Despite shrinking markets in Europe, Greece’s collector and tank manufacturers have increased their exports two times in a row. In 2015, the solar thermal industry delivered 7 % more collector area abroad and in 2016, the figure even rose by 14 % compared to the year prior and totalled 330,000 m² (231 MWth). Main export markets were in Southern Europe, North Africa and the Gulf region. Domestic sales have remained at the same level since 2014, at around 270,000 m² (189 MWth).
Romania can hardly be said to have taken the lead in solar thermal deployment: With only 5.6 kWth of installed solar thermal capacity per 1,000 people in 2015, the country ranked below average in the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) statistics. Even its neighbour south of the Danube river, Bulgaria, had 13 kWth installed. An overall lack of awareness of solar thermal benefits among Romanians seems to be the main barrier preventing large-scale market penetration, a team of authors from the universities in Brasov, Galati and Bacau write in Economic and Environmental Analysis of Investing in Solar Water Heating Systems. On 8 December 2016, the extensive study on the economic potential of SWH systems and their contribution to energy saving and CO2 reduction (see the attached PDF) was made available on the Basel-based open-access platform of the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI).
The Solar Keymark Network (SKN) discussed and approved new complaint procedures during its most recent meeting on the Greek island of Crete in mid-October 2016. Action had to be taken, as the first series of complaints filed in late 2015 against Swedish test lab SP about the certificates of Danish collector manufacturer Arcon-Sunmark was not resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved. The results of the October meeting are described in a publicly available draft of the minutes on the SKN webpage.
Last year, the amount of newly installed glazed collector area added up to 2.7 million m² (1.9 GWth) in the European Union’s E28 and Switzerland combined. It is another decline compared to the previous year, this time by 7 %. The annual market statistics of the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) show 23,700 people to have been employed by the solar thermal sector Europe-wide, whereas turnover was EUR 1.9 billion overall. The four-page market survey published in November includes the country-specific figures of all 28 EU countries and Switzerland. Most of the data was provided by national associations, energy agencies or industry companies, although the markets of six smaller countries were estimated by the ESTIF team. The survey can be downloaded by filling in a form on the organisation’s website. A full report will be available to ESTIF members in early December.
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.
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 organiser of the two day conference Solar Thermal Energy for Europe 2020 is inviting stakeholders from the industry and solar heating and cooling researchers to Brussels, Belgium, on 24 and 25 May to offer them first-hand information on Horizon 2020 calls, an exchange of ideas and experiences and a venue for finding soon-to-be project partners. The European Solar Thermal Technology Platform (ESTTP) of the Innovation Platform on Renewable Heating and Cooling (RHC) concludes with a workshop on the Price Reduction of Solar Thermal Systems. The one-and-a-half hour session will be organised by the researchers of the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme’s Task 54, which goes by the same name as the workshop.
The latest Portuguese incentive scheme for solar thermal energy proved to be a major failure: Launched by the national Energy Efficiency Fund (EEF) in May 2015, the call to support the restoration of solar thermal systems installed before 2005 received only four applications in the end. Additionally, 2015 market performance was still far from desirable, and the downward trend in sales continues. APISOLAR’s figures show a newly installed area of 46,134 m² (32 MWth), a 9 % decrease compared to the previous year.
As part of EU project Fair RHC Options and Trade (FROnT), customers from the residential, non-residential and industrial sector were asked about the key points factoring into their decision on a heating or cooling system. In all sectors, solar thermal was the most widely known renewable heat technology. Among the around two-thirds of the interview partners who knew about renewable heating and cooling technologies, 96 % of the residential, 89% of non-residential and 79 % of industrial customers were aware of the opportunities of solar thermal energy. “That was a confirming result for us,” Stefano Lambertucci, Policy Officer at the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF), said. Awareness of solar cooling was significantly lower, especially in the industrial sector, where biomass and geothermal heat pumps received high scores.
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.