There is a distinct difference between the make-up of the German solar process heat segment and the country’s solar thermal market in general and it concerns the type of collectors used. One in four collectors used in solar process heat systems is an air collector, although the technology contributes only around 10 % to the total collector area newly installed each year. The same has been true for vacuum tube systems, which showed a 35 % share in solar process heat installations among approved projects in 2016 – despite an overall market share of only 9 % last year. All figures are based on statistics provided by the University of Kassel’s Institute of Thermal Engineering, which has been in charge of the research accompanying the subsidy scheme on solar process heat under the auspices of Germany’s Market Rebate Programme for Renewable Energies or MAP.
Chart: solrico, source: Institute of Thermal Engineering, University of Kassel
Industrial solar heat is far from being a standard yet, but it is more widespread than you might think. The first World Map of Solar Process Heat Specialists shows 71 companies in 22 countries which reported almost 400 reference systems. Together with additional plants included in the online portal ship-plants.info, the world market for industrial process heat comprises at a minimum 525 plants with an collector or mirror area of at least 416,414 m².
The Solar Thermal Federation of India (STFI) and the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce (IGCC) have teamed up for the international Solar Payback project, which aims to increase the use of solar thermal energy in industrial processes. The photo shows the partners during the Kick-Off Meeting in Mumbai, India, on 16 December 2016. Supported by the German Federal Environment Ministry funded by the International Climate Initiative, the three-year project will be implemented in India, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil. It is coordinated by the German Solar Association BSW-Solar and eleven partner organisations: three German companies, plus each target country’s national solar industry association and German chamber of commerce.
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.
The global solar thermal market went into another year of notable decline in 2015. With 37.2 GWth, the newly installed glazed and unglazed collector capacity in the 18 largest countries was 14 % lower than in 2014 (43.4 GWth). Between 2013 and 2014, the decrease in these 18 major countries – which represent 95-97 % of the world market – had been 15 %. The further slowdown last year was the result of diminishing collector area figures in China (-17 %), and in Europe (nine biggest nations down by -5 %). The countries with the highest growth rates last year were Denmark (+55 %), Turkey (+10 %), Israel (+9 %) and Mexico (+8 %). The chart shows both 2015’s newly installed collector area, broken down by collector type – flat plate, vacuum tube and unglazed collector area, and the 2014-2015 growth rate (excluding China, whose 2015 market volume was 21-times larger than Turkey, which ranked second). China added 30.5 GWth in 2015 of which 12.6 % were flat plate collectors (5.5 million m2).
Two hospitals in the adjacent municipalities of Gostynin and Płock in central Poland will be supplied by solar heat by the end of the year. Lucyna Koper, Project Coordinator at the Marcin Kacprzak Regional Hospital in Płock, confirmed that the two projects “have already entered the implementation phase and will be commissioned by the end of 2016. We have already signed the delivery contracts.” The installation will be carried out by a consortium of local companies, consisting of sanitary expert Envirotech and two installation companies specialised on renewable heating systems, Eco-Therm and Wachelka Inergis. The installers had already set up an 803 m2 system for the Pomeranian Centre of Traumatology in Gdańsk (see photo) some years ago. The trauma centre, which has more than 600 beds, had the collectors installed across several roofs of the building complex.
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.
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.
With 1.9 million m² of collector area newly installed in 2014 (1.33 GWth), Turkey was again the second-largest solar thermal market after China last year. The share of vacuum tube collectors had increased significantly over the years, but stagnated in 2014 at 44 % of total market volume. The annual market statistic in the chart has been provided by Kutay Ülke, Export Manager of Ezinç Metal, one of the largest solar water heater manufacturers in Turkey. The annual study Solar Heat Worldwide from Austrian research institute AEE INTEC uses these industry-based figures for Turkey in all of its latest issues. There are no regular official statistics – neither by the government, nor by GÜNDER, the Turkish Section of the International Solar Energy Society, whose members make up a big part of the national solar thermal industry. In its current publications on the Turkish solar thermal market, GÜNDER uses a more general estimate of “at least 1.5 million m² of collector area” being produced and installed per year.
There is great scepticism among Europe’s solar thermal collector manufacturers about whether or not the energy labelling will increase demand for solar thermal systems. In a survey carried out by German agency solrico, more than 50 % of the European solar thermal manufacturers disagreed with the statement “The energy labelling will foster your solar sales”. All in all, 158 solar collector and solar tank manufacturers in Europe answered the multiple-choice question (Do you agree with the following statement – The energy labelling will foster your solar sales?) by ticking one of five answers: strongly agree, agree, tend to agree, disagree and strongly disagree. The chart shows the results at national level. The figures in brackets display the number of valid answers from each country.