Theoretically, the district heating networks from Soviet times could very well be supplemented by solar thermal heat. Except Poland, however, no eastern European state has had much experience with solar thermal district heating. Bulgaria and Romania have not yet had any plans or projects to combine district heating with solar thermal, but Ukraine has already taken the first step: Between 2008 and 2012, municipal utility Mariupolteploset, one of the biggest heat suppliers in Ukraine, set up three solar fields across Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, with all of them feeding into district heating networks. Other municipalities have also announced the construction of their first solar district heating demonstration systems when modernising local power stations and energy distribution networks.
The first installation from 2008 has 96 solar collectors. The second one from 2011 consists of 60 collectors, type Vitosol, which supply solar energy to a hospital in Donetsk, with almost one million inhabitants the fifth largest city in Ukraine. The third solar thermal plant was installed in 2012 at the boiler house at Nakhimov Avenue in Mariupol. The system combines a few heat pumps with 77 solar thermal collectors. “This hybrid unit was awarded the title of ‘Best green municipal project’ in Ukraine,” Dmitriy Raus, Director of Mariupolteploset, is quoted on web portal investukr. Overall, Ukraine has 233 solar thermal collectors with 396 m² of collector area.
According to Raus, Mariupolteploset is currently implementing the next project: modernising a boiler house which provides heat and hot water to a hospital. The boiler house will be equipped with a solar field, four heat pumps, a storage tank, modern boilers with modular burners and a cogeneration unit, which will supply the required electricity.
Mariupolteploset, which was founded in 1967, supplies heat to 2,286 buildings, among them 1,852 residential homes, 87 day-care centres, 72 schools and 27 hospitals. The municipal utility runs 74 boiler houses and a 917 km long one-pipe heating grid.
Demonstration project in western Ukraine
Other regions of Ukraine have been planning several similar projects. On 28 September 2012, municipal utility Ternopilmiskteplocomunenergo of the Ternopil City Council in western Ukraine signed a loan agreement with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to implement a priority investment programme and modernise Ternopil´s district heating. The proposed project, whose total costs are estimated at approximately EUR 17.5 million, will require the following: a solar collector field with 500 m² on one of the boiler houses, a new biomass boiler with a heat pump, individual heating substations, as well as the replacement of old pipes.
“It is a showcase for our company. The idea is to make the company familiar with solar heating. When the company installs solar heating in the future, it will probably be on a larger scale and on the ground,” Bogdan Miskiv, Deputy Director of the municipal utility, explains.
Solar thermal cuts costs – tremendously
Another region, Zaporozhye, which neighbours Donetsk, is also planning to modernise its district heating system. The plans include a solar thermal installation and should be implemented between 2014 and 2025. During a preliminary phase to the project, there was an energy audit at 23 public sector institutions in 2012.
According to Alexander Sin, Mayor of the city of Zaporozhye, the heating expenses for municipal buildings are constantly growing and have reached almost EUR 20 million a year. “Further increases in the cost of heating through an increase in natural gas prices would provoke a budget crisis for the city as a whole,” Sin explains. The aim of the transition to heating public buildings with pellets, heat pumps and solar thermal is said to reduce energy costs to one third.
However, Alina Sych, Head of the Department for Energy-Saving Technologies at Sint Solar, a solar thermal manufacturer based in the Zaporozhye region, has her doubts as to whether this project will indeed be implemented. “In the Ukrainian public sector, we often have plans – but not enough financing in the end,” she says.
This article was written by Vladislava Adamenkova, a freelance writer on the solar thermal sector with a focus on the markets of Eastern and South-East Europe. This news is part of the article Good prospects for solar district heating, which was published in Sun & Wind Energy 5/2014.