“Renewable heat generation should be privileged in the Building Regulations §35”

2021-11-25T08:53:52+01:00Oct 7th, 2021|

There is a lack of land available in Germany for solar district heating systems due to the complexity of the land-use plan procedure. Bene Müller, Co-Director for Sales and Marketing at solarcomplex AG in southern Germany thinks that renewable district heating plants should be privileged according to paragraph 35 of the German Building Regulations, otherwise decarbonisation of the heating sector will not be possible.

Mr Bühler of the company Ritter XL said in an interview: “The German solar local heating market could be larger if sufficient land area was available”. Do you agree with him?
Müller: Yes, certainly. But fundamentally, enough land exists, it is just not easily available. The land for large solar heat projects has to be found right next to built-up areas. Agricultural land already competes with building land. In addition, solar district heating plants or infrastructure for regenerative heat generation in general are generally not privileged.

What would privileging mean and how could it be realised?
Müller: Paragraph 35 of the Building Regulations lists the types of project that can be privileged for planning and realisation on the edges of towns and communities. All building projects for the general supply of electricity are covered in these paragraphs. Wind power has also been included since 1997.
Here, federal policy makers are called upon to include general regenerative heat supply systems. For planners this would mean that planning permission is still required but no land-use plan procedure would be necessary before this. This hurdle certainly needs to be abolished.

What tasks are planners faced with in a land-use plan procedure?
Müller: The land-use plan procedure is very complex. It includes glare analysis reports, environmental aspects and the tedious assessment of alternatives. The latter is particularly obstructive because one can be happy to have found a suitable site at all. Having to prove that the site is better than others, even though these are purely fictitious, is an unnecessary hurdle. If district heating systems are to become the norm, the authorisation procedures need to be simplified.

Have you also experienced these difficulties in finding suitable land areas for wind turbines or PV?
Müller: Yes, there are also difficulties there, but the situation is different because with photovoltaics and wind turbines there is more freedom in selecting the location. A solar collector field always has to be constructed near to the heating network in order to minimize the losses in the connecting pipework.

Despite these planning hurdles, solarcomplex now operates 18 CO2-optimized heating networks in Germany. What is your recipe for success?
Müller: We now have many reference projects, so word has got around among mayors and local councillors. We often get a follow-up project from a nearby town when the heating network in the neighbouring community is in successful operation. However, the economic arguments are also important. We don’t make an extra charge for the building costs, which means that any heating customer can be connected to the heating network free of charge, and we offer competitive prices for the heat.

How do you achieve inexpensive heat prices despite the high initial investment costs?
Müller: Mostly we use waste heat from biogas plants, which we get for nothing from the farmers. The operators of the biogas plants receive a higher cogeneration bonus if the waste heat is utilised. In networks without any waste-heat potential we have constructed solar thermal plants, which also provide heat at a stable price of 2.5 EUR-ct/kWh, which is still very cheap. One should not forget that around half of the cost of the heat is dependent on the capital costs for the high investment in the new heating network. For each local heating network several million EUR are buried in the ground!

So what exactly is your business model?
Müller: We plan, build and operate a heating network in the streets of a community, with which we conclude a concession contract as a basis. Then we supply as many buildings as possible, including public once, with renewable heat. Nobody is obliged to connect to the system, we simply need to be economically attractive. Of course, we conclude heat supply contracts with as many customers as possible, before we start the construction work.

The interview was conducted by Bärbel Epp.

Source can be found here.

Costs of solar heat projects are falling

2021-08-17T16:31:17+02:00Jul 16th, 2021|

The IRENA report Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2020 illustrates how the competitiveness of solar and wind power improved dramatically in the decade 2010 to 2020.

Thanks to the support of the Solar Payback project, the flagship publication now also includes a chapter on Renewable Heat Costs, highlighting cost trends for solar district heating systems across the world.

Written by Michael Taylor and his team at the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), it shows how even existing coal plants are increasingly vulnerable to being undercut by renewables. Taylor was deeply appreciative of the cooperation between IRENA and Solar Payback during the data gathering process: “We see real added value from this approach, as our data is going to help inform policy makers and will assist modelers trying to incorporate different solar heat technologies into their scenarios,” he said.

In all, 32 solar heat project developers and technology suppliers and four funding agencies from around the world contributed to creating a database full of cost and performance data on over 1,760 projects totaling 935 MWth.

