Since 14 May 2014, Uruguay has had technical specifications for solar thermal installations. It was on this very day that the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mines approved the first edition of the Especificaciones Técnicas Uruguayas (ETUS), the Uruguayan Technical Specifications for all registered solar thermal installations in the country. These requirements are obligatory for all public buildings and all public enterprises, such as the state energy utility UTE, the National Administration of Telecommunications, ANTEL, and state-owned oil, cement and gas supplier ANCAP, as well as for residential installations by homeowners or solar systems at private companies, such as hotels or hospitals. The photo shows a thermosiphon system which was installed under the requirements of Mesa Solar which includes the same requirements as ETUS for thermosiphon systems.
Photo: Eliseo Cabrera
The ETUS were designed by Spanish solar consultant Martinez Escribano in collaboration with the technicians of the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining (MIEM), after having been discussed and adjusted in several workshops since late 2012. Public consultation was led by Mesa Solar, the multi-sector network for the promotion of solar energy, as well as representatives of industry association Cámara Solar del Uruguay and independent technicians. Since December 2012, Escribano has also held free-of-charge training courses for technicians and professionals from architecture, engineering and construction.
In the meantime, several solar thermal system suppliers have also begun to offer products fulfilling ETUS requirements. It took the industry a long time to get to this point, starting with the Solar Thermal Law which was approved in September 2009 and implemented by the government in December 2012 through Decree 352. The law includes a solar obligation, which requires newly built sports clubs, hospitals and hotels to install a solar water heating system – so far, without technical requirements.
From now on, there will be a Responsible Registered Technicien, RTI, who is to design the installation and register it on MIEM´s website. Hence, after finalising the installation, the RTI will be responsible for the system for ten years. A special regulation which applies to any building in Uruguay: Both the architect and the builder are responsible for the functionality and the structure of the building for a period of 10 years and the ETUS consider solar thermal systems to be part of the building. The state regulation authority URSEA will also carry out randomly inspection visits to finished installation without any charges to the investor.
The most distinct ETUS requirements are listed in the following:
- Flat plate collectors or vacuum tube collectors are allowed if they meet different technical requirements, but “direct” solar hot water systems are not allowed.
- Plastic materials are not allowed – neither for the collectors, nor the piping.
- The solar water tank material must be copper, enamelled steel or Inox steel 316L.
- There is a specified minimum insulation thickness for tanks and pipes.
- Big installations must have a closed solar loop (open-loop systems are approved by the MIEM only for small projects and with special improvements).
- There are three eligible tools for shade analysis eligible.
- The project must have detailed technical documentation and must be registered.
The approval of the ETUS is a big step towards professionalising the solar thermal sector. Besides the technical standards which builders and installers have to adhere to when implementing solar thermal technology, URSEA now has a powerful tool to control the installations made countrywide and the MIEM will have a complete database of technicians and professionals working in the market and realising projects.
This news was written by Eliseo Cabrera, Architect from Uruguay, (email@example.com) Professor at the Faculty of Architecture of the ORT University and President of the Uruguayan Solar Chamber.