Solar thermal energy

Use heat from the sun

Solar heating systems convert solar energy into useful thermal energy, i.e., heat. The sun is the largest renewable source of energy available to humanity. However, heat from the sun that reaches the earth’s surface fluctuates wildly depending on the time of day, season and weather conditions. For these reasons, solar heating systems are typically connected to thermal stores and a backup heat supply to ensure sufficient heat is available at all times.

Various technologies are available in the field of solar thermal energy to meet different performance levels and temperature requirements. Flat-plate collectors and evacuated tube collectors are generally used on buildings whilst CSP (concentrated solar power) can be used for local and district heating, often in the form of parabolic troughs. These systems reach higher temperatures, but more importantly, can be used to produce electricity and heat for industrial processes.

Solar research plays an important role in North Rhine-Westphalia, which is why the State is providing financial support to several major research institutes. In July 2020, the Institute of Solar Research at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) put its second experimental solar tower into operation. The first solar tower was constructed in Jülich back in 2009. And since 2017, Jülich has also been home to the world’s largest artificial sun, “Synlight”, which is operated by the Institute of Future Fuels at the DLR.

But these research institutions have another important goal aside from developing solar tower components like receivers and heliostats, namely manufacturing fuel cells using solar energy – without producing any CO2 emissions. If Germany can economically produce electricity and fuel cells, the local economy in NRW will profit both in terms of know-how and exports. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that CSP will account for 11 per cent of global electricity production by 2050. Global demand for solar heat is set to reach 16 per cent.   

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Portrait der Projektmanagerin für Energiewirtschaft Lisa Kaborn.

Lisa Kaborn

Project Manager Energy Sector

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