The newly added chapter highlights how strongly system costs fell in Austria and Germany in the last years. From 2013 to 2020, the 89 projects listed for Austria saw a 55 % decrease in weighted-average total installed costs. The 209 systems built in Germany showed a 45 % drop between 2014 and 2020. A key cost reduction factor in Austria in 2019 and 2020 was the much larger average size of installations put up during that period, according to IRENA. In Germany, reductions were the result of a maturing supply chain.

One country that stands out in the cost data analysis is Mexico, where rich solar resources and strong competition between mature suppliers helped push the levelised cost of heat (LCOH) to as low as 3.9 USD-cent/kWh in 2020.

The IRENA document also highlights the economies of scale achieved by experienced manufacturers and suppliers operating in Europe’s district heating market. The whole report is available here.

Source and full article: www.solarthermalworld.org
Image: IRENA/Solar Payback

SDH factsheet database is online

2021-08-18T11:29:39+02:00Jun 1st, 2021|

The IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme has just launched a database containing a substantial number of fact sheets about solar district heating technologies, best practices and markets. 29 documents, written by the most experienced SDH researchers and practitioners from China and Europe, are available online.

The creators collaborated on the four-year IEA SHC Task 55 – Towards the Integration of Large Solar Systems into District Heating and Cooling Networks. The new online resource offers valuable insights into SDH research and showcases by providing information on feasibility studies, the monitoring of large solar fields, the design of hybrid technologies and business models. Some highlights of its content are:

  • Country Reports: Spanning 34 pages, fact sheet D-D4 gives a detailed overview of seven prospering SDH markets, namely Austria, China, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.
  • Solar Heat for Cities: Fact sheet D-D2, an investor brochure, showcases nine SDH systems built, with satisfied investors explaining their reasons for choosing a mix of technologies, including solar energy, to reduce their dependence on fossil fuel or be able to lower the heat prices they charge to customers.
  • On-site tests of collector arrays: Fact sheet B-D1.2, on the other hand, compares methods to monitor the performance of an installed solar field. This paper helps manufacturers, plant designers and operators choose a suitable method for giving them the information they need. Testing procedures are based on measurement data for an entire solar field, excluding distribution pipes, and make use of a solar field model that includes corrective factors, to account for variables influencing the yield.
  • Going big on SDH: Fact sheet D-D1 analyses business models and technology solutions for large solar heat systems with high solar fractions in cities.

The SDH marketing package also includes 11 infographics illustrating the advantages of the technology and the policies in place to support it. The files, available in English, German and French, can be downloaded in JPG or PDF format and be used free of charge in third-party publications. All 29 fact sheets are available for download at https://task55.iea-shc.org/fact-sheets.

Source and full article: www.solarthermalworld.org
Image: IEA SHC Task 55

SDH plant performs well in Swiss winter conditions

2021-08-18T09:52:00+02:00Mar 25th, 2021|

A new solar district heating plant in Geneva, Switzerland, is basking in the limelight of Swiss politics, with environmental minister Simonetta Sommaruga personally attending the start-up of the system at the end of February 2021. The 816 m2 solar field consists of special high-vacuum flat panels supplying heat to Geneva’s district heating network at a temperature of 85 °C, even in winter.

The installation helps meet the objectives of Geneva canton’s Energy Master Plan 2020-2030, approved in early December 2020. The SDH system (operated by the SIG utility) was designed by Geneva-based TVP Solar to deliver 516 MWh a year, which corresponds to a specific annual yield of 632 kWh/m2. This is significantly higher than the typical Danish SDH plants which produce between 321 kWh/m2 to 500 kWh/m2 per year, the average being 409 kWh/m2, according to one IEA SHC publication.

The plant is one of several innovative clean energy systems SIG has implemented in the last years. The solar field, which was mounted onto a roof at SIG headquarters in Vernier’s Le Lignon district in Geneva canton, is equipped with 80 performance-tracking sensors.

A press release put the demonstration project’s budget at CHF 2 million, of which CHF 800,000 was spent on the solar field. “Including the CAPEX of the solar field, you get to a heat price of about 70 CHF/MWh over 20 years. That’s a very competitive proposition for zero-carbon heat in Switzerland. Across Geneva, clean biofuel energy costs 100 CHF/MWh,” noted Guglielmo Cioni, Vice President of Business Development at TVP Solar.

