Denmark’s success story in solar district heating, with 2016 having been another record year which almost doubled newly installed collector area to around 500,000 m², showcases the large potential of this type of application across Europe. Cost cuts in the supply chain are key: Two vital factors are fast installation and less hydraulic work on site. The answer by manufacturers to these challenges has been to design large-scale prefabricated collectors. Suppliers of vacuum tube collectors offer modular designs for easy mounting of collectors above 10 m²; large flat plate versions come as one piece and certified by Solar Keymark. The yearly market surveys by German magazine Sonne Wind & Wärme show that the number of certified flat plate collector panels above 10 m² of gross collector area has increased in Europe in recent years. As of 29 March 2017, the magazine’s online collector database listed 62 models from eight brands compared to 20 types of collectors in October 2015.
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 One World Solar Collector developed by Austrian company Sunlumo finally received a Solar Keymark certificate in October 2015 (see the attached PDF). This is a milestone in the long design and development process, which started in 2009. “We designed a completely new collector model optimising weight, performance, logistics and raw materials,” Robert Buchinger (left), Managing Director of Sunlumo, says about the long term R&D project. The photo, which was taken at machinery supplier Fill’s booth at the 2014 edition of Fakuma, the international trade fair for plastics processing, in Germany, shows Buchinger and Wilhelm Rupertsberger, Head of Competence Center Polymer Technology at FilI, holding up the pilot collector with a gross collector area of 0.95 m² and a weight of only 8.1 kg. Sunlumo is looking for investors who want to purchase a complete production line as well as the license and produce the polymer collector locally. The One World Solar Collector is the third 100 % polymer collector with a Solar Keymark certificate. The other two are Eco Flare 3M by Israeli manufacturer Magen Eco Energy and a collector from Norway’s Aventa.
In March, the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE) launched an online training program on the Solar Water Heaters (SWHs) Quality Assurance and Certification Scheme in the Arab region. The training course aims to provide participants with sufficient knowledge on SWH quality and certification schemes, such as the Solar Heating Arab Mark and Certification Initiative (SHAMCI). Participants can register for the training course online. According to the RCREEE, it is the first online training in the Middle East and North Africa region. The implementation of the course was supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
On 1 April 2015, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, BMWi, will increase the subsidies for renewable heating systems – solar thermal, biomass boilers and heat pumps – within the German Market Rebate Programme for Renewable Energies, MAP. The main reason for taking this step was that political targets have not been achieved: “The share of renewable energies in Germany’s final energy consumption for heating and cooling has only increased at a slow pace since 2012 and currently stands at 9.9 %. The MAP amendment is needed to achieve the ambitious 2020 target of 14 % set forth in the Renewable Energy Heat Act,” the BMWi stated in a press release on 11 March, in which the ministry also announced the new incentive regulations.
Exceptional cooperation begins in unusual situations. Dr Richard Senti, Chief Financial Officer of the Hoval Group, was part of the jury that evaluated the projects presented at the University of Liechtenstein’s annual business plan competition, and Christian Goritschnig, Managing Director of goinnovate, was at the very same competition to show his ideas for an efficient, optimised solar collector model. This was back in 2010 and it became the starting point of three-and-a-half years of cooperation, which have come to a successful close with the new collector model produced at the headquarters of Hoval in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, and offered by both companies. Hoval markets the new collector under the brand name Ultrasol, whereas goinnovate sells it under the name Radius and purchases the units from Hoval. The photo shows the goinnovate booth at Intersolar 2014 in Munich, Germany in June.
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.
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.
The debate about the new regulations for the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management (Polish initialism: NFOŚiGW) continues: From 1 October 2013 on, the grant cap will refer to a collector’s aperture area and not its gross area. After the Society of Vacuum Collector Importers and Distributors criticised the new guidelines on 30 September, it is now the Association of Manufacturers and Importers of Heating Appliances (Polish acronym: SPIUG) which is voicing scepticism over the new guidelines. Meanwhile, however, NFOŚiGW solar thermal grant programme is said to run out of money next year.