A rather extensive project in India designed to measure the cost effectiveness of solar thermal technology for process heat has shown good promise through more than a dozen case studies. The project, known as SoPro India, is a partnership between the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and the German Agency for International Cooperation.
SoPro India started with the installation of solar thermal systems at 27 locations around the country. Among them, 15 locations were chosen as case studies for measuring the effectiveness of the solutions in providing cost-effective process heat. The 15 facilities cover different sectors from food processing to textiles to manufacturing.
According to Solar Thermal World magazine, the case studies demonstrated efficiency of 20% that would lead to a return on investment (ROI) of between two and three years. The ROI can be shorter or longer, based on future energy prices for fossil fuels. Nonetheless, an ROI of three years is pretty standard for solar thermal.
Solar Thermal for Process Heat
The installations we concentrate on at Solar America Solutions tend to be geared toward providing space heat and hot water for commercial buildings. But we have been involved in some process heat installations as well. They are very similar in terms of both theory and practice.
In a process heat installation, our SunQuest 250®™ solar collector panel collects solar energy using evacuated tube technology. That energy is transferred to a thermal liquid that runs through the system and into a heat exchanger where it can be extracted.Harvested energy can then be stored or used immediately for process heat.
The only difference in a space heat or hot water scenario is that the harvested energy is used for different purposes. The process of creating that energy is the same. This is what they are doing in India as well. For example, two of the case studies in the SoPro India project are as follows:
- Himachal Dairy – The dairy uses a system consisting of a heat exchanger and several collector circuits set up in parallel. A 20% efficiency rating was achieved with very little modification from the original design. However, engineers believe they can boost efficiency as high as 40% by optimizing the flow of thermal liquid on both sides of the heat exchanger.
- Synthokem Labs – The installation at this facility provides both process heat and hot water. Separate collector fields are used for both, though engineers are thinking of increasing efficiency by combining them into a single circuit.
Solar Thermal World reports that investors are happy with the current 20% efficiency and ROI. As such, there are no immediate plans to modify the systems to achieve a higher efficiency. But 40% is certainly not out of the question. Perhaps the success that SoPro India has demonstrated thus far will motivate engineers to modify current systems and design future installations with a higher efficiency rating.
Solar Thermal for Your Building
Back here at home, Solar America Solutions continues to lead the way in developing effective solar thermal solutions for commercial buildings and industrial enterprises. Our industry-leading SunQuest 250®™ solar collector panel has set performance standards the rest of the industry is working to catch up to. Our panel is capable of output temperatures in excess of 400°F and up to 35,000 BTUs per hour.
A Solar America Solutions system is perfect for commercial buildings because it has an extremely small footprint compared to its high output potential. For more information about how solar thermal can save your commercial building or enterprise money, feel free to contact us.
1. Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/india-process-heat-system-monitoring-shows-fair-performance-room-improvement