The distinctive characteristic of this particular SDH plant is its high output in wintertime. To reduce energy losses, especially during cold winter days, the absorbers are located inside an evacuated casing. “Another advantage of high vacuum insulation is that it takes very little time to ramp up the temperature in the morning. The solar field reaches the required 85 °C in just a few minutes, even if it is partially covered in snow,” Cioni said about his company’s experience of operating the plant during the first weeks after start-up.

TVP’s most important panel-related patent describes a new method for joining glass plates and metal frames to ensure a high enough vacuum inside the collectors. Thanks to the small size of the contact areas between the internal absorber and the metal frame, heat losses are reduced to a minimum, but enough heat is transferred to the casing for the snow to start melting.

Organisations mentioned in this article:

Source and full article: www.solarthermalworld.org
Image: SIG

Spotlight on SDH potential in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria

2021-03-11T20:28:45+01:00Feb 2nd, 2021|

Solar thermal will have a key role to play in growing western Europe’s solar district heating markets over the next decades.

Dutch, German and Austrian SDH experts updated attendees during a workshop organized by IEA SHC research platform Task 55 on the current situation and the potential in their respective markets. For example, the collector area installed in Germany, they said, could triple from about 100,000 m2 used in 41 systems today to more than 300,000 m2 by 2025 (see the chart above). As announced in December 2020, the country’s soon-to-be biggest SDH plant will have 13 MWth, a good deal more than the 10 MWth installation in Ludwigsburg (10 MWth). This new plant will be put up in Greifswald, in northeast Germany, and is scheduled for completion by 2022.

Luuk Beurskens, of TNO, Netherlands’ organization for applied scientific research, presented the initiative for a Solar Thermal Roadmap (“Aanzet tot Routekaart Zonnewarmte”). The authors of the 32-page report looked at what experts had to say about the solar thermal market in the Netherlands, and what actions need to be taken for a strong growth in the years ahead. The Dutch building sector alone could potentially see its solar capacity grow from 1.2 PJ in 2019 to 35 PJ in 2050. And adding seasonal heat storage could raise the country’s solar potential to as much as 54 PJ, which would be enough to meet 26 % of the total demand for thermal energy by 2050. The assessment shows important potential contributions to be provided by individual residential systems (34.3 PJ) and new solar district heating networks (18.8 PJ).

Hamid Aghaie, of the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), spoke about a possible evolution of Austria’s DH sector and the role of solar thermal over the next decade. Currently, 60 % of the country’s district heat is generated by CHP plants, though heat pumps and solar thermal are expected to increase their share in the market.

Using open-source dispatch and the investment model Balmorel, AIT estimated what proportion of Austria’s DH capacity solar thermal systems could provide by 2030. The results show that the share of solar heat in DH networks could increase by a factor of 60, from essentially zero in 2018 to 3.8 %, in 10 years. At the same time, demand for district heat would grow from 23 to 28 TWh.

Source and full article: solarthermalworld.org

Graph: Solites

Quick Check BIOSOL: New tool helps utilities make the right choices

2021-03-11T20:21:49+01:00Jan 27th, 2021|

As early as November 2020, the national association Austria Solar put a new decision-making tool called Quick Check BIOSOL on its website. In essence, the program helps plant owners to find out whether their district heating networks could benefit from solar heat integration.

At a German-language webinar following the upload, Austria Solar’s Managing Director Roger Hackstock explained how the tool works. It requires only a couple of basic system parameters to determine whether solar collectors can supply as much energy in summer as the biomass or fossil fuel boilers grid operators have in place today.

According to March 2018 data, 1,546 of Austria’s 2,108 biomass plants used for heating are also run in summer despite some drawbacks. For one, the devices produce soot, which hampers efficiency and increases wood chip consumption. Switching to solar thermal can solve these issues, reduce operation cost, and lower air pollution. But instead of immediately turning to detailed – and costly – feasibility studies on solar district heating sites and systems, stakeholders can now use Quick Check BIOSOL for a first, free analysis of whether a retrofit is worth the effort. The tool was developed in partnership with several Austrian experts and was sponsored by solar thermal system supplier Gasokol.

The tool utilises only a dozen parameters, including buffer tank volume, annual district heating demand, usable roof surface, grid temperature in summer, boiler type (biomass or fossil) and type of auxiliary heating (heat pump, waste heat or CHP system). Aside from that, the tool will automatically fill in some values, for example, the average collector yield. Almost immediately after entering the parameters, a note pops up, indicating a system’s potential for solar heat integration. This means the tool shows how much collector area is needed to replace a boiler partly or entirely in summer and how much land the collectors require if roof space is limited. In addition, Quick Check BIOSOL provides recommendations e.g. on how to reduce grid temperatures and more.

