From 11 to 14 October, more than 300 experts in solar energy met in Palma de Mallorca for the EuroSun 2016 conference. Organised by the International Solar Energy Society (ISES) in cooperation with the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB), the conference is attended mainly by scientists and industry stakeholders from the solar heating and cooling sector. But for the first time, speakers also included well-known specialists from the photovoltaics sector. Two panel discussions illustrated the wide range of opinions on solar heat and solar electricity market development and the technologies' competitors. The photo shows Professor Eicke Weber (middle), newly elected Vice President of ISES and Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Fraunhofer ISE) based in Freiburg, Germany, and two of the three conference chairs: Professor Wolfgang Streicher (left) from the University of Innsbruck, Austria, and Professor Víctor Martínez Moll (right) from the UIB.
This July, SP issued new Solar Keymark certificates for four Danish Arcon-Sunmark collectors after the Swedish test lab and certification body had retested these four systems in April. The retesting had been necessary, as SP had received six complaints because of a lower-than-expected c1 (heat loss coefficient) value on certificates issued in November 2015. At first, it looked like a case closed, but the stakeholders who submitted complaints are now calling for a reform of the complaint procedures and tolerances established by the Solar Keymark Network (SKN).
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.
A desk and a phone were all that the owners of a garage and a basement office in Kitzbühel, Austria, needed to found solar thermal manufacturer Tisun (formerly known as Teufel & Schwarz) 25 years ago. Today, Tisun exports 83% of its products to over 40 countries worldwide. The company has about 80 staff at its headquarters in Söll, Austria, and engages more than 90 sales representatives all over Europe. According to the company, Tisun has just had “the biggest product relaunch of its history. At the beginning of August, the company exchanged 70 % of its products into new and innovative state-of-the-art items.” Tisun also invested in a semi-automated collector production unit featuring CMT (Cold Metal Transfer) welding for the tray (see photo).
It’s a disaster. There is not much more to say about the statistics of the solar thermal market in Europe. The newly installed capacity dropped again, this time by 11% compared to the previous year, down to 2.14 GWth (see the attached document). All large markets were shrinking – even Poland and Denmark, whose market volume had grown significantly in 2012. According to the annual studies by the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF), the sector has lost 1.19 GWth (1.7 million m²) and around 15,000 jobs all across Europe since the boom year of 2008. The study is published once a year at Intersolar in June. Despite the dismal situation, ESTIF pointed out that the average growth rate was 7.6 % over the last 10 years (see the pink line in the chart).
Solar thermal is not just about technology, it´s also about financing. It takes much more than just an improved, mature technology to have a successful industry. It needs new business models which attract the financial sector and it requires transparency in terms of performance and costs when dealing with commercial clients. These were the major topics of a roundtable discussion at SMEThermal 2014 in Berlin, Germany, on 18 February 2014. Solar thermal specialists from three different continents – Europe, Asia and North America – presented their case studies at the conference (from left): Søren Elisiussen, CEO of Arcon Solar (Denmark), Nicholas Atkins, Managing Partner of Georgieff Capital Advisors (United Kingdom), Thippegowda Srinath, Technical Director at Emmvee Solar Systems (India), Justin Schafer, Product Manager at Skyline Innovations (USA) and Robin Welling, Managing Director of Tisun (Austria). The roundtable discussion was chaired by Bärbel Epp, Managing Director of solrico (Germany).
After Iran’s elections in June and the new government taking over in August, hopes are that solar thermal could become an increasingly important technology in the Mideast country. Hossein Riyahi Dehkordi, Managing Director of Iranian solar company Polar Mehr Iranian - POMAco, expects the new government to improve the existing incentive schemes for solar thermal. “New investments and more support for green energy are in reach,” he says. But there has not yet been any specific announcement on how the improvement would look like. The photo shows the solar thermal installation in a public bath, the most common application for solar water heaters in Iran. The following article relies mainly on information from Mr Dehkordi, who gave an exclusive interview to solarthermalworld.org. POMAco is a joint-venture of Iranian company Solar Polar, a subsidiary of heating system specialist Polar Industrial Group and a collector manufacturer since 1999, and solar thermal system importer Taban Mehr Taksa, which is part of the Iranian Taksa Trade Development Group.
Photo: ITW/University of Stuttgart
In March 2013, the UK Government came under criticism for their updated heat strategy when they announced further delays to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) being made applicable to householders. As a stop-gap, it was announced in parallel to extend the householder’s Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) scheme for another year. In summary, much of the uncertainty about these schemes has been blamed for a 35% drop in UK solar thermal sales. Since then, better news has been offered by the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC).
Austrian collector manufacturer Tisun has announced that it sold 510 m² of solar collectors to an “international confectionery manufacturer” in Jebel Ali in the emirate of Dubai. The company which installed the 200 collectors in May was Tisun’s subsidiary Tisun GCC, located in Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates and responsible for the distribution of the Tisun collectors in Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
2012 meant shrinking sales figures in the Austrian solar thermal market for the third time in a row. Although most states have increased their subsidies for solar thermal, 2013 does not seem to get any better. Three companies went bankrupt within the last four months. Collector prices on the market are dropping – some call it normal competition or the end of a high price era, others call it dumping. According to the sales data from Austria Solar members, the market shrank by almost 16% in 2012 compared to 2011, reaching about 200,000 m² last year.