Turkey‘s three vacuum tube manufacturers, which were set up in response to the high import taxes the government imposed on Chinese vacuum tubes in July 2011, have now become part of an export industry themselves. Lara Solar, Assolar and Solarsan all claim to have already been exporting vacuum tubes to different regions worldwide. The photo shows glass tube melting at Solarsan’s factory in the city of Nazilli in Aydın Province on Turkey’s west coast.
Lara Solar was the first company to start producing glass tubes, coating and evacuated double-glass tubes (the common Chinese solar water heater technology) in the country, and it already did so back in 2011. Lara Solar is a subsidiary of Ortadogu Aluminium located in Adana on Turkey’s south coast. According to the company´s website, Ortadogu invested USD 15 million in the new vacuum tube production site. Ortadogu was founded by Hikmet Aslan, who started out in the solar thermal industry in 1979. The company has been offering flat plate collectors under the Çukurova brand for more than 20 years. Today, its core business is the production of aluminium products, such as profiles, ingots, window systems and doors. General Manager Nurullah Aslan is quoted on the website as having said that he was proud to now sell vacuum tubes back to China, as some years ago, his company imported tubes from there. The company also announced that it had started exporting tubes to the Middle East and Africa.
Turkish vacuum tubes now end up in China
The second vacuum tube manufacturer, Assolar, has a lot in common with Lara Solar, although the two companies are entirely independent of each other. Assolar is also located in Adana and is a subsidiary of another aluminium specialist, Aslanlar Metal Sanayi, which has a similarly long history in the solar flat plate business. “We specialise in flat plate collectors with aluminium absorbers and have promoted them under the Aslanlar brand since 1980,” the company’s Sales Manager, Osman Bilan, explains. Today, the company also offers vacuum tubes with two different diameters of 47 mm and 58 mm. “In Turkey, we don’t have heat-pipe technology yet, so all solar water heaters based on vacuum tubes include water-filled double-glass tubes, mostly with a diameter of 47 mm,” Bilan explains. Assolar has already exported vacuum tubes to the Balkan Region, North Africa and Arab countries. Bilan estimates the daily production output at 13,000 tube units and 700 flat plate collector kits.
Solar water heating suppliers invest in OEM vacuum tube manufacturer
The third vacuum tube producer, Solarsan, has a completely different background from the other two. The company was founded in August 2011 by seven solar water heater suppliers with well-known brands. These suppliers – among them, Anages und Demir – invested around Turkish Lira (TRY) 10 million (EUR 4.2 million) in the new business. Solarsan owns an area of 15,000 m², of which the factory building takes up 8,500 m². Production began in July 2012 with a capacity of 10,000 units per day.
With 200,000 tubes per month, the company already produced at maximum level in 2013, and expanded its production capacity to 6 million tubes annually. The tube manufacturer has so far focused on supplying 47 mm wide and 1,800 mm long OEM vacuum tubes to the system assemblers which founded the business. But this does not mean that export had not been a seriously considered option: “This summer, Solarsan started manufacturing 58 mm solar tubes for export purposes,” Mehmet Akyildiz, Export Manager at Anadolu ISI, which is one of the seven companies that invested in Solarsan, confirms. Anadolu uses the country’s dealer network to sell solar water heaters to clients. Residential users prefer solar water heaters with vacuum tubes, whereas hotels are more likely to choose flat plate collector installations.