Dissertation: Application of Solar Thermal Systems in the UK

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¶ … economic and environmental benefits of using a solar water heating system for hot water applications in a typical British commercial building. Of particular interest was to initially estimate the energy use for heating of water. The most relevant variables were the horizontal solar irradiance, the sky clearness index, the solar declination angle and the ambient air temperature. Since the incident energy is a function of the solar collector tilt angle, an optimum angle which fortunately is equal to the average UK household roof pitch was determined. The Solar Savings calculation was used to calculate the amount of the total conventional hot water heating load (delivered energy and tank standby losses) provided by solar energy less any associated parasitic energy use. These figures were used to determine the commercial gas and electricity retail price predictions and clean cash-back tariffs from the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), a cost analysis was performed to appraise the viability of selected system. Integration of solar water system may produce considerable savings and becomes financially attractive at present, but only to the extent that it is supported by the RHI incentives. Finally, a carbon emission analysis was performed revealing that significant cuts in commercial CO2 emissions are achievable, again depending on the site and system selected.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Background to the Project

One central issue facing policymakers and electric utilities around the world is the need to identify how to satisfy the rapidly increasing global demand for electricity while not increasing global greenhouse gas emissions in the process (Holton, 2005). The need is clearly great but time is also of the essence. Indeed, projections of a tripling of electricity by mid-century are common and electricity generation is already responsible for an estimated one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions (Holton, 2005). In this setting, identifying viable alternative energy resources represents a timely and valuable enterprise. One promising alternative for electricity production is solar power, but following the end of World War I, the world made the switch from coal to petroleum rather than to solar. In the historical analysis, petroleum was found to be more efficient and dependable, especially for the war effort, with Britain making the change from coal to oil for their warships. In fact, Winston Churchill was instrumental early on in encouraging the transition:

Oil is a much more flexible fuel than coal and holds within it a denser concentration of energy. Because it can flow, it is more easily transported. It is cleaner when burned. Much of the time, it was cheaper than coal. Three barrels of oil have the heating capacity of 1 ton of coal and at the prevailing prices early in the century, the oil usually cost only half as much as coal. Because of oil, the number of men tending the furnaces on a steamship could be reduced from 100 to four. Loading a ship with coal had taken 100 men toiling for a week; now one man in one day could load a ship with enough bunker fuel to cross an ocean. (p. 251)

By sharp contrast, solar energy has since taken root throughout the United Kingdom, but the technology has not been widely adopted to date (Miller, 2004 p. 19). Given recent incentive programs by the U.K government and the impetus provided by the European Union's target of producing 22% of its electricity, and 12% of all energy, through renewable sources by 2010, suggests that the time is right for many businesses to consider deploying solar thermal systems of their own. Although the EU leadership acknowledges that its target goals will not likely be met, if more countries follow the lead established by the U.K., they just might have a chance of succeeding. Absent additional support, though, the European Union's leadership believes that renewable energy will succeed in account for only l0% of total energy production (Miller, 2004).

Renewable energy currently accounts for 6%, compared to 40% for oil, 23% for natural gas, 16% for nuclear power, and 15% for solid fuels (Lander, 2005). Although wind energy applications are being deployed in Germany and Denmark, these technologies have been less well received in France because the electric utility does not want to share its power grid with other energy companies (Lander, 2005). Likewise, Lander advises that, "In Britain, until recently, builders of windmills could not obtain permits from local authorities to erect turbines" (2005 p. 117).

Despite these constraints to progress, few companies, it seems, can afford to ignore the environment any longer, with the UK government, for example, setting ambitious targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2010 and 60% by 2050. To help companies achieve these objectives, in 2001 the government established the Carbon Trust, art independent organization that helps UK businesses and public sector organizations find ways to reduce their carbon footprint. It does so through a number of means-for one, by providing small and medium-size companies (SMEs) with interest-free loans of up to £100,000 (£200,000 in Northern Ireland) to help them invest in energy-efficient equipment (Hawser, 2006). According to Bradford and Bean (2011), in 2010, the United Kingdom's solar water heating market for both small and large-scale installations grew by 18.1 per cent, to 73,640 kWth of installed capacity. These authorities assert that, "This is perhaps surprising given a 13.1 per cent decrease across the rest of Europe. An uncertain economic outlook, high fuel prices, and the proposed introduction of a Renewable Heat Incentive seem likely reasons for continued growth in the UK" (Bradford & Bean, 2011, p. 1).

Consequently, many Europeans are growing concerned about the imminence of peak oil which many experts project to be around mid-century, as well as recent signs that energy costs are threatening national security (Lander, 2005). For instance, according to Lander, "In 2000, a rise in the price of fuel was compounded by higher taxes, which ignited protests and blockades by truckers from Britain to Germany. At this point in time, the expectations among many observers and policymakers are that high prices will rekindle an appreciation for windmills, solar panels and other alternative energy sources in the United Kingdom" (2005, p. 2). Moreover, the UK lags behind other EU member states, with only 1.3 per cent of its energy currently being generated from renewables compared with 8.5 per cent across Europe (Bradford & Bean, 2011). In order to meet the EU-wide target of 20 per cent by 2020, it is clear that renewable resources must be exploited to their maximum advantage. According to a recent report, solar water heating has the potential to deliver up to 6.3 per cent of this EU-wide target, making it a potentially important technology for the future energy needs of the continent. The introduction of the Renewable Heat Premium Payment Scheme, Renewable Heat Incentive, the Feed-in Tariff and the Scottish loan scheme are important steps in helping to bridge the gap (Bradford & Bean, 2011). There remains a paucity of real-world performance data for solar thermal systems, though. To this end, this project evaluated the application of solar thermal systems in hot water heating in commercial buildings in UK. At present, commercial enterprises account for about half of the UK's carbon emissions (Emery, 2008). Different solar thermal systems were investigated and compared with the conventional hot water systems in terms of application, energy consumption, environmental impact, cost and efficiency.

Aims of the Project

The aims of the project were as follows:

1. Compare with the conventional system in term of energy usage, financial analysis, environmental impact and efficiency.

2. Determine the energy production and energy saving that can be achieved.

3. Determine the energy cost with renewable and the payback period of the system in order to evaluate feasibility of proposed system.

4. Consider the carbon dioxide emission and environmental impact of the solar thermal system.

5. Determine carbon dioxide emission reduction that can be achieved.

Overview of Project

The project will evaluate the application of solar thermal systems in hot water heating in commercial buildings in the UK. Different solar thermal systems were investigated and compared with the conventional commercial hot water systems in terms of application, energy consumption, environmental impact, cost and efficiency. The study is divided into six chapters as follows. Chapter one described the background of the project and discussed the aims of the project as well as their importance. Chapter two provides a review of the relevant and peer-reviewed literature, and chapter three presents the study's methodology, a description of the study approach, the data-gathering method and the database of study consulted. Chapter four is comprised of an analysis of the data developed during the research process and chapter five presents a discussion of the findings. Finally, a summary of the research and important findings are presented in the project's concluding chapter.

Chapter 3: Methodology

The methodology used for this study involved calculation of the annual performance of the thermal system and the study of solar heating economics. The long-term performance of the SDHW system was estimated using collector physical characteristics and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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