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
In spring 2015, Germany´s Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (BAFA) introduced a performance-based incentive for solar heating as an alternative to the scheme offering incentives based on collector area. Recently published statistics have shown the new programme to grant higher financial support for about one-third of the currently funded projects. The others still receive funding from the previously established scheme.
Solar district heating is becoming increasingly attractive to small towns and municipalities which are looking for energy independence and stable heat prices, a trend which was discussed at length during the October webinar by the International Solar Energy Society (ISES). Entitled Renewable district heating – Small local grids and cooperative utilities, it offered an opportunity for German and Danish experts to present successful case studies, underline the political frame conditions which foster renewable integration into district heating and explain the advantages of cooperatives (recording available online). The photo shows the experts participating in this first webinar of a three-part series coordinated by Riccardo Battisti, Head of EU Project SmartReFlex: Per Alex Sørensen and Per Kristensen from Denmark as well as Oliver Miedaner from German Solites (from left). The second webinar – Think big: Design rules and monitoring results of solar district heating systems – will be organised in cooperation with solarthermalworld.org and is scheduled for 6 December (online registration).
Friday, 23 September 2016, was the inauguration date for the now largest solar thermal collector field in Germany. Since August, 8,300 m² of vacuum tube collectors (5.8 MWth) set up in the town of Senftenberg, 140 km south of Berlin, have been feeding energy into the municipality’s district heating network. The previously largest field since 2005 – a 7,100 m² flat plate collector installation (5.1 MWth) – is located in the southern German town of Crailsheim. The new Senftenberg solar field was designed, manufactured and implemented by German system integrator Ritter XL Solar. The 1,680 collectors, the heat transfer unit and around 6,600 m of pipework were installed within record time: All in all, the project took only six months. The general contractor for the EUR 4.5 million investment was Berlin-based E&G Energiebau, which had received support from the Integral Project, the company responsible for sizing and integrating the solar heat into the existing network.
And the winner is: Ritter XL Solar. The German large-scale turnkey system supplier was awarded the contract for a 1,422 m2 solar district heating field in the southern German town of Simmern. The solar thermal plant is part of a newly built district heating system which supplies the two communities Külz and Neuerkirch. 142 mostly residential buildings will be connected to a new, 100 % renewable heating network with a length of 5,700 m. The main heating source is a wood chip boiler, and the solar thermal system should deliver hot water over the summer months, as well as in spring and autumn. The installation of the collector field is planned for November and should take one month. It will be the largest solar collector field of Ritter XL in Germany.
Figure: Ritter XL Solar
All smiles from Ritter Group management during the German Solar Thermal Technology Symposium at the beginning of May after they were given the innovation award for the demonstration plant of a steam-producing solar vacuum tube collector combined with a steam-jet chiller (from left): Thomas Weidemann, Division Manager Solar Collectors, Jürgen Korff, Chairman of Ritter Group management, and Dr Rolf Meißner, Managing Director of Ritter XL Solar. Ritter is a German manufacturer of CPC vacuum tube collectors. Five companies – among them Viessmann, Vaillant and Magontec – had applied for the award with a total of seven innovative technologies. The award is presented annually by the conference’s organiser, the East-Bavarian Institute for Technology Transfer, OTTI.
On 3 and 4 June 2014, the halls of the old waterworks of municipal utility “Hamburg Energie” in Hamburg, Germany, became the venue for the 2nd International Solar District Conference. 115 participants from 13 countries and many different backgrounds were offered a wide range of presentations covering policy, market and technical issues, along with several practical examples of solar district heating plants. On top of that, the conference offered a technical tour to the solar district heating project “Energy Bunker” at the site of the International Building Exhibition IBA in Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg (see photo). The Energy Bunker is one of these lighthouse projects speakers and participants deemed nessessary to make solar district heating visible to consumers and politicians.
The first conference “Solar District Heating – Technical solutions, urban planning and business models” took place in the Swedish town of Malmö on 9 and 10 April 2013. It brought together 120 participants from 19 countries: manufacturers, district heating companies, scientists and industry associations. Examples from Sweden made clear that it is not easy to integrate solar heat into a system which has not been designed for it. The main topics in the presentations from Sweden were operation issues and the question what is a fair price for solar heat. But an ongoing discussion in Germany illustrates that the integration of solar into district heating networks also has strong economic and political elements. The photo shows the conference participants visiting a solar plant operated by E.ON Sweden in the Western Harbour of Malmö.
Twenty applications: That is how many subsidy requests the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control, BAFA, has received since the new incentives for solar process heat came into effect in August 2012. According to the head of the division, Ralph Baller, most of these applications have already been approved. The BAFA also received informal requests for around 50 more projects still in planning. According to the new regulations, the German Market Rebate Programme for Renewable Energies, MAP, is now granting subsidies of up to 50 % of the net investment for process heat projects with a collector area between 20 and 1,000 m² (see the database of incentive programmes. The submitted projects include several car washes as well. The one in the photo had been in operation even before the new subsidies.
Photo: Ritter XL
Solar thermal technology seems to have made quite an impression on the new German head of state. Only one month after taking office, the new President, Joachim Gauck (centre), visited the Ritter Group on his inaugural trip through Baden-Wurttemberg, one of Germany’s states leading in innovative technologies. The visit came at the invitation of Baden-Wurttemberg’s Prime Minister, Winfried Kretschmann (right). Alfred T. Ritter (left), major shareholder of the dynamic company group, introduced the two politicians to the ecological future of heating. He also used the possibility to raise their awareness of the benefits gained by solar thermal. Photo: Ritter Group