France: SoCol Network Shares Best Practices for Multi-family Houses

Taking a close look at the SoCol network website - www.solaire-collectif.fr - will get you several useful documents on solar thermal best practices for multi-family buildings. First, there are the technical guide and the maintenance guide - the former including hydraulic schemes for domestic solar hot water production in multi-family houses (see the attached document in French). “These documents are intended for both professionals and building owners to help them prepare tenders,” explains Daniel Mugnier, a solar heating and cooling expert from French consultancy Tecsol and a very active member of the network.

SoCol - which is short for “Solaire Collective”, the French term for multi-family houses - was established in 2009. Back then, larger solar thermal applications had their breakthrough in France and the upward trend has continued ever since, from 56,000 m² of new solar thermal installations in multi-family buildings in 2008 to an estimated 120,000 m² in 2012, according to Enerplan’s annual market statistics. Given the sizing errors, high maintenance budgets and malfunctions reported too late, the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, ADEME, and the French solar energy association, Enerplan, created SoCol to identify and disburse information about best practices. “This network is open to any sector professional who wants to share his or her experiences. It now includes 155 professionals, which work in four groups,” explains Philippe Gay, Mission Coordinator at Enerplan.

Group “Communication” feeds the website with news, creates the newsletter and aims to improve the network’s online pages. In 2013, the group will write about case studies, launch marketing campaigns on specific topics and send out press releases.
 
Group “Technical” has written guidelines on how to size expansion vessels and monitor installations. In 2013, the members plan to write a guide for owners of social housing and other buildings. They also intend to conduct a survey on measuring equipment for solar thermal installations in multi-family houses and to accompany the development of the national subsidy scheme Fonds Chaleur.

Group “Finance and Law” aims to design the contracts for operating solar thermal systems in multi-family houses. In 2013, the group also plans to draw up a contract for guaranteed solar results to ensure the good performance of larger solar systems in blocks of flats.
 
Group “Formation” intends to develop the installer training regarding multi-family houses, in cooperation with certification company Qualit’EnR. The first trainings are set for the second half of 2013.

The SoCol network´s general objectives are to promote well-designed and well-sized installations together with systematic monitoring, in order to reach the guaranteed solar yields and reduce maintenance. The network members come together regularly over the phone or at face-to-face meetings, depending on current events and the roadmap set by Enerplan and Ademe. Still, the SoCol network remains fragile with “mainly voluntary participation and a lack of awareness among people who are not directly involved in designing or setting up solar thermal systems for multi-family houses”, Mugnier regrets.

More information:
www.solaire-collectif.fr

Philippe Gay is the official coordinator of SoCol at Enerplan: philippe.gay@enerplan.asso.fr

Technical guide: http://www.solaire-collectif.fr/upload/data/Schema_de_principe.pdf

This article was written by French author and solar thermal specialist Lydie Bahjejian based in Paris.

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