Commercial applications are on the rise in Poland: “Big building societies, hotels and hospitals are investing in solar thermal systems,” confirms export manager Jacek Paluch of the collector manufacturer Watt.
The polish solar thermal market is growing rapidly and so are the national collector manufacturers. “This year we will produce 66 % more vacuum tube collectors than last year and this is due to an increasing demand for our products in Poland”, says export manager Jacek Paluch of Watt Ltd. Altogether ― vacuum tubes and flat-plate collectors ― the company plans to manufacturer 43,000 m2 (30 MWth)this year instead of 30,000 m2 (21 MWth) last year. In April the company opened a new factory with a total area of 3,500 m2.
The competitor Sunex Sp. z.o.o. is also very pleased with the market development. They want to more than double their production output of flat-plate collectors, and also start assembling vacuum tube collectors this year.
The main drive on the market is the rising energy prices. There is hardly any financial support by the government yet apart from the environmental fund NFOSiGW (National Fund for Environment Protection and Water Management). They support up to 20 % of the cost of the project, but it is limited to the commercial and public sector. This corresponds with Watts’ experience. Paluch confirms that “big building societies, hotels and hospitals are investing in solar thermal systems”. So far, private customers have not profited from the NFOSiGW funds.
This might change now, informs Grzegorz Wisniewski, head of the Institute of Renewable Energy (EC BREC IEO) in Warszawa, Poland. According to him, some of the municipalities negotiated with the NFOSiGW to reach special conditions for their customers. Szczawnica city for example. They want to offer a grant from NFOSiGW to the private users which will cover almost 50 % of the total investment costs. Together with a low interest credit supported from the municipal budget the town in the south of Poland would like to install 3,600 m2. “If this pilot project is successful, other cities and municipalities will use the same opportunity, and this might substantially improve the market development of domestic solar water heating systems”, Wisniewski expects. According to him, also some of the 16 independent WFOSiGW (Regional Funds For Environmental Protection and Water Management) are developing new support schemes for private investors.
The previous financial support mechanism, the Eco-Fund foundation, stops operation at the end of the year. Eco-Fund granted bigger installations with more than a 50 m2 collector area with up to 30 % of the investment cost. Their role will be taken over by the NFOSiGW funds. At present the second draft of the scheme is available for political consultation (see www.nfosigw.gov.pl/site/images/OZE.xls) . According to this proposal, solar systems might be supported by subsidies of 500 PLZ/m2 (approx. 150 Euro/m2) or its equivalent in the form of low interest credits. The system should be in force by January 2009. Also the government considers a tax rebate programme for polish citizens that want to invest in a solar thermal system in 2009, Wisniewski reports.
The commitment of the government to support solar thermal technology is nothing new. Back in 2000 the government approved a national “Renewable energy strategy” with a target of 700,000 m2 (490 MWth) by 2010. According to EC BREC, today a collector surface of 260,000 m2 (182 MWth) has already been installed in the country.