German-backed initiative to help increase use of solar energy in industrial processes

3rd March 2017 By: David Oliveira - Creamer Media Staff Writer

The South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi) and the Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAGCCI) announced last month that they had teamed up for the international Solar Payback project, which aims to increase the use of solar thermal energy in industrial processes through a variety of inter-related initiatives.

Supported by the German Federal Environment Ministry and funded by the International Climate Initiative, the three-year project, which started in September last year, will be implemented in South Africa, India, Mexico and Brazil. It is coordinated by the German Solar Association (BSW-Solar) and 11 partner organisations.

Facilitators from Germany include research institute Fraunhofer ISE, the German Investment & Development Corporation and communications and market research agency solrico.

The project will be jointly implemented in South Africa by Johannesburg-based Sanedi and the SAGCCI’s team from the Sustainable Energy Competence Centre (SECC), in Cape Town. It was launched in October 2016 and will conclude in September 2019.

Using solar heat for steam production, process heating, cleaning and surface treatment in manufacturing is still a niche market worldwide. “With Solar Payback, we aim to raise awareness about the huge market potential of solar process heat for three reasons: to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, save energy costs for investors and sharpen the competitive edge of local industries,” says BSW-Solar MD Jörg Mayer.

Sanedi Renewable Energy Centre of Research & Development centre manager Dr Karen Surridge-Talbot points out that awareness of the benefits of solar heating in South Africa is still low, despite increasing electricity prices and talk of carbon taxes being implemented in the country, while highlighting the importance for the industrial and commercial sectors of putting in place energy-saving measures.

“Solar Payback can play a key role in increasing production businesses’ knowledge about and confidence in the promise of renewable energy,” she asserts.

Solar Payback’s focus will be in-depth analysis of market barriers and drivers leading to the drafting of a solar process heat potential study designed to inform policy.

“South Africa has twice the sunshine, but only a small fraction of installed solar thermal capacity, compared with other countries,” emphasises SAGCCI SECC project manager Markus Wolf, adding that the aim of Solar Payback is to raise awareness among potential client groups – for example, in the food and beverage, textile and automotive industries, as well as among financial institutions.

To further improve trust in solar process heat technology, Solar Payback supports the construction of a best practice plant.

Key activity targets include drafting a national solar process heat potential study, and developing a financing/business tool for planners and investors to offer preliminary analyses of solar process heat plants.