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
China’s shift away from residential towards commercial solar thermal applications continues: The collector area of newly installed solar water heaters in single-family buildings declined by 26 % in 2016, whereas the ‘engineering segment’ remained stable last year (see the table below). This segment is comprised of all non-domestic hot water applications, such as space heating and cooling as well as applications in industry and agriculture. Overall, its share in the newly installed collector area went from 61 to 68 %. All figures were taken from the Report on the State of China 's Solar Thermal Industry (July to December 2016), a document drafted by Dezhou-based consultancy Sun’s Visions on behalf of CSTIF, the Chinese Solar Thermal Industry Federation. CSTIF has presented this report – which also includes several development strategies – to the National Energy Board.
Replacing gas with sunshine for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) is a cost-effective solution. This is the key message of US-based company Glasspoint, which has mobilised the biggest investment ever in a solar steam-producing unit in Oman. State-owned Petroleum Development Oman is building a concentrating solar thermal collector field called Miraah next to the Amal West oilfield. Once complete, it will generate more than a gigawatt of solar thermal power to drive EOR operations – saving Oman about 5.6 trillion BTUs of natural gas each year.
The California Solar Initiative (CSI) – Thermal Program seems to have stabilised at around 20,000 m² (or around 200,000 ft²) of subsidised collector area per year. Commercial applications dominate the statistics, although there was a spike in the share of residential systems in 2016. The peak in applications for commercial pool heating in 2014 was due to the late addition of this type of system to the state subsidy scheme. It took almost a year before the level of incentives and other requirements were set, so that all the applications piling up over that period had to be processed in 2014. The data in the chart was provided by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and shows the subsidised and installed collector area for each year.
There has been growing demand for Aspiration Energy’s (AE) business of delivering systems that provide solar heat for industrial processes (SHIP). In January 2017, the turnkey SHIP supplier based in India completed a second solar field with 600 m² (180 kWth) of vacuum tube collectors for Harita Seating, which is one of the country’s leading manufacturers of automotive seating systems and part of the USD 7 billion TVS group. The first 600 m² system was commissioned in January 2015. Both fields combined meet around 50 % of the heat demand for degreasing and phosphating processes in Harita’s factory. The photo shows the solar thermal control panel in the production facility; the 3,000-litre solar thermal storage tank can be found on the right.
With Procter & Gamble and Siemens subsidiary Trench, Vicot Solar Technology has two prominent references in China to showcase the successful integration of solar heat into industrial processes. The plant at Trench High Voltage Products (THVP) in Shenyang (see photo) came online in November 2014 and has since been operated by THVP itself. Backed up by an oil heating unit, the system’s parabolic trough collectors with 3,255 m² of aperture area provide heat at 150 °C for processes in the electronics factory and supply the heating systems of the 33,000 m² office and the production facilities in winter.
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.
Industrial solar heat is far from being a standard yet, but it is more widespread than you might think. The first World Map of Solar Process Heat Specialists shows 71 companies in 22 countries which reported almost 400 reference systems. Together with additional plants included in the online portal ship-plants.info, the world market for industrial process heat comprises at a minimum 525 plants with an collector or mirror area of at least 416,414 m².
Amul Fed Dairy based in Gandhinagar in the western Indian state of Gujarat is one of the country’s biggest milk-processing plants and is owned by Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation. In October 2016, it had a 560 m² parabolic trough collector field installed to allow for the feed-in of solar steam into the factory grid. The INR 15.7 million (around EUR 220,000) system was set up by Thermax, an Indian manufacturer of solar heating and cooling technology. It was designed to reduce gas consumption by about 50,000 m³ each year – which barely meets 0.59 % of the energy demand for the entire facility. India is one of the world’s largest producers of milk, with an annual output of 140 million tonnes, a figure that will probably rise to 200 million by 2022.
At the request of the Pakistani government, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has launched a project titled Sustainable Energy Initiative for Industries in Pakistan to promote the adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and services in Pakistan’s industries. But despite the country’s great energy demand and huge solar potential, the study says little about solar thermal usage