The summer school called City in Transition (Stadt im Wandel) ended with a public presentation of the project designs from four student groups on Monday, 26 September, in Berlin, Germany (see photo). During the previous week, students from different fields and German universities had developed a master plan for solar-optimised buildings in an area of Berlin’s Adlershof district. ”We educated students on how to combine town planning and solar energy usage,” explained Tanja Siems, one of the organisers of the summer school and Head of the Institute of Urban Design & Studies, Faculty of Architecture and Civil Engineering of the University of Wuppertal, Germany. Several experts from the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling programme’s Task 51, Solar Energy in Urban Planning, had supported the summer school as tutors or evaluated the final presentations.
Merging three individual conferences into the International Conference on Solar Technologies & Hybrid Mini Grids to Improve Energy Access was rewarded with a satisfying number of attendees visiting the latter. According to the organisers, 185 experts from 38 countries from all corners of the globe met in the small town of Bad Hersfeld near Frankfurt, Germany, in mid-September 2016 to talk about all the technology and market requirements for increasing solar deployment in developing countries. The conference schedule was, of course, fairly focused on photovoltaics, but Southern Africa was well represented, as experts from the partner countries of SOLTRAIN (Southern African Solar Thermal Training and Demonstration Initiative) presented their work during the event (see photo).
Approved and successful policies should be promoted – which is why the Southern African Solar Thermal Training and Demonstration Initiative (SOLTRAIN) should be implemented in West Africa as well. Since 2009, the programme has helped train about 2,150 people during 80 courses and install 187 solar thermal systems in the five partner countries Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The coordinator, Austrian organisation AEE INTEC, and the implementing body, ECREEE – ECOWAS Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency based in Cabo Verde, have now launched a similar four-year training and demonstration programme, SOLtrain West Africa, to increase SWH numbers in five additional countries: Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.
System cost reduction is one of the most urgent challenges of the solar thermal sector, especially in central Europe. The aim of Task 54 of the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme, Price Reduction of Solar Thermal Systems, is to lower solar heat prices by up to 40 %. Germany’s main scientific contributions to the task have come from the two research projects KoST and TEWIsol, which have been co-funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The corresponding Task 54 meeting will take place in Stuttgart on 6/7 October (see the attached programme) in conjunction with a workshop on 5 October to present and discuss KoST and TEWIsol (12 p.m. to 4 p.m.; held in German). The photo shows the Task 54 workshop organised in collaboration with the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation in Brussels in May 2016.
Australia’s energy policy has been in the international press mostly for its shift back toward coal under the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. However, Jeremy Osborne, Director of Energy Analysis & Engineering, said in an interview with solarthermalworld.org that Australia did have a “supportive government despite all the news”. Since July 2015, renewables for industrial processes has been one of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) investment priorities, which includes solar process heat. ARENA also published the report Renewable Energy Options for Australian Industrial Gas Users in September 2015, emphasising that lower-temperature process heat systems at around 100 °C are most “prospective at present” (see the attached document). Positive Internal Rates of Return (IRR) are achieved with gas prices above Australian Dollar (AUD) 5 per gigajoules (GJ). According to the report, the wholesale price for gas was between 6 and 8 AUD/GJ in 2014 and is expected to rise to between 9 and 12 AUD/GJ before the end of the decade.
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.
A growing number of countries in Southern Africa follow the example of South Africa and Namibia to set targets and discuss regulations for an increased deployment of solar water heaters. The reasons are the acute power shortages and the fact that residential households spend 60 % of their electricity on hot water preparation when they use an electric geyser. Lesotho and Zimbabwe launched national strategies in September 2015 to ban electric geysers and Mozambique’s Minister of Science, Technology, Higher Education and Professional Training, Professor Jorge Olívio Nhambiu, confirmed the target of installing 0.1 m² collector area per capita by 2030, as had been defined in the Solar Thermal Technology Roadmap for Zimbabwe in November 2015. The photo shows the Solar Energy Mobile Training Unit showcased during an open day at the University of Zimbabwe.
The Southern African Solar Thermal Training and Demonstration Initiative (SOLTRAIN) presented the project’s remarkable progress since 2009 during a conference in Midrand, South Africa, on 11 February 2016. “Between 2009 and 2015, about 2,150 people have been trained in 80 courses, and nearly 187 solar thermal systems ranging from 2 to 250 m² collector area per system have been installed in the five target countries South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe,” Project Coordinator Werner Weiss, Managing Director of Austrian institute AEE INTEC, summed up the results. The photo shows the presentation of Dr Thembakazi Mali, Senior Manager Clean Energy Solutions at the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) on 11 February. The one-day conference was attended by 63 stakeholders from the SADC region.
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 best solar research results are of little use if they are not distributed and known to stakeholders from the industry, planning departments or public authorities involved in the related field work. This becomes an even more important point if the aim of the research is to “assist with the developing of a strong and sustainable market”. One example: Task 48 (Quality Assurance & Support Measures for Solar Cooling Systems) under the auspices of the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling programme. Between October 2011 and March 2015, a very dynamic group of 30 solar cooling experts teamed up to work on a wide range of topics. As many as 180 person months of research were at the disposal of the programme’s coordinators, which created a lot of interesting output. The cooling specialists accepted and met the challenge by presenting results in a clear structure on the above-shown diagram. The so-called Task 48 Results Diagram could serve as a best-practice model for other international research projects.