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Researchers are determining which industrial processes are the most suitable for solar process heat. The picture shows large-scale flat plate collectors.
© Universität Kassel
Solar process heat

Collectors putting the heat on the automotive industry

Solar thermal energy has great potential up to 250 degrees Celsius. Apart from space heating and domestic hot water, only a fraction of it is used for other purposes. Therefore, researchers aim to make solar process heat usable in the automotive industry. A joint German-Austrian project has now been launched.

About half of the German heat consumption is for heating support, process heat makes up nearly 40 per cent and the remainder is used for domestic hot water. To date, the contribution of solar thermal energy towards regenerative heating is only just over five per cent. By 2020, the German government intends to cover 14 per cent of the total heat supply with renewable energy sources. Therefore, alternative technologies such as solar thermal energy must be put into widespread use.

The low temperature range with temperatures up to 100 degrees Celsius accounts for approximately 21 per cent of the industrial heat requirement. Together with the medium temperature range of up to 250 degrees Celsius – about ten per cent – there is a technical potential of around 16 TWh for solar process heat, with which more than three per cent of the industrial heat requirement could be covered using CO2-free solar thermal heat. This potential has by far not been exploited yet. The decisive factors at the moment are the very limited experience in the application of solar process heat and the consequent uncertainty of solar planners and advisers as well as the complex issues when it comes to planning and installation, resulting in relatively high systemic costs.

This is where a new research project comes into play. As part of the German-Austrian research project SolarAutomotive, the scientists plan to utilise solar process heat for the automotive industry and their components suppliers. "The project serves to contribute to lowering implementation barriers of solar process heat, control its performance, and make the application more attractive overall," said Dr Bastian Schmitt, Head of Process Heat at the University of Kassel. At 20 different locations – twelve of which are German companies – the researchers are examining which processes are most suitable for solar thermal heat, and how to implement the facilities both efficiently and economically. To achieve this, they have to evaluate all processes that occur for the automotive industry and their components suppliers and develop concepts for the use of solar thermal heat.

Results to be used in game-changing project ideas

The location analyses can be used to derive general integration concepts for solar process heat, which can then be used for research and development and the solar industry. "Finally, general concepts to integrate solar thermal heat into existing processes will be derived from the 20 company-specific integration concepts, which could then be used in any other industry," explained Dr Schmitt. In addition, the results are included in the development of computer-assisted tools that considerably shorten both planning time and costs as well as increase the quality and efficiency of the implemented systems. This will help solar power companies, engineering firms and energy consultants shorten the planning periods and reduce costs.

Further, up to eight flagship projects are being initiated – five of them in German companies. Bastian Schmitt is confident: "This reinforces both solar process technology as a reliable technology as well as sustainable heat supply in the industry."



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Project coordination Germany
Universität Kassel, ITE

Project partner Germany

Project coordination Austria

Project partner Austria
KPV Solar GmbH