Which countries are currently attractive markets for solar process heat? Different sources give different answers to this question. The chart above shows the assessment of the solar industry. More than 30 % of the Austrian solar collector manufacturers in the two surveys in 2012 and 2013 assumed that solar process heat was the fastest-growing segment in their national market. More than every tenth manufacturer in Germany, Mexico and France shared their opinion. The figure in brackets behind the country stands for the number of surveys analysed. Some of the countries, such as Germany, India, Mexico and France, have a support scheme in place which focuses on solar process heat systems.
And the winner is: Ritter XL Solar. The German large-scale turnkey system supplier was awarded the contract for a 1,422 m2 solar district heating field in the southern German town of Simmern. The solar thermal plant is part of a newly built district heating system which supplies the two communities Külz and Neuerkirch. 142 mostly residential buildings will be connected to a new, 100 % renewable heating network with a length of 5,700 m. The main heating source is a wood chip boiler, and the solar thermal system should deliver hot water over the summer months, as well as in spring and autumn. The installation of the collector field is planned for November and should take one month. It will be the largest solar collector field of Ritter XL in Germany.
Figure: Ritter XL Solar
If there were an award for the most transparent support programme in the field of solar heating and cooling, then the California Solar Initiative (CSI) – Thermal Program would get the prize. The CSI-T programme offers a regularly updated and publicly available Excel file of all submitted, approved and paid applications, and this file also includes an amazing amount of additional information, such as collector size, system supplier, contractor for the installation, total project costs or the application itself. The chart above, provided by Lewis Bichkoff, Lead Analyst of the CSI Thermal Program at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), shows the subsidised and installed collector area per year. The annual volume shows significant growth from 953 m² (10,247 ft²) installed and granted during the first year to 36,641 m² (394,401 ft²) in 2014. In 2014, there was a noticeable dominance of pool heating systems, which made up 71 % of the total subsidised collector area.
The Indian solar water heater market is undergoing a transition, from capital subsidies to a slowly intensifying market on a self-sustaining basis. The industry had to face a severe drop in volume in financial year 2014-15, with 0.88 million m² of newly installed collector area after the national capital subsidy scheme was halted in July 2014, which was almost 40 % less than in the boom year of 2012-13 with 1.43 million m². To discuss alternative ways of fostering the deployment of solar heating technology, the Solar Thermal Federation of India (STFI) joined forces with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) to organise a workshop entitled Roadmap for Solar Water Heater Business in India in New Delhi at the end of July. During the workshop, industry representatives proposed several support measure alternatives to capital subsidies – a promising one are solar obligations represented in case studies such as the successful one in Bengaluru, Karnataka state.
Since Slovakia and its 5.45 million citizens joined the European Union in 2004, the country has made considerable progress in increasing its energy efficiency and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Solar thermal technology, however, is still a niche market with stagnating annual volumes over the last three years. The European Solar Thermal Industry Federation estimates that 5,500 m² were newly installed in 2014, whereas EurObserv´Er published a figure of 7,000 m² for the same year. With 19 kW of solar thermal capacity in operation per 1,000 inhabitants at the end of 2013, there is still a lot of untapped potential given the fact that in the neighbouring Czech Republic, the parameter is significantly higher with 31 kW per 1,000 inhabitants (Source: Solar Heat Worldwide). Clients are now waiting on an already announced new subsidy scheme which should have started at the beginning of August. The photo shows a roof integration system delivered by Thermosolar, a collector manufacturer based in Slovakia.
The first solar district heating collector field in Denmark with direct-flow, aluminium absorbers from Finnish company Savo-Solar came into operation in July 2015. Municipal district heating company Løgumkloster Fjernvarme had ordered 9,400 m² of collector area (6.6 MWth) during the first phase of the project. “If we are satisfied with the performance, we will extend the collector field by 35,000 m² next year,” confirmed Peter G. Andersen, Head of Operations at Løgumkloster Fjernvarme. Savo-Solar used this demonstration project for a successful entry into the Danish district heating market, which was dominated by only one supplier, Arcon-Sunmark, since a merger in February 2015. The Finnish collector manufacturer won the tender by Jelling Varmevaerk in June 2015 and negotiated the final contract for the delivery of 15,000 m² collector area (10.5 WMth) with the municipality in southern Denmark. The utility aims at receiving the permits and confirming the contract by the beginning of November.
MANCOSA, the Solar Water Heating Manufacturers Cluster of South Africa, is raising its voice in the interest of the local solar thermal industry which has been left in a precarious situation following the termination of the Eskom rebate programme in April 2015. “The Department of Energy has let pass the self-announced deadline of July 1 without any announcement of a successor programme and has not even published any new time frame yet,” said Mike Breckenridge, Chairman of MANCOSA and Managing Director of collector manufacturer and system supplier GAP Holdings. “The industry needs a reliable framework for future investments.”
Solar thermal is economically viable in Germany in multi-family buildings – that is the clear message of the Excel-based tool which German solar thermal system supplier Remeha, a brand of the BDR Thermea Group, uses to calculate solar water heater performance at multi-family dwellings. The Excel tool was created for installers and planners to support their offers of solar hot water or space heating for blocks of flats. The tool calculates a kWh price, as well as the investment’s Internal Rate of Return. The solar heat produces the most cost-effective kWh with 43.3 EUR/MWh, assuming a 20-year lifetime. During this period, earnings are double as high as investment costs.
Graz, the capital of one of Austria’s federal states, Styria, and a city with a population of 276,000, is planning to increase the share of solar thermal in its district heating grid by 20 %. The regional utility Energie Steiermark and the Austrian turnkey provider S.O.L.I.D. agreed in June to carry out a feasibility study for a collector field of up to 500 MWth with a matching seasonal storage. The proof-of-concept study will be a joint project of regional energy providers, S.O.L.I.D. and outside specialists. The photo shows the four collector fields with a total of 7,400 m2 partially belonging to the AEVG, the municipal waste disposal company in Graz, operating since 2007, and to Energie Steiermark, operating since 2014.
The interest in technology and market research on the solar heating and cooling sector is growing. The number of countries participating in the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme (SHC) increased significantly over the last two years from 20 to 27 nations. One of the most recent entries was Turkey in 2014, represented by GÜNDER, the Turkish Section of the International Solar Energy Society (ISES). Turkey is the second-largest market after China regarding new solar thermal installations and a gateway to the MENA region, SHC chairman Ken Guthrie praised the new member in a press release this February. Large-scale installations in prisons, hotels and social housing projects are gaining in volume (see photos). The majority of the 20 key solar thermal markets worldwide are now members of the IEA SHC except for India, Brazil, USA, Israel, Greece, Japan and Poland.