Driving down the costs of solar thermal systems is not only about cheaper collector production. In fact, post-production processes, such as sales, installation and maintenance account for up to 50 % of the price the end customer will have to pay. The new IEA SHC Task 54, Price Reduction of Solar Thermal Systems, wants to investigate those factors and find ways to reduce system costs. The kick-off meeting on 21 to 22 October will be hosted by Fraunhofer ISE in Freiburg, Germany. Researchers and industry representatives from all over the world have been invited to participate. The task spans over three years and includes on average two two-day experts meetings per year.
The market report Innovative Energy Technologies in Austria. Market Development 2014 published by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (bmvit) shows that in 2014, the national solar thermal industry had to deal with declining sales for the fifth time in a row. The solar thermal market in Austria dropped by 15 % from 2013 to 2014, resulting in a total annual volume of 108.6 MWth (155,170 m²) last year. The pie chart shows the share of different segments in the collector area newly installed in 2014 . Multi-family buildings have significantly increased in importance. According to recent data by the industry association Austria Solar on the first two quarters of 2015, the decline seems to be slowing down, partly because of a new federal incentive programme.
Diligent research on small scale low-temperature chillers, the launch of a new generation of compact solar cooling units and large-scale plants able to compete economically with conventional cooling solutions: These are just some of the main trends which were discussed during the 6th International Conference on Solar Air-Conditioning organised by German company East-Bavarian Institute for Technology Transfer, OTTI, Rome, Italy, on 24/25 September. The photo shows Conference Chairwoman Prof Ursula Eicker from the University of Applied Sciences, Stuttgart, Germany (forth from left in first row) together with the international scientific committee consisting of researchers from Germany, Spain, Greece, Italy, France, China, Austria and Cyprus.
Industry participation is key for the research work of IEA’s Solar Heating and Cooling Programme. Hence, the researchers of Task 49, Solar Heat Integration in Industrial Processes, used the last meeting in France in mid-September to hold a one-day workshop dedicated to Solar Heat Integration in Industrial Processes (SHIP) in cooperation with French start-up Energy Service Company Sunti. In Montpellier, SHIP 2015 gathered experts from the solar process heat collector industry, researchers, government and non-government organisations, as well as representatives for potential customers. Customers were particularly interested in the economic feasibility of systems. A wide variety of plants and operation data was presented. The photo shows the installation of the world’s largest solar process heat plant at the Gaby copper mine in Chile. Each year, the plant saves 6,500 tonnes of diesel, which would have had to be transported by 250 trucks through the desert.
The European Commission introduced its work programme 2016/2017 for the R&D funding programme Horizon 2020 during two info days in Brussels on 14 and 15 September. One of the first presentations was by Paul Verhoef, Head of the Renewable Energy Sources unit at the EU’s DG Research & Innovation, who showed that solar thermal has so far been gravely underfinanced during the 2014-2015 calls. The cumulated budget for solar heating and cooling was EUR 4.4 million out of a total of EUR 554 million, which means a share of less than 1 %. The pie chart, which depicts the allocation of the precisely EUR 553.8 million during 2014 and 2015, makes clear that energy sources such as ocean-based ones have received almost 10 times as much funding (EUR 41.4 million), and the Biofuels/Bioenergy sector has received an almost 20 times larger share of the total budget (EUR 83 million).
Hongzhi Cheng is one of the most experienced solar thermal market researchers in China. Cheng is Deputy Secretary-General at the China Solar Thermal Industry Federation (CSTIF) based in Beijing and head of The Sun’s Vision located in Dezhou, Shandong province. He can look back at almost 20 years of solar thermal experiences – first by working in the industry and since 2006, by research with his own company, The Sun’s Vision. Solarthermalworld.org spoke with him about the big transition on the Chinese solar thermal market.
The workshop New Generation Solar Cooling & Heating Systems held in Rome, Italy, on 23 September 2015 was the opportunity to check the status of both research on and market developments in solar cooling technology. The half-day event, which had about 40 participants, was jointly organised by Task 53 of the IEA Solar Heating & Cooling Programme and the German Eastbavarian Institute for Technology Transfer, OTTI e.V., and took place a day before the start of OTTI’s 6th International Conference on Solar Air-Conditioning. Above all, the workshop provided a platform for presenting the first outcomes of the international research cooperation TASK 53 entitled New Generation Solar Cooling & Heating Systems, which was launched in March 2014, will end in 2017 and involves 10 countries, some from outside Europe (see the attached introductory presentation).
Since June 2015, the CAIXA bank owned by the Brazilian government has been offering improved financing conditions for energy-efficient housing projects built under the social housing programme Minha Casa Minha Vida (MCMV) to promote energy saving. As growing electricity demand is constantly driving up prices, the government wants to foster the use of any technology which could lower power consumption in newbuilds. Circular Caixa 681 now offers new financing conditions for projects which include energy efficiency measures – primarily, solar thermal.
In their position paper published in August 2015, the scientists of IEA SHC Task 42 (Compact Thermal Energy Storage) summed up the key results of their work between 2009 and 2015. Operating agent Matthias Rommel sees huge potential for latent heat and sorption materials in the long run – in seasonal solar heat storage for small and medium applications, as well as in the building sector. So-called smart grids will also require more heat storage units when devices such as heat pumps and co-generation plants are based on electricity grid requirements. Rommel views the definition of measurement standards for PCM materials as one of the task’s big achievements, which will help in material development. Furthermore, a research group from German research institute ZAE Bayern has performed a first cost estimate of compact heat storage technologies.
The solar heat supply system of dairy processor Bonilait Protéines, which has its factory near the French town of Poitiers, is a unique showcase in many ways. First of all, it is currently the largest solar process heat installation in France. Second, it is equipped with drainback technology delivered by Belgium company Sunoptimo. And third, it is the first solar process heat installation which is operated by EDF Optimal Solutions as an Energy Service Company. EDF Optimal Solutions is a provider of energy efficient solutions for all kinds of commercial users in a variety of sectors. The photo shows the around 1,500 m² collector field with flat plate collectors of type Vitosol 200 delivered by German heating boiler manufacturer Viessmann and installed on a support structure above the parking lot next to the factory.