Data supplied by a German company to planners and installers shows that solar thermal costs less than oil or gas when providing space heat and hot water for large buildings of residential flats. The data is part of a comprehensive spreadsheet made available to the planners of new construction projects. More importantly, the data may be a harbinger of very good things to come for Germany’s solar thermal sector.
It should be noted that the data produced by Rhema, a subsidiary of the BDR Thermea Group, only applies to the energy used to generate space heat and hot water in multi-family dwellings. It does not necessarily indicate that solar thermal is better than gas or oil for every application. Having said that, what the data does show is very important.
Germany is currently in the midst of very high demand for solar thermal installations in response to the requirements of that country’s Renewable Energy Heat Act. According to Rhema officials, their data is important because builders and planners need to know that the solar thermal systems they are advocating actually perform up to expectations while also cutting costs. They want to be confident in the technology they are pushing.
Solar Thermal by the Numbers
Rhema’s data is based on an analysis of both installation and ongoing energy costs, compared to heating area, water usage, and the use of certain appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines. When a 20-year lifespan is assumed for associated equipment, solar thermal comes in at a cost of €43.3 /MWh. Gas-driven boilers come in at 60 eur/MWh while the cost of gas boilers is noted at €80 /MWh.
The data goes on to show cost savings over a 20-year span, comparing solar thermal installations with gas and oil. Solar thermal would save approximately €39,253 over 20 years with a combination of incentives and the use of some conventional heating components. Even without the incentives and components, the savings represented by solar thermal over gas and oil amount to approximately €23,755.
Solar Thermal for Commercial Projects
We find the German data to be very compelling due to the complex nature of deploying solar thermal for space heat and hot water in multi-family dwellings. We have some experience in this area, having installed our own patented SunQuest 250 systems in college dorm buildings. The two environments are similar enough to require common installation designs.
Using solar thermal in this way is a matter of installing solar collector panels on available roof space or land adjacent to the building in question. Obviously, roof space is preferred because it keeps the panels away from vandals and offers desirable open space for optimal UV ray exposure. The solar collector panels absorb the sun’s energy, transferring that energy to a thermal transfer fluid , which can then be moved into a heat exchanger for storage or to produce hot water or space heat.
Solar thermal is more effective for these kinds of applications than photovoltaic because it is exponentially more efficient. Rather than converting sunlight into direct current, solar thermal produces heat that can be used for many purposes.
Solar America Solutions’ patented SunQuest 250 solar panel collector is the workhorse of our highly effective solar thermal system. The collector panel is based on a proven evacuated tube design utilizing materials capable of capturing ultraviolet energy rather than having to rely on infrared (heat) rays from the sun. This means our collector panels can still produce maximum output even on cloudy and overcast days or on the coldest winter days.
The German data clearly shows solar thermal to be superior to gas and oil for some applications. It might be the right solution for your commercial or industrial building as well.
- Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/germany-solar-heat-costs-less-oil-and-gas-multi-family-buildings