Integrated Solar Thermal Systems for Buildings

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research


What it is

Integrated solar thermal systems for buildings combine solar thermal collectors with other building systems, such as space heating, hot water, and cooling systems, to provide a holistic and efficient solution for building energy needs. These systems are designed to maximize the utilization of solar energy and reduce reliance on conventional energy sources.

Impact on climate action

Integrated Solar Thermal Systems for Buildings in the Solar Thermal sector revolutionize climate action by harnessing solar energy for heating and hot water. By reducing reliance on fossil fuels, these systems lower carbon emissions, increase energy efficiency, and promote sustainable building practices, contributing to a greener and more resilient future.

Underlying
Technology

  • Solar Thermal Collectors: These collectors capture sunlight and convert it into heat, which is then transferred to a working fluid (e.g., water or glycol).
  • Heat Exchangers: Heat exchangers transfer heat from the working fluid to the building’s heating or cooling system.
  • Thermal Energy Storage: Thermal energy storage systems, such as hot water tanks or phase change materials, can store excess solar heat for later use.
  • System Integration and Control: Integrated solar thermal systems require sophisticated control systems to manage energy flows between the solar collectors, storage systems, and building systems.
  • Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS): BEMS can be used to optimize the operation of integrated solar thermal systems and maximize energy efficiency.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Solar Combi Systems: These systems combine solar thermal collectors with conventional boilers or heat pumps to provide both space heating and hot water.
  • Solar Cooling Systems: Solar thermal energy can be used to power absorption chillers or desiccant cooling systems, providing sustainable cooling for buildings.
  • Building-Integrated Solar Thermal Collectors: BIPV technologies can be used to integrate solar thermal collectors into building facades or roofs, creating a more aesthetically pleasing and functional building envelope.
  • Smart Control Systems: Advanced control systems and AI algorithms can optimize the operation of integrated solar thermal systems, maximizing energy efficiency and reducing costs.

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Solahart:
    • Technology Enhancement: Solahart specializes in integrated solar thermal systems for residential and commercial buildings. Their systems utilize solar collectors to capture and convert sunlight into thermal energy for space heating, hot water heating, and other heating applications. Solahart’s solutions often combine solar thermal technology with conventional heating systems to provide reliable and sustainable heating solutions for buildings.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Solahart stands out for its long history and expertise in solar thermal technology, with a focus on providing integrated solutions for buildings. Their systems are designed to maximize energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, and lower energy costs for homeowners, businesses, and institutions.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Solahart serves residential, commercial, and institutional customers seeking sustainable and cost-effective heating solutions. Their integrated solar thermal systems are deployed in various building types, including single-family homes, multi-family buildings, hotels, hospitals, and educational facilities.
  • Viessmann:
    • Technology Enhancement: Viessmann offers a wide range of heating, cooling, and renewable energy solutions, including integrated solar thermal systems for buildings. Their solar thermal systems feature high-efficiency collectors, storage tanks, and control systems designed to seamlessly integrate with existing heating systems. Viessmann’s solutions provide reliable and sustainable heating solutions for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Viessmann stands out for its comprehensive portfolio of energy solutions and its commitment to innovation and sustainability. Their integrated solar thermal systems combine cutting-edge technology with decades of experience in the heating and renewable energy sector, offering customers reliable and future-proof solutions for their heating needs.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Viessmann serves a diverse range of customers, including homeowners, building owners, contractors, and developers. Their integrated solar thermal systems are used in residential buildings, commercial properties, industrial facilities, and public institutions seeking energy-efficient and environmentally friendly heating solutions.
  • Vaillant:
    • Technology Enhancement: Vaillant specializes in heating, ventilation, and renewable energy solutions, including integrated solar thermal systems for buildings. Their solar thermal systems utilize high-performance collectors and intelligent control systems to harness solar energy for space heating, hot water production, and heating support. Vaillant’s solutions are designed to enhance comfort, reduce energy consumption, and minimize environmental impact.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Vaillant stands out for its focus on innovation, quality, and sustainability in the heating and renewable energy sector. With a strong emphasis on research and development, Vaillant continuously improves its solar thermal systems to meet the evolving needs of customers and contribute to the transition towards a carbon-neutral future.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Vaillant serves residential, commercial, and industrial customers seeking energy-efficient and eco-friendly heating solutions. Their integrated solar thermal systems are used in new construction projects, retrofit applications, and renovation projects, providing reliable and sustainable heating solutions for buildings of all sizes.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Technical University of Munich (TUM):
    • Research Focus: TUM is at the forefront of research on Integrated Solar Thermal Systems for Buildings, focusing on developing novel technologies and system designs that integrate solar thermal collectors with building envelopes and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the development of advanced building-integrated solar thermal collectors, such as facade-integrated collectors, roof-integrated collectors, and solar thermal glazing systems, which seamlessly blend with architectural elements while efficiently harnessing solar energy for space heating, hot water production, and building climate control.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in residential, commercial, and institutional buildings, where integrated solar thermal systems can contribute to reducing energy consumption, carbon emissions, and operating costs, while enhancing occupant comfort and indoor air quality.
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):
    • Research Focus: NREL conducts pioneering research on Integrated Solar Thermal Systems for Buildings, leveraging its expertise in renewable energy technologies, building science, and system integration to develop innovative approaches for incorporating solar thermal energy into building design and operation.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the development of advanced solar thermal collectors, heat exchangers, and control systems optimized for building-scale applications. They also investigate building energy modeling, simulation tools, and performance monitoring techniques to evaluate the impact of integrated solar thermal systems on energy efficiency, thermal comfort, and environmental sustainability.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in net-zero energy buildings, passive solar design, and sustainable urban development. By integrating solar thermal technologies into buildings, NREL’s research supports the transition to low-carbon, resilient, and energy-efficient built environments, contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.
  • University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: UC Berkeley is engaged in innovative research on Integrated Solar Thermal Systems for Buildings, leveraging its interdisciplinary expertise in architecture, mechanical engineering, and environmental science to develop integrated solutions for sustainable building design and operation.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the development of building-integrated solar thermal collectors, solar air heating systems, and solar thermal storage technologies tailored to the specific needs and constraints of diverse building types and climates. They also explore building energy modeling, life cycle assessment, and occupant behavior studies to optimize system performance, durability, and cost-effectiveness.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in residential retrofits, green building certification programs, and urban redevelopment projects. By integrating solar thermal systems into buildings, UC Berkeley’s research aims to enhance energy security, resilience, and affordability, while promoting sustainable development practices and reducing the environmental footprint of the built environment.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Integrated solar thermal systems for buildings are commercially available and are being implemented in various building types around the world. For example, solar combi systems are a popular choice for residential and commercial buildings, providing both space heating and hot water.