POLYSOL - Development of a modular, all-POLYmer SOLar thermal collector for domestic hot water preparation and space heating
By 2020, the EC aim to increase our overall renewable energy capacity from 8.5% to 20% as a proportion of Europe’s total energy demand. Considering that domestic heating and hot water provision accounts for nearly 40% of total energy demand it is clearly desirable to increase market penetration of renewable heating systems. On a domestic scale solar thermal systems are increasingly common and are, to the general public, the most visible renewable energy technology. Moreover, compared to biomass they have distinct user benefits when it comes to domestic heating or hot water provision as they do not need physical feedstock. However, despite significant market growth their market penetration only accounts for 0.05% of our total energy consumption. This is mainly due to the high initial investment required which is a function of equipment and installation costs. Conventional collectors rely on high value materials such as copper and aluminium, which are essential to achieve acceptable performance. However, these materials are also relatively expensive and it is unlikely that component costs will decrease in the future. Moreover, supply of these materials is limited and not large enough to cope with expected increases in demand. Alternative materials such as polymers have been investigated and can theoretically offer significant cost savings due to potential weight reductions, mass production techniques and increased freedom of functional design. However, they are generally not suitable for domestic type solar thermal installations. This is mainly due to their low heat deflection temperature and thermal conductivity. In PolySol we aim to develop a novel polymeric collector that can substitute a metallic solar thermal collector for domestic heating and hot water applications. As a result cost savings of at least 25% can be achieved which will greatly enhance the appeal of solar thermal energy to the public and will reduce overall reliance on government incentives.