The pandemic is to blame for the fact that the Chinese solar thermal market shrank significantly in 2022, against expectations. The collector area produced in China last year was 12 % lower than in the previous year. The market volume was 16.5 GWth (23.73 million m2) according to the “2022 China Solar Thermal Industry Operation Status Report” published in mid March. Sales of flat plate collectors dropped even more (-19 %) than those of vacuum tube collectors (-10 %). The solar thermal industry had forecast growing sales at the beginning of 2022 due to the new National Building Code, which came into force on 1 April 2022. Among other technologies, the code states clearly that new buildings should include solar energy systems and their service life should be more than 15 years. Source: 2022 China Solar Thermal Industry Operation Status Report
“The lockdown related to the pandemic had a very strong impact on the solar thermal market as people were unable to work and conduct their sales activities”, explained Hongzhi Cheng, Managing Director of Sun’s Vision, who is one of the authors of the annual industry report on behalf of the Chinese Solar Thermal Industry Federation (CSTIF). Furthermore, the construction industry was unable to finalise many projects due to strict lockdowns. The housing sector is one of the most important pillars of the solar thermal industry.
Construction of SolarThermal+ in full swing
Due to the pandemic, there were delays in the construction of the Water World leisure resort in Handan, with its 77 MW parabolic trough field. According to the original plan, the resort should have opened its doors at the end of 2022. The opening is now scheduled for this year and construction is well-advanced, as evidenced by photos in an online report dated 5 April.
The parabolic trough field will produce thermal oil at 180 °C to supply heat for space heating and snowmaking, and is backed up by electric boilers. The project is named SolarThermal+ and serves as a demonstration project for China´s Double Carbon Strategy.
Construction photos of the leisure park in Handan, a city in the northern Chinese province of Hebei, with its Water World (high building on the left). The sub-construction for the parabolic trough mirrors of the 77 MW plant has already been installed on the roof of the car parking area (photo on the right). Photos taken from the online news article: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/HgdYfiE4HV-4lAnZM1nf2g
Engineering segment remains strong in 2022
Chinese statistics differentiate between standardised small residential solar water heaters and “engineered” solar thermal solutions, meaning larger systems used in, for example, industry, agriculture, public institutions, hotels and residential housing projects. According to the Status Report the new collector capacity in the engineering segment remained stable in 2022 compared to the previous year (see table below). Conversely, this means that the decline in sales to private customers caused the market slump in 2022.
|Collector capacity in the engineering segment (GWth)||14.0||13.6||13.8|
|Total newly installed solar thermal capacity (GWth)||18.9||18.9||16.6|
|Share of engineering segment||74%||72%||83%|
The share of the engineering segment within the total market volume in the past three years. The figures also include a portion of unspecified collector exports. Source: 2022 China Solar Thermal Industry Operation Status Report
A special “engineered” project is the 5,335 m2 vacuum tube collector system (heat pipes) for the Intercontinental Resort Jiuzhai Paradise in the mountains of Sichuan Province. The collectors were installed in 2021 on a steel structure platform on the roofs of the seven guest room houses, so that they leave room for other housing equipment units such as the air conditioning. The solar system provides hot water at 60 °C for the around 1,020 five-star guest rooms and the Indoor Hot Spring Club with swimming pools etc. Gas and oil boilers are used as backup heaters. Photo: Intercontinental Resort Jiuzhai Paradise / Himin Solar
Websites of organisations mentioned in this news article:
2022 China Solar Thermal Industry Operation Status Report
Handan Water World Resort
Intercontinental Resort Jiuzhai Paradise