You can find a recording of the webinar and Hackstock’s presentation at:  www.solarwaerme.at
Austria Solar’s Quick Check Biosol: www.solarwaerme.at/biosol-quickcheck
Source and full article: solarthermalworld.org
Photo: Solid

World´s largest solar district heating plant with concentrating collectors

2021-03-11T15:38:03+01:00Sep 28th, 2020|

The Chinese parabolic trough collector manufacturer Inner Mongolia XuChen Energy has successfully operated a huge solar district heating plant since 2016 in a village near Baotou in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of China.

The installation in Baotou consists of two fields of parabolic trough collectors, a 22,000 m2 rooftop field on XuChen’s factory hall next to the company’s headquarters and a 71,000 m2 system put up at ground level. The 93,000 m2 (65 MWth) SDH plant is the world’s second-largest after Denmark’s Silkeborg (110 MWth) installation but the biggest using concentrating collectors. It provides 500,000 m2 of residential buildings, buildings in a neighbouring industrial zone and a shopping mall with solar heat.

The 93,000 m2 solar plant is part of the government’s green heat policy to improve air quality in China’s northern provinces and phase out coal boilers. This policy is part of the overall trend to improve social living conditions and provide affordable housing which is summarized under the slogan “livelihood”- a term created by the Chinese government. Wang confirmed that the installation of the solar plant in Baotou is the first livelihood project introducing solar space heating to the region. ‘The government has completely taken over the RMB 0.55 billion in capital costs for the solar field, including the storage tank and the newly built heat network,’ Wang explained in an interview with solarthermalworld.org. This 100 % public subsidy was what prompted XuCheng’s investment in a collector factory in the same city. XuChen, founded in spring 2016, also invested Renminbi (RMB) 1.05 billion, i.e., USD 154.7 million, in putting up headquarters as well as a 50,000 m2 factory for parabolic trough collectors in Baotou’s green industrial park.

Solar heat transported to nearby heat consumers by truck

Wang said that he has observed an increase in solar heat demand from China’s northern provinces. He added that surplus heat generated in summer, when none of the buildings connected to the SDH system require space heating, is transported by truck to nearby consumers, including hotels, swimming pools and spas. As China’s green heat policy requires the phase-out of coal boilers and because heat pumps rack up high electricity bills, purchasing solar heat from Baobou’s SDH plant is an economically viable option for those requiring large amounts of heat all year round.

Another huge solar district heating system is currently being built by XuChen in Han Dan, in the north of China. According to Wang, this plant will provide heat to a new all-weather, four season ecotourism vacation and leisure park. Due to the green heat policy of the government the construction of the leisure park would not have been possible without a source of clean energy for heating, in this case provided by SDH.

Sources and full article: solarthermalworld.org
Photo: XuChen

Acquisition of strategic importance for the SDH sector

2020-04-29T10:46:04+02:00Apr 3rd, 2020|

Beginning of April, a historic acquisition took place in the solar heating and cooling industry. Greenonetec, the largest collector manufacturer in Europe, purchased key parts of the business of Danish-based Arcon-Sunmark, the European leader in developing solar district heating projects.

The acquisition followed months-long negotiations between Greenonetec CEO Robert Kanduth and Torben Sørensen, Group Executive Officer at VKR Holding, the corporate group that owns Arcon-Sunmark. VKR Holding decided to terminate most of the solar thermal business within the group because of huge price drops faced by suppliers of large solar fields and fluctuations in the contracting market, which resulted in considerable losses for Arcon-Sunmark in recent years.

The week started with the publication of a press release stating that parts of Arcon-Sunmark will be sold off because of a large financial deficit in recent years. “The financial development with heavy losses is intolerable,” Thomas Karst, current CEO of Arcon-Sunmark, is quoted as saying in the press release from 30 March. “We are sorry about the situation. However, we respect the decision of the owners.”

Three days later, on 2 April, Arcon-Sunmark sent out a second press release stating that Greenonetec acquired key assets of Arcon-Sunmark and that the Chinese Solareast Group (which owns the Sunrain and Micoe brands) bought the shares in Chinese-Danish joint venture Solareast Arcon-Sunmark Large-Scale Solar Systems Integration, which has put up two solar district heating plants in Tibet over the last years.

