Harnessing Solar for District Energy: Europe leading the way
Magazine article, 2008
Countries around the world are
increasingly recognizing the sun’s
tremendous potential as a renewable
energy source. According to the U.S.
Department of Energy, every hour, more
energy from sunlight strikes the Earth
than is consumed on the planet in a year.
In Europe, many large-scale centralized
solar heating systems have been taking
advantage of this abundant, environmentally
friendly energy source for the
past 30 years.
In Europe today, there are about 20
million sq m (215 million sq ft) of glazed
solar collectors used in a variety of
applications, corresponding to about
14 gigawatts of thermal power (GWth).
Most of those collectors provide heat
for or serve small thermosiphon domestic
hot water systems with just 2-3 sq m
(21.5-32.3 sq ft) of collectors. Perhaps
10 percent of the total number of systems
are hot water plus heating, while very
few are used for heating only. About
1 percent of the European collector market
comprises large-scale centralized heating
applications, with heat loads up to several
GWth. About 9 percent of the heating
loads in Europe is served by large-scale
centralized heating systems (i.e., district
heating and ‘block heating’ systems).
There is thus a need and opportunity
to connect solar heating applications to
large-scale centralized heating systems.
According to the European Solar Thermal
Technology Platform (ESTTP), that is
indeed feasible if Europe adopts a more
progressive solar district heating policy.