Innovating towards a solar thermal future
To overcome the current barriers that withhold us from utilizing the solar thermal potential, additional innovations are needed by different actors. There is a strong need for integrated solutions that are tailor-made for different sector’s needs.
To meet market demand, integrated solutions are required. Innovators can make their solutions more attractive by addressing complex, diverse energy demands. For example, by combining solar thermal panels with conventional solar PV panels for electricity, electricity and thermal energy can be generated at the same time, serving both electric and thermal energy demands. Innovators could further specialize their solar thermal technology into specific temperatures combined with the heat storage solutions. These innovations should be ready to be implemented for large-scale industrial processes.
Tailor-made plug-and-play solutions
To implement solar thermal technology for industries, applications need to be tailor-made for different sector’s needs. The food and beverages, textiles, paper and hospitality industries all have different energy demands, but the technology is suitable to serve these industries, meaning that standardization is possible. By standardizing the technology, cost-efficiency rises and the possibility for plug-and-play solutions emerges. These plug-and-play technology solutions can then be applied at smaller-scaled installations, which is particularly interesting for emerging economies. Eventually, these plug-and-play solutions can lead to quick implementation, upscaling the large-scale deployment.
Solar thermal partnerships
Solar thermal technology is ready to be implemented on a larger scale. To upscale the deployment, and overcome the barriers alliances should be formed. These alliances should include partnerships between industry players to share business demand, solar thermal tech-companies to bring the innovations needed, and policymakers to create a level-playing-field. The alliances can tackle the complexity issues of solar thermal applications, improving the technology’s competitiveness. Furthermore, knowledge and data sharing between the partners can take place, which will lead to industry specific analyses and improved decision-making for investing, and directions for policy-making. Data on life cycle benefits, both economic and environmental, can be generated by different stakeholders, including energy-users and governmental actors. The partnerships and knowledge-sharing should ultimately lead to a best practices platform, where data, solutions and applications can be showcased.
Altogether, the advanced solar thermal solutions and alliances can advocate the potential of solar thermal technologies to policymakers. Government incentives play a key role in making solar thermal technologies competitive. With solar thermal technology, they can achieve their sustainability target, while reducing the costs of energy for consumers and industries. While governments should advocate the benefits of solar heating for industry more, the alliances can help to push this agenda. By showcasing the best practices, a bottom-up push can be created to put solar thermal innovations higher on the agenda.