DogStar Solar's Alternative Energy Updates

Sun Strikes It Hot: What’s Happening in the Global Solar Thermal Markets?
August 21, 2011, 5:31 pm
Filed under: Solar Thermal

By Jackie Jones,

August 18, 2011

London — In Europe, almost 50 percent (48 percent in 2007, to be precise) of the total energy consumed is used to produce heat. Almost a third of that goes into high-temperature industrial processes, but over 40% goes into heating and providing hot water for our homes. The remainder is used in commercial/service sectors and low-temperature industrial processes. And almost all this heat is produced from fossil fuels, whether directly or via electricity.

Partly because it needs to be produced near to its place of use, making it less tradable than electricity, heat as a commodity is generally regarded as somehow lower status than electricity. Even more so, it seems, with renewable heat – wood pellets and solar thermal just don’t seem to have the high-tech appeal of shiny PV, nor the majesty of wind turbines. Meanwhile, while the electricity industry still searches for a truly applicable form of energy storage, heat lends itself well to storage on many scales. It shouldn’t be underestimated.

Solar heat has become a surprisingly big player. According to the 2011 report from the IEA solar heating and cooling programme Solar Heat Worldwide (authored by Werner Weiss and Frank Mauthner), the solar thermal collector capacity in operation worldwide at the end of 2009 was 172.4 GWth. Across the 53 countries covered in the report, the annual yield of these water-based collectors was 141,775 GWh, or 510,338 TJ (the relatively small amount of air-based solar thermal is excluded). This corresponds to an oil equivalent of 14.4 million metric tonnes and an annual CO2 saving of 46.1 million metric tonnes.

Though the final numbers for 2010 are not in, capacity was expected to have reached 196 GWth by the end of 2010, producing 162,000 GWh of output. This level of capacity is very close to that of wind power globally (194 GW), which admittedly has a greater yield than solar thermal. However, the contribution made by solar thermal heat far exceeds the capacity and output of solar PV, geothermal power, or any other ‘new’ renewable (though biomass and large hydro contribute more).

While most of the installed capacity is currently used for production of domestic hot water – the simplest solar thermal application – the scale and range of applications is becoming much more diverse. In some European countries solar combi-systems are widely used to provide space heating in addition to hot water, and district heating by solar is also expanding. Plus, the potential for solar process heat (for commercial/industrial uses where hot water is needed) is starting to be exploited. Figure 1 (shown overleaf on page 47) shows the distribution by application in the top 10 markets.

By the end of 2009, some 59 percent of the world’s solar thermal (101.5 GWth), was installed in China, with Europe accounting for 32.5 GWth. The US and Canada had a combined capacity of 15 GWth. Much of this (over 80 percent in the US) is unglazed collectors for pool heating. These three regions together account for 86.4 percent of the global total.

Counting all solar thermal (including the unglazed collectors widely used in the US for pool heating), China, the United States and Germany are world leaders in total installed area/capacity. Turkey has retained its position as world number four. However, if unglazed collectors are removed from the calculation, Turkey and Germany are almost equally placed, behind China.

The remaining installed capacity is made up by various countries including Australia and New Zealand (5.2 GWth), Central and South America (4.7 GWth), the Asian countries of India, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand (4.6 GWth), Japan (4.3 GWth), the Middle East represented by Israel and Jordan (3.5 GWth) and a handful of African countries (1.1 GWth), namely Namibia, South Africa, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.


When it comes to new installations, 2009 was a year of impressive growth for solar thermal, with an extra 36.5 GWth of new capacity being added. This means that collector installations were up by over 25 percent on the previous year. (If the predictions in the IEA report are correct, at least 23 GWth will have been added in 2010 as well.)

And, 80.6 percent of those 2009 additions (29.40 GWth) were installed in China, with the remaining 10.2 percent installed throughout Europe. The remainder was spread between the US/Canada, Australia/New Zealand and Central/South America (about 2 percent in each of these three regions), with the rest of Asia, the Middle East and Africa making up the remainder.

The report says that Australia reported a 78.5 percent growth in annual installations of glazed water collectors in response to a new financial incentive scheme, while in Mexico, the total number of glazed water collector installation grew by 31.5 percent – mainly due to a broad market campaign for solar water heaters, with low interest rates helping.


Billion Tons of Biomass
August 21, 2011, 5:19 pm
Filed under: Biomass

A research team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory projected that the U.S. would have between 1.1 and 1.6 billion tons of available, sustainable biomass for industrial bioprocessing by 2030. The finding was a highlight of the “2011 U.S. Billion-Ton Update: Biomass Supply for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry.” The report is an update of a landmark 2005 study undertaken by the DOE and ORNL in 2005.

The report examines the nation’s capacity to produce a billion dry tons of biomass resources annually for energy uses without impacting other vital U.S. farm and forest products, such as food, feed, and fiber crops. The study provides industry, policymakers, and the agricultural community with county-level data and includes analyses of current U.S. feedstock capacity and the potential for growth in crops and agricultural products for clean energy applications.

According to the DOE, “with continued developments in biorefinery capacity and technology, the feedstock resources identified could produce about 85 billion gallons of biofuels – enough to replace approximately 30 percent of the nation’s current petroleum consumption.”

Current usage of biomass

From the report: “Biomass energy consumption (excluding biobased products) was reported at 184 million dry tons in the 2005 BTS. More than 50 percent of this consumption was estimated to be in the forest products industry, with equal amounts used in other processing industries, electric power generation, and the residential and commercial sectors. A relatively small fraction (less than 10%) was used to make biofuels. Based on the most recent EIA data, current biomass energy consumption is nearly 200 million dry tons, or 4 percent of total primary energy consumption.

“About 17 percent of this consumption is space heating in the residential and commercial sectors. The source of this biomass is nearly all fuelwood. The electric power sector represents a small percentage of total biomass consumption (8 percent) and uses a variety of biomass feedstocks—fuelwood, MSW biomass, MSW landfill gas, and biosolids (or sewage sludge).

In 2009, nearly 60 percent of biomass-derived electric power consumption was from MSW sources. Transportation accounts for 31 percent of total consumption, with ethanol used in gasoline blending accounting for most (90 percent) of the total. Biodiesel accounts for 8 percent, and the remainder is E85 (85 percent ethanol fuel) and other biomass liquids. The industrial sector accounts for 44 percent of total biomass energy consumption. Most of this amount (nearly 90 percent) is wood and waste wood. MSW, landfill gas, and biosolids account for the remainder.”