Harnessing solar thermal energy for district heating

Date: 17 February 2015

Renewable and emission-free heat produced from solar energy is still not being exploited to the full. In many cases distributors feel using combined heat and power (CHP) sources alongside solar thermal energy will be too inefficient. SDHplus aims to help our rural and urban areas get the most out of cheaper, greener, more secure supplies of energy by offering technical, theoretical and economic insight along with concrete examples of best practices.

Benefiting from the sun’s warmth
Solar district heating systems collect the sun’s energy over large areas, storing it and feeding it into the heating grid. This can generate enough to supply heat and hot water to areas of towns or whole villages.

“Various system concepts have been realised in the last 25 years for the different situations in the EU countries. Today the technology is ready to use.” says Project Coordinator Thomas Pauschinger, of the Steinbeis Research and Innovation Centre ltd.

However, conditions are not the same from country to country: a solution found in one place may not be applicable in another. The project sets out to develop new market strategies, such as green tariffs, which can be applied across the board to boost uptake.

“A challenge we face is to find the right door opener for this technology: Win-win situations often result from combining the legislative and economic framework with the specific interests of the active local stakeholders and the citizens.” Mr Pauschinger explained.

The practical impact
SDHplus has been running since 2012, bringing together countries with a lot of experience with those who see the potential but have only recently started to explore the possibilities.

Eighteen pilot studies and 13 business models are set out on the project’s website. New plants have been planned in the newcomer countries France, Italy, Poland and 140 people have taken part in training sessions. After the project the conferences will continue as self-financed events organised by district heating associations.

The project is funded through the Intelligent Energy Europe programme. New funding opportunities are available under the Horizon 2020 programme.

Source: the European Commission