Swiss association presents master plan for solar heat

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At the solar heat conference in Switzerland at the end of May, the trade association Swissolar presented their master plan "Solar Heat Switzerland 2035". With this, the association wants to show how heat production with solar collectors can be put back on track towards growth. The construction of large plants on apartment buildings or industrial buildings to generate process heat is central to the plan. The association warns in its press release that the contribution of domestic, renewable solar energy to the success of the energy turn-around is still underestimated.

Sales of solar collectors have been declining in Switzerland since 2010. The master plan presented by Swissolar shows how the market, and thus the use of solar heat potential, can be stimulated. The current collector surface area of about 1 million m2 could be tripled by 2020 through the implementation of the proposed measures, and increased to around 15 million m2 by 2035. That corresponds approximately to the surface area of the City of Geneva.

Swissolar estimates that this area is sufficient to meet at least 10% of Switzerland's total heating needs with solar collectors by 2035. About 200 million m2 of suitable roof and facade area are available for use with solar energy. This means that space is not a problem, even if photovoltaics expand massively at the same time.

For solar water heating in renovated single-family houses, Swissolar recommends the introduction of a minimum proportion of 50% of water heating with renewable energy in new buildings and heating replacement, as is already the case in the canton of Basel. The simplification of existing systems in order to reduce costs is to be subsidised with a solar heat innovation fund. With a budget of CHF 500,000 over three years from federal research funds, small projects in cooperation between research institutes and manufacturers should be initiated quickly and efficiently. Single-family houses are the dominant market segment, with more than half of all installed equipment.

In order to achieve the desired market growth, new market segments need to be developed. The master plan identifies rooftops and facades of residential buildings, school buildings, homes, catering businesses, hotels and hospitals as having the greatest exploitable potential. To be able to tap into this market, increased financial incentives for builders are needed as well as assessment of solar yields on a regular basis, to quickly detect malfunctions and ensure quality.

An enormous, and as yet largely untapped potential exists on industrial and commercial buildings to generate solar heat for industrial processes. Pilot projects demonstrate how the sun can be used in these cases - for example on dairy farms. The master plan therefore proposes a market launch programme for 50 innovative large-scale plants, which is to be subsidised using federal and canton funds. A similar programme has been very successful in Austria.

Katharina Ertmer

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