The Norwegian manufacturer of solar collectors Inaventa Solar has recently started a new project, titled DisolBat (distributed solar and “blue batteries”), which builds on the results of its international collaboration with the RELaTED project.
Work on RELaTED has led to the identification of innovative technical solutions for solar district heating. However, effective business models for the deployment of these solutions have not yet been established. Developing business models that consider contributions along the entire value chain will be the primary focus of DisolBat, which has been granted the maximum amount of funding available from the Research Council of Norway.
Inaventa Solar’s funding application to the Research Council of Norway came on the back of our participation in the Horizon 2020 project RELaTED. Through RELaTED, an innovative concept of decentralized Ultra-Low Temperature (ULT) network solutions was developed, allowing for the incorporation of low-grade heat sources with minimal constraints. Unfortunately, the technical solutions that emerged from this work are implemented in both larger and smaller district heating networks across Europe – unfortunately, none of them in Norway.
The Norwegian district heating industry has a different energy mix and a greener profile than most other European counterparts. Nevertheless, solar heating solutions that are economically profitable in combination with district heating will also be well-suited to Norway, contributing to greater energy flexibility in line with our energy policy goals.
Inaventa Solar will collaborate with both district heating companies and the Norwegian District Heating Association (Norsk Fjernvarme) to identify a set of operational business models that are adapted to both the Norwegian district heating market and the Norwegian energy needs and consumption.
The Norwegian District Heating Association (Norsk Fjernvarme) represents an important knowledge base for the district heating sector in Norway. Inaventa Solar will work closely with the association to ensure that the content of our project is relevant to the sector, and that information surrounding our project results is widely distributed.
The actual development of the business models will be done in collaboration with Norwegian district heating companies and a selection of their customers. There is great variation in both the use of energy sources, actual energy production and customer profiles among Norwegian district heating suppliers. We, therefore, expect that several viable models will have to be identified. The common element should be that they all facilitate a sustainable addition to the current district heating supply.
Energy flexibility and distributed energy production contribute to a secure and reliable heat supply and enable a permanently reduced power requirement. Thermal storage (blue batteries) ensures that the heat is available when needed, regardless of when it is produced. This is a much cheaper solution than electrical energy storage.
District heating can also help free up capacity in the electric grid. When buildings use district heating for heating purposes, the electricity that would otherwise be used can be freed up for other purposes. This increases the grid capacity and facilitates for instance the charging of electric vehicles and other electricity-intensive purposes.
District heating and a waterborne distribution system facilitate the choice of environmentally friendly energy supply and renewable energy production. The combination of solar heat and district heating is particularly interesting, not least because it makes solar heat a commercial product. The value of energy production from solar collectors will thereby be registered. As of today, the energy contribution from solar heating systems is under communicated. The installations are mainly registered as energy efficiency measures, and consequently, the energy production from these falls outside of energy statistics.