Monday 16 April 2012

An Untapped Opportunity? - Solar Thermal for Industrial Process Heat

An EU research programme, So-Pro, has identified the enormous opportunity to utilize solar heating in industrial applications.  Many national markets across the EU boast levels of solar thermal deployment in residential buildings that leave the UK far behind (see earlier blog), but when it comes to industrial applications, we’re all absolute beginners.

The UK’s Renewable Heat Incentive is the first scheme of its kind in the world, and could act as a real driver for businesses that use heat in their industrial processes to consider using solar thermal to reduce their dependence on fossil fuel energy, save on bills and get cash-back from the government at the same time.

So-Pro estimates that 30% of total industrial heat demand is at temperatures below 100°C, and may therefore be suitable for solar heating.  The programme highlights a number of case studies where solar energy was successfully deployed in an industrial setting:

·         Food Industry
A producer of dried meat in Jerez de los Caballeros, Spain installed a 250 m2 solar thermal array to heat 30,000 litres of hot water storage for washing processes in production, and for cleaning of vessels and machinery. 
·         Metal Processing
An electroplating company in Rahden, Germany installed a 220 m2 solar array to support the heating of the galvanising baths to 80°C.
·         Drying
A brewery in Neumarkt, Germany installed a 72m2 solar array to preheat air for drying processes in the malt house.
·         Washing
A specialised truck washing company in Villamuriel de Cerrato, Spain installed a solar thermal system of 140m2 to heat water for washing tankers used to transport chemicals, food and industrial oils.
·         Preheating Steam Make-up Water
A laundry in Marburg, Germany installed a 57 m2 solar system to raise the temperature of make-up water feeding two gas-fired steam boilers.
The successful implementation of these bespoke renewable energy installations were found to require close cooperation between M&E contractors with a detailed understanding of their customers’ heating processes and technically competent solar suppliers or installers that could ensure the design achieved efficient use of the solar technology.

With the advent of the Renewable Heat Incentive, the stage is set for heating companies to help their customers cost-effectively reduce fossil fuel use in a wide range of commercial heating applications. 

To find out whether your application for industrial process heat may be suitable for solar heating, try this checklist of questions