During the last seven years, a group of scientists has monitored selected large solar thermal installations in Austria on behalf of the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund. The gathered data confirms that these plants have been reliable and produce satisfactory yields. Particularly the new generation of large-scale medium-temperature collectors either with a foil or with a second glass cover shows remarkable results in district heating use. The 2,490 m² solar field (see photo) which has fed heat into the district heating network of Graz, Austria, reached a yield of 489 kWh/m².
The ranking of the largest flat plate collector manufacturers is headed by the same four companies as last year: Greenonetec from Austria, Fivestar from China, Soletrol from Brazil and Bosch Thermotechnik from Germany. But aside from the continuity at the top, last year shows what different paths some markets have taken. Whereas Australian-based Solahart, one of the pioneers of global solar collector trade, as well as Soletrol, the largest Brazilian manufacturer, have lost ground, several others – such as Sunrain from China, Hewalex from Poland and Eraslan from Turkey – were able to report above-average growth for 2015 and rise through the ranks. The produced collector area of the overall 21 companies added up to 4,212,462 m². The number was 21 and not 20 because the last and second-last spot were occupied by companies with equal production output.
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).
There is now nothing in the way of constructing an impressive solar heating and cooling installation in Nicaragua. At the end of September, the last signatures were placed under the contract documents for a 4,450 m² collector field which will supply air conditioning and warm water to the Hospital Militar Escuela Dr. Alejandro Dávila Bolaños in Managua (see photo), the capital city of the central American nation. “Installation work will start in January 2017, and commissioning is planned for the second quarter of next year,” was how Christian Holter, Managing Director of S.O.L.I.D, outlined the ambitious plan. The Austrian turnkey system supplier had been struggling for over three years to receive financing for the 4 million EUR project in form of a soft loan, a financing instrument for developing countries.
Photo: Hospital Militar Escuela Dr. Alejandro Dávila Bolaños
South Africa’s solar process heat installations remain profitable when they have to compete against other heat sources, such as diesel, paraffin, petrol or gas, the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES) at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, has concluded in a recently published paper. The researchers at the CRSES conducted a feasibility study of a 120.7 m² collector field that was to cover 60 % of the existing hot water requirements of Cape Brewing Company (CBC) based in Suider-Paarl, Western Cape, and analysed ten proposals submitted after the company’s invitation to tender in January 2015. South African E3 Energy won by offering an installation with a levelised cost of energy of 7.9 EUR cents/kWh, an internal rate of return of 16.7 % and a payback period of 9.3 years. CBC´s daily hot water demand is estimated to be 7,000 litres at 85 °C during 245 days a year, i.e., during a full year except for weekends, public holidays and two weeks of summer holidays. The system went into operation in November 2015 and the COO of CBC, Andy Kung, seems satisfied with the performance and the energy saving it offers.
System cost reduction is one of the most urgent challenges of the solar thermal sector, especially in central Europe. The aim of Task 54 of the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme, Price Reduction of Solar Thermal Systems, is to lower solar heat prices by up to 40 %. Germany’s main scientific contributions to the task have come from the two research projects KoST and TEWIsol, which have been co-funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The corresponding Task 54 meeting will take place in Stuttgart on 6/7 October (see the attached programme) in conjunction with a workshop on 5 October to present and discuss KoST and TEWIsol (12 p.m. to 4 p.m.; held in German). The photo shows the Task 54 workshop organised in collaboration with the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation in Brussels in May 2016.
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.
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 market report Innovative Energy Technologies in Austria. Market Development 2014 published by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (bmvit) shows that in 2014, the national solar thermal industry had to deal with declining sales for the fifth time in a row. The solar thermal market in Austria dropped by 15 % from 2013 to 2014, resulting in a total annual volume of 108.6 MWth (155,170 m²) last year. The pie chart shows the share of different segments in the collector area newly installed in 2014 . Multi-family buildings have significantly increased in importance. According to recent data by the industry association Austria Solar on the first two quarters of 2015, the decline seems to be slowing down, partly because of a new federal incentive programme.
Managers from four different companies showcasing one innovation – a rare occurrence, even at a large fair like the ISH 2015 in Frankfurt. At the beginning of March, Rudolf Pfeil, CEO of Resol, Christian Beckmann, Sales Manager Key Account and OEM at Wilo, Günter Kohlmaier, CEO of Kioto Solar, and Karsten Pillukeit, CEO of Esbe Group (from left), jointly presented the newly developed fresh water module, Fresh Hydro, at the booth of Kioto Solar. Thanks to a patented temperature control, the fresh water module offers rapid response times without over- or undershooting. The developers have promised a comfortable showering experience at 40 to 160 litres per minute and a temperature of 45 °C. The fresh water system was one of a number of solar thermal innovations at the ISH which were worth taking a closer look.