Tuesday Dec 06, 2022

Solar thermal energy: An industry with untapped potential – Daily Planet`


When we think about the energy transition, the first images that come to mind might be of roofs covered with solar PV panels, a windfarm – either on land or in the sea – or maybe even electric vehicles. But one technology is often overlooked and underfunded: solar thermal, which is used for harnessing solar energy to generate heat for use in industry, and in the residential and commercial sectors. At a time when the EU is planning to make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels before 2030, experts in solar thermal energy emphasise the importance of including this technology into the energy mix.

Following the invasion of Ukraine, the case for a rapid, clean energy transition has never been stronger and clearer. The EU imports 90 per cent of its gas consumption, with Russia providing around 45 per cent of those imports in varying levels across Member States. The EU initiative REPowerEU will seek to diversify gas supplies, accelerate the green transition and replace gas in heating and power generation. 

Heat accounts for over half of energy demand globally. In the words of Christophe Williams, co-founder and CEO of Naked Energy: “If you are serious about decarbonisation, you must tackle heat.”

Naked Energy’s team of engineers, scientists and innovators have developed two core products: a solar thermal collector that heats water from the power of the sun to up to 120 °C, and a hybrid solar thermal and solar photovoltaic collector that reaches hot water temperatures of 100 °C and generates electricity. Distributed and renewable heating systems, such as solar thermal and solar PVT, provide reliable, affordable and resilient energy infrastructure. For Williams, this technology is key to a fair transition to net-zero carbon.

A long-standing partnership with EIT Climate-KIC

Naked Energy was one of the first start-ups to graduate from EIT Climate-KIC’s Accelerator and has been an active member of the community ever since.

“It’s been a long journey to get to where we are today. At that time, we thought EIT Climate-KIC would be a great organisation to join because it’s a diverse ecosystem, and it proved correct,” says Williams.

He adds: “We , received to do some early field trials and were introduced to some of our early corporate customers. The fact that an organisation like EIT Climate-KIC was taking what we were doing seriously helped us to get investment as well.”

Since then, Naked Energy has raised nearly £14 million in funding between private investment and grant funding. In fact, it was the first start-up that EIT Climate-KIC invested in, and the organisation is still a shareholder. Naked Energy now counts 18 employees and already provides solar heat systems to hotels, hospitals, care homes and the manufacturing industry in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Kenya, the UK and South Africa.

The best of both worlds

Their first product, VirtuPVT, generates both solar heat and power. It first converts 60 per cent of the sun’s energy as heat and converts an additional 20 per cent into electricity thanks to monocrystalline photovoltaic cells bonded to the absorber.

“We have taken the very best of PV technology and the very best of solar heat technology and combined them into one product to get a solar collector that that produces more energy than incumbent technologies,” says Williams.

The product’s design makes it easier and cheaper to install and maintain: Each tube comes with its own individual mounting system and is angled towards the …….

Source: https://www.climate-kic.org/innovation-spotlight/solar-thermal-naked-energy/

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