lagos de Moreno, central Mexico, which started operating in 2014.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is a young, but globally operating intergovernmental organisation. The first general assembly was held only five years ago in April 2011, after a three-year preparation period. Since its founding, IRENA has welcomed 149 member states (see the map), and accession negotiations have been underway for another 27. Since 2014, the organisation has passed a biennial work programme, with the current one covering 2016-2017 (see the attached document). The projected budget for these two years is USD 89.5 million, split among six thematic areas and two administrative ones.
Indian collector manufacturer Inter Solar Systems (ISS) has recently put into operation a solar swimming pool heating system at a private villa in Muscat, the capital of Oman. Local solar thermal dealer Continental Shelf of Solar Tech purchased the 60 m² flat plate collector system from ISS to keep a large private pool inside a villa at comfortable 25 °C all year round. The photo provides a view over the coastal town of Muscat, which is said to be the world’s smallest capital with a population of only 32,000.
Lviv IT Cluster, one of Ukraine´s leading IT businesses, is currently building up a multi-family house for its employees that meets all the requirements for a smart property, including a modern heating system. It offers 72 flats on ten floors and is being built in Lviv, in western Ukraine. The gas condensing boilers for the heating station on the most upper floor will be delivered by German boiler and collector manufacturer Vaillant Group, which is also said to install the 30 collectors on the building’s roof once construction has been completed. The illustration shows a 3D model of the “IT House”, where construction for the 6th floor is underway, as an online webcam shows.
Good news for the Portuguese market: This year’s agenda includes two new schemes to support energy efficiency measures in buildings, and solar thermal has been put into the spotlight. The first programme, Aviso 20 – Edifícios Eficientes 2016 (Efficient Buildings), has already been open to applications since 8 July 2016. Its budget of EUR 1.1 million covers up to 60 % of the cost of efficiency measures, including new solar water heater installations, in existing residential and commercial buildings. The second programme, Casa Eficiente (Efficient Home), is still under development, but the scheme’s much larger budget of EUR 100 million will offer low-interest loans for efficiency measures in the residential sector. Obviously, both programmes are not exclusively solar thermal ones; they also support window replacement or additional insulation.