Huge potential but little implementation so far – this is how one could describe the global situation of Solar Heat for Industrial Processes (SHIP). Although experts acknowledge that process heat shows the greatest potential of all solar heating and cooling applications, the share of SHIP systems in total installed solar thermal capacity has remained below 1 %. To tackle some of the barriers, such as missing standardisation, system costs and reliability, the INSHIP project funded by EU Horizon 2020 was launched in early 2017. It aims to devise a European Common Research and Innovation Agenda (ECRIA) on SHIP within the next four years. The project is coordinated by the German Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE and involves 28 European research institutions from twelve countries.
The 191 solar process heat projects which have made it into the online database http://ship-plants.info/ add up to an installed capacity of 0.11 GWth (0.159 million m²), which is only a small fraction of the potential estimated for this type of application. To quantify the technology’s global opportunities, the researchers from the now-completed four-year Task 49 / IV, Solar Heat Integration in Industrial Processes, analysed the results of several national studies which had tried to determine the potential of solar process heat while considering restrictions such as temperature range and the space available for the systems (see the chart on the left). “For Europe, where mainly non-concentrating collectors had been investigated, the percentage of technical potential for solar process heat related to the total industrial heat demand is around 3 to 4 %,” was the conclusion by the authors of the attached report Potential studies on solar process heat worldwide.
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.
The IEA’s Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report or MTRMR 2016 again includes a chapter on renewable heating and cooling – and it’s growing in size. The 282-page document published from Singapore on 25 October analyses on 47 pages the current and future market development of four renewable heating technologies: biomass, solar thermal, geothermal and heat pumps. The IEA began to add a renewable heating chapter to its MTRMR in 2013 – back then, it had only 14 pages. The authors of this year’s edition emphasise the fact that onshore wind and solar PV are the only renewable technologies on track for a 2 °C target.
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.
The 4th International Solar District Heating (SDH) Conference, which had been organised under the auspices of Horizon 2020 project SDHp2m…from Policy to Market on 21/22 September 2016 in Denmark, showed the importance of analysing real-life monitoring data from European SDH plants, with one conference session (Advanced SDH systems II) dedicated exclusively to the topic. These kinds of comparisons enable an understanding of the actual performance of such large collector fields and offer an opportunity for optimising power output and for creating best-practice examples of new plants. For example, the chart displays ten years’ worth of monitoring data from the German plant in Crailsheim, which has met solar yield expectations.
Source: Attached SDH conference presentation from ITW
Solar heating and cooling has not been bankable yet despite various systems confirming expected performance and O&M costs. Project budgets are usually too small and the technology suppliers do not pass the stringent requirements of creditworthiness, which leaves the financial provider with a high-risk scenario. Accordingly, Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) have faced severe financing issues, which slow down the expansion of their business. It is good news to them that two recently launched projects also focus on facilitating the creation of an investment fund for solar thermal ESCO projects: First, there is the Feasibility Study - Energy Contracting Fund, which is jointly coordinated by the German Investment and Development Corporation Bank (DEG) and German SHC turnkey provider Industrial Solar; the second project, TrustEE – enhancing investment conditions for industrial energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, is from the EU and has been coordinatedby Austrian institute AEE INTEC.
Solar district heating has enjoyed increasing attention from all across Europe and China, triggered by Denmark’s enormous growth rates in the field. Until the end of last year, the Scandinavian country had seen 577 MW of solar thermal power fed into 79 district heating networks mostly run by municipalities. There are another 364 MWth in the pipeline, scheduled for the beginning of this year. To identify the countries with the largest potential for solar district heating, it is worth taking a closer look at the country-by-country statistics of the biennial Euroheat & Power publication, whose most current version is from March 2015 and includes the key market indicators. Euroheat & Power, the association for district heating and cooling, is headquartered in Brussels and has 11 full-time staff.
The main objective of IEA SHC Task 52, Solar Thermal in Energy Supply Systems in Urban Environments, is to call attention to both the technical and economic aspects of solar heating and cooling usage in densely populated urban areas. Urban planners and commercial clients want to know the costs compared to the energy output generated by various solar heating technologies. A method to benchmark different solar heat production systems is Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE). This method is described by the IEA as the “average price that would have to be paid by consumers to repay exactly the investor/operator for the capital, operation and maintenance and fuel expenses, with a rate of return equal to the discount rate”. The chart shows the LCOE for different applications and system sizes in northern / central European climates, taken from the most current Task 52 study Technology and Demonstrators (for further details see table below). The author of the study, Franz Mauthner from Austrian research institute AEE INTEC, contributed to this article, which elaborates on the method and the calculations behind it.
Chart: Task 52 / Technology and Demonstrators study