“We have taken an important step towards consolidating the solar thermal industry by bringing Arcon-Sunmark’s extensive expertise in project development and large-scale collector production to our highly streamlined solar manufacturing business,” Kanduth explained. He plans to integrate the fully automated production line for large-scale collectors into the company’s factory in Austria and retain the majority of the project development and sales team of Arcon-Sunmark. He also confirmed that he wants to focus on sales and project development in Europe and North America and has no plans for the Asian market. The latter is why Arcon-Sunmark’s assets in Asia, including the factory in Vietnam, were split off and sold to the Solareast Group.

Source and full article: solarthermalworld.org

Picture: Arcon-Sunmark

Significant growth in the German solar district heating market in 2019

2020-04-28T16:59:40+02:00Feb 27th, 2020|

Mainly public utilities have installed large solar thermal collector arrays in Germany in the year 2019. The new solar thermal collector arrays for the application in district heating networks cover a total area of around 35,000 square metres. This means that the installed peak power has increased by around 50 percent.

According to the Steinbeis Research Institute Solites in Stuttgart, around 70 megawatts of solar thermal capacity is available for district heating systems in Germany. Some of the new systems are scheduled to start operation in the beginning of 2020. However, as the collector fields have already been erected in 2019, the growth in solar district heating is already prepared. The map below gives an overview of the plants in operation, in planning and in preparation in Germany.

Stadtwerke Ludwigsburg-Kornwestheim, for example, supplied solar heat into the grid for the first time in the course of the first quarter of 2020. With 14,800 square metres, the collector field is currently the largest of its kind in Germany. In Bernburg the situation is similar. Here, the thermal storage is all that is missing for the full operation of the solar thermal collector field that has already been installed in December. The municipal utility of Bernburg plans to finalize it in spring 2020.

“In 2019, mainly municipal utilities in urban areas discovered solar district heating for themselves,” summarized Thomas Pauschinger, member of the Solites management board. Pauschinger considers it a remarkable development that solar heat is now an economically interesting alternative to conventional energy sources for district heating network operators. Key in this development were certainly many successful reference plants and many good arguments as the fact that solar heat supports decarbonising the district heating networks.

Large-scale solar district heating is technically mature. The information of good operating results of the first commercial plants has spread among German utilities. The disadvantage of renewable energies of high investment costs has been addressed and is met with strong governmental support programmes. Thus, the advantage of permanently low operating costs are even more convincing. Furthermore, the decided CO₂ price contributes to further growth and market prospects for large solar thermal systems.

However, the status quo of large solar district heating systems should not be overestimated, Pauschinger emphasizes: “The share of solar heat in district heating sales is still low today. However, we assume a market potential of around 20 gigawatts and expect the market to continue to grow in the coming years”.

Text and map: Solites
Picture: Guido Bröer

SDH prefeasibility studies for Serbian cities

2020-04-28T15:30:11+02:00Feb 19th, 2020|

Renewable district heating has become a hot topic in Serbia. The conference Renewable Energy Sources in District Heating and Cooling, held at the same time as the 50th International HVAC&R Congress and Exhibition in early December in Belgrade, attracted more than 400 attendees.

“The great interest shown by experts and the media during the December conference helped us a lot in forging new relationships with high-level representatives for municipalities, local governments and public utility companies to raise the profile of SDH,” said Bojan Bogdanovic, who launched the event. He is also Principal Fund Manager of Renewable District Energy in the Western Balkans (ReDEWeB), a programme supported by Austria and implemented by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

ReDEWeB has already supported several prefeasibility and feasibility studies on solar district heating in Serbia and Kosovo. The most advanced project in terms of planning is the one in the Serbian town of Pancevo, where the two-year test of a 906 m² solar field put up in January 2017 has convinced the local council of the benefits of solar heat. Together with the Kotež power plant, the field supplies hot water to about 2,200 citizens. The council then commissioned the installation of 198 large collectors, mounted onto the roof of the Kotež plant, to meet an even higher share of the hot water needs in the district heating network with solar energy. The council members are now looking into adding an SDH system with seasonal storage. A prefeasibility study prepared by the Austrian engineering firm Solid mentions a 35,000 m² field of collectors, 150,000 m³ of storage volume and a 15 MW absorption heat pump.

All presentations from the 50th International HVAC&R Congress have been posted online and are available for download here.

Source and full article: solarthermalworld.org
Picture: Milica Knežević for SMEITS©2019

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