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 recent approval of Working Rules means that the Global Solar Certification Network (GSCN) can now accept membership applications. The reuse of test and inspection reports in different certification schemes will be possible at the beginning of 2017. The GSCN was developed in Task 43 of the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme to facilitate the cross-border trade of high-quality solar thermal products. The world map shows all the certification schemes which are already on their way into the GSCN – and more are said to follow soon. GSCN industry members can use a collector test report or a production inspection report from one of these schemes to apply for a certificate in another part of the world which is also part of GSCN. The procedure saves manufacturers time and money by removing the need for collector retesting or a second site inspection.
This July, SP issued new Solar Keymark certificates for four Danish Arcon-Sunmark collectors after the Swedish test lab and certification body had retested these four systems in April. The retesting had been necessary, as SP had received six complaints because of a lower-than-expected c1 (heat loss coefficient) value on certificates issued in November 2015. At first, it looked like a case closed, but the stakeholders who submitted complaints are now calling for a reform of the complaint procedures and tolerances established by the Solar Keymark Network (SKN).
A study by US non-profit organisation Clasp, British management consultancy Waide Strategic Efficiency and other partners has analysed the market potential of efficient water heater technology, among them solar thermal systems and heat pumps in China, India and the USA. The 176-page document Policy Opportunities for More Efficient Residential Water Heating shows the key differences between markets and policies and gives advice on policy measures to reduce the energy consumption of water heaters. One central recommendation is to implement energy efficiency labels, which would allow customers to compare different water heater technologies. No such labelling has been in place yet in any of the three countries. The chart shows the Chinese energy label, which is only used for gas combi boilers, the Indian label for electric storage water heaters and the US label for gas-storage water heaters.
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.
Between 8 and 11 March, Berlin will be the venue of choice for standard and certification experts from all corners of the globe. Then, the city will host three international meetings to discuss standard and certification issues at European and global level: First, there is the meeting of the Solar Keymark Network (SKN), which will be held on 8 and 9 March and will be headed by Jaime Fernández González-Granda (left); second, there is the one of the Global Solar Certification Network on 10 March led by Harald Drück (middle). The third event that will take place in the same week is the kick-off meeting of the newly created Task 57, Solar Standards and Certification, which will be held on 10 and 11 March and will be headed by Jan Erik Nielsen (right).
In December 2015, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) published a comprehensive report on how to establish a quality infrastructure (QI) for solar water heaters on small-scale markets (see the attached document). The 76-page study is part of a series on Quality Infrastructure for Renewable Energy, which uses information from 83 survey respondents and data from interviews with 34 experts on QIs for renewable energy sources. The report discusses established international system and collector testing standards as well as examples of implementation across selected countries. It also highlights market barriers and makes recommendations for developing solar water heater Qis, focusing mainly on emerging markets. The programme highlights the complexity of a quality infrastructure, including the establishment of a product label, test labs, installers’ certification and the involvement of inspection bodies.
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.
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.