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.
To have a solar thermal system on the roof of one’s home may be a good thing if it does work well. But the probability that solar water heaters perform as they should and as long as they are supposed to is higher when they are installed by real experts familiar with the best practices of the industry. But how is one to know whether an installer is a real professional? Certification may be a viable indicator of whether or not a plumber can be trusted with installing a modern solar thermal system. That is why certification is gaining importance not only in manufacturing, but also in other parts of the industry.
The Solar Keymark Network has decided to establish a working group in order to revise and improve the complaint procedures and put them into one document, as they have so far been described in several different papers and various articles: The Solar Keymark Scheme Rules, Article 2.2, includes instructions on how to handle complaints and there is Article 6.3. Special Test, whereas the CEN-CENELEC Internal Regulations Part 4, Article 7.4, describes the appeal procedures (see the attached documents). This move is deemed necessary because at the end of 2015 – for the first time since the Solar Keymark label was launched – several complaints were submitted to one of the empowered certification bodies. “In our network meeting, we informed the members about the first big complaint and discussed the need for putting the complaint procedures into one document, to make it clearer for the solar thermal industry how to use them,” said Jaime Fernández González-Granda, Chairman of the Solar Keymark Network and Product Officer at the Spanish certification and standardisation body, AENOR.
The implementation of voluntary collector label Solergy will enter into the second phase in 2016. The European Commission has confirmed that there was no likelihood of confusing the voluntary mark with the official energy labelling stipulated since September 2015 for heating devices across Europe, the Steering Committee of the Solar Heating Initiative said in a letter sent to selected stakeholders in the middle of December. The letter went on to explain that it would now be the responsibility of DIN Certco, the German certification body, to issue Solergy labels officially and register the certificates in an online database. During the first phase in the second half of 2015, it had been Stefan Abrecht, the initiator of the voluntary collector label and General Manager of German company Solar Experience, who had issued the certificates.
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.
At the beginning of June, the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation celebrated the 10th anniversary of Solar Keymark at its Intersolar Europe booth in Munich, Germany. Solar Keymark is a well-established certification scheme and label all across Europe and has been viewed as an exemplary model by countries and regions outside Europe as well. Today, there are around 1,600 different certified collectors and about 220 solar thermal systems, all listed in an online database. The chart shows the countries with the highest number of certificates for locally produced or locally offered collectors. China ranks third with 162 Solar Keymark collectors, after Germany (425) and Austria (211). 16 % of the collectors come from outside the 28 EU countries and Switzerland.
Uruguay’s solar thermal market is growing slowly, but it is growing – thanks to a residential subsidy scheme and a government decree. The scheme, which started in March 2012, has so far subsidised a solar water heater in almost 1,000 households with between 40 and 70% of the investment costs. The decree, Decreto No 451/011, stipulates a 50% solar hot water share in sport clubs, hospitals and hotels for both newly built and soon-to-be-renovated buildings, a move that has already helped to install several larger systems. The photos show a case study of a larger system installed on the roof of the Lawn Tennis Club in Montevideo. The flat plate collectors from company Alejandro Baroni were manufactured locally.
The third annual General Assembly of the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) under the presidency of Robin Welling took place in Berlin at the end of November after an invitation by the German solar industry association BSW Solar. In an interview with solarthermalworld.org, Welling describes the future challenges of the sector and analyses the difficult market situation in Europe. The photo shows the Kick-off meeting of new joined working group ESTESC in Berlin on the day before the General Assembly.
Four major solar and heating associations in Europe jointly kicked off the ESTESC working group in Berlin at the end of November. ESTESC stands for European Solar Thermal Energy Standardisation & Certification. The four associations are the two Brussels-based associations European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) and the Association of the European Heating Industry (EHI), as well as German associations BSW Solar and the Federal Industrial Association of Germany - House, Energy and Environmental Technology, BDH. All members of the four organisations have been invited to become active participants of a number of subgroups within the ESTECS working group. Christian Stadler, Technical Head at Austrian company General Solar Systems, was elected Chair of the ESTESC for the next three years. He started his career in the solar thermal industry in 1991 and worked in leading positions at 4 different collector manufacturers. Since 2008, he has been responsible for product management, development and strategic sourcing at General Solar Systems with its major brand Sonnenkraft.
Photo: General Solar Systems
The final version of the EN ISO 9806 was approved by the international standard committees CEN/TC 312 and ISO TC180 with more than 90 % of the votes shortly before their meetings in Freiburg, Germany, in the middle of September. This is an important milestone for the solar thermal industry, because it marks the first time that there will be a modern global standard for collector testing procedures which different countries can refer to. In addition, the new standard includes testing methodology for a number of new solar thermal technologies, such as solar air heating collectors, concentrating medium-temperature collectors and PVT collectors. Now, it will only be a matter of weeks until the standard is handed down to the national standardisation secretariats and, over the coming month, distributed through their national publication channels.