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.
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.
Tanks with high storage capacity and reduced losses are key to an increased solar heat share in households. Austrian research institute AEE INTEC has recently inaugurated a pilot research facility which promises exactly that: greater storage capacity than water and almost zero energy losses even in seasonal mode. The heart of the test facility are two low-pressure vessels filled with 750 kg of zeolite beads or spheres each. “Our first measurements since the beginning of October were very promising,” confirms Wim van Helden, head of the research project at AEE INTEC. “We reached a storage density of 180 kWh/m³, which has never been achieved before in a device of this size.” The research is part of an EU-funded project called COMTES – Combined Development of Compact Thermal Energy Storage Technologies and was co-financed by the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund. Theresia Vogel (second from left), Managing Director of said fund, joined the official starting ceremony on 11 November 2015.
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.
The sixth invitation to tender for large-scale solar thermal systems in Austria is still accepting applications until 24 September. The Austrian Climate and Energy Fund has again allocated a budget of EUR 5.9 million for installing collector fields of between 100 and 2,000 m2 for process heat, district heating, solar cooling, systems with high solar coverage above 20 % in trade and business and innovative technologies. The subsidy covers 40 % of the additional, environmentally relevant costs of the installation and grants a 5 % bonus for small and medium enterprises. As in the past, applicants must consult with experts from one of the three selected Austrian research institutes before submitting their proposal. Over the first five years, the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund spent EUR 17,258,324 on 163 projects. The pie chart shows the distribution of the 163 approved projects broken down by application.
Figure: Austrian Climate and Energy Fund
By 2050, Austria’s capital Vienna wants to cover half of its heat demand by solar thermal energy, it says in the Seven Energy Assumptions (Sieben Energiethesen) presentation, which was held by Bernd Vogl at the beginning of October. The photo shows the panel discussion during which Vogl, who is Head of the city’s Department for Energy Planning, MA 20, presented his assumptions (see the attached presentation in German) at a side event at the evening before the Fachkongress Energie-Architektur 2014 took place in Vienna.
The Austrian Climate and Energy Fund has again allocated a budget of EUR 5 million to the Large-Scale Solar Thermal Plants Subsidy Scheme in 2014. Applications can be filed until 25 September 2014 (see the attached call for proposals in German). Based on last year's average incentives per m2, the amount will be enough to subsidise 15,000 m² of new collector area. Dr Stephan Pernkopf, member of Lower Austria’s state government, and the solar energy association Austria Solar met at the solar thermal process heat plant of Fleischwaren Berger in Sieghartskirchen to discuss how to push the market segment. The photo shows (from left) Doris Hammermüller, Managing Director of Austria Solar, Gerhard Franz Roth, Managing Director of AEE Working Group Renewable Energy Lower Austria – Vienna, Dr Stephan Pernkopf and Rudolf Berger, Managing Director of Fleischwaren Berger.
Austria´s solar thermal market has come to depend a great deal on incentive programmes. The schemes in 2012, however, met with varying degrees of success. Demand was again great for the subsidy programme for large-scale solar thermal plants administered by the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund. The chart shows the share of the different applications among the 39 projects approved in 2012, the third consecutive year in which the programme was running. On the other hand, demand for the first federal residential grant programme, which supported the purchase of solar thermal systems of 5 m² of collector area or more with EUR 400, was not satisfying. Only one-third of the EUR 5 million budget was spent last year.
Source: Austria Climate and Energy Fund
The great success over the past two years prompted the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund to extend its incentive programme for large-scale solar thermal plants into 2012 as well. When the programme was launched on 13 June, it was actually the third time. The scheme has already granted financial support to 38 (2010) and 52 (2011) systems in the past years - including the 460 m² for solar process heat at the production plant of an international manufacturer of kitchen fittings, Julius Blum GmbH (see photo). Now equipped with a budget of EUR 4 million, applications can start coming in until 21 September 2012. Photo: Julius Blum GmbH
20 solar years, 50 years of age, one success story: This was the motto under which Austrian collector manufacturer Greenonetec celebrated the company’s 20th anniversary and the 50th birthday of its CEO Robert Kanduth (shown in the picture with his wife Helvig) on 13 April 2012. Over the last 20 years, Kanduth has not only been successful in leading his company, which is the No 1 flat plate collector manufacturer worldwide, but also in acting as the chairman of the Austrian industry association Austria Solar. Photo: Dietmar Wajand