Advice Notes on Solar Thermal Technology Economics for the NPA Region

Solar Thermal

The Advice Notes aim to provide introductory material for entrepreneurs, startups and SME’s, considering to enter into the renewable energy sphere and based in the NPA regions partners to GREBE. The scope of the Advice Note covers regional, trade and industry, renewable energy (RE), technology information from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Iceland and Finland. Different partner regions have different level of deployment of the various RE technologies covered by the Advice Notes. Thus, the level of information will vary depending on the level of deployment for each technology. For example, wind is not deployed on a large scale in North Karelia (Finland); however, it is widely deployed in Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Full details are available on the GREBE website:

The focus of the Advice Notes is on regional information of some of the main economic characteristics sited as imperative, when making an informed choice, regarding which RE technology may be the optimal choice for a new business venture:

  • Costs and economics associated with the relevant technology
  • Support schemes available, relevant to the technology
  • Government allowance/exemptions, relevant to the technology
  • Funding available for capital costs of the relevant technology
  • List of the relevant to the technology suppliers/developers, with focus on local/regional, suppliers/developers and the products and services they offer.


Solar thermal systems use solar collectors to absorb energy from the sun and transfer it, using heat exchangers, to heat water. Solar thermal delivers hot water at temperatures of between 55ºC and 65ºC. This is a comparatively mature technology and many installations date back to the 1970s. There are two main types of solar heating collectors:

  • Flat-plate collectors – a sheet of black metal, that absorbs the sun’s energy, encases the collector system. Water is fed through the system in pipes, which conduct the heat to the water.
  • Evacuated tubes – a series of parallel glass heat tubes grouped together. Each tube contains an absorber tube enclosed within a vacuum. Sunlight passing through the outer glass tube heats the absorber tube contained within it, and in doing so, the heat is transferred to a liquid flowing through the tubes.

Evacuated tubes are the most efficient type of solar water collector at around 80% efficiency (compared to around 70% for flat plate collectors). Correspondingly, they also cost more to manufacture; thus, they are more expensive. Modern solar thermal technologies are dependable, efficient and completely safe. Solar thermal technology can have up to 80% efficiency rate in delivering heat to your business.



New scheme encouraging homeowners to install solar panels launched today


A new scheme encouraging homeowners to install solar panels has been launched this morning. The pilot scheme offers grants for the installation of solar panels and extra funds to install battery storage systems.  Environment Minister Denis Naughten says the scheme will allow people to turn their home into their very own “renewable power station.” He said homeowners can save around €220 in electricity costs every year by taking advantage of the scheme.

Announcing the grants for homeowners, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten TD said: “Turning your home into a renewable power station is now one step closer. Microgeneration is an incredibly exciting space that will allow citizens in local communities to generate their own electricity and contribute towards Ireland’s climate action targets. With this grant that I am announcing today, a typical 3-bed semi-detached house would spend about €1,800 on a solar panel system and would save approximately €220 per year on their electricity bills.”

The Minister added: “The pilot scheme will be subject to a 6-month review at which time the costs of installation will be assessed and further opportunities to broaden this scheme to other groups and other technologies will be explored.” The scheme will be funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The grant is available for homes built and occupied before 2011 and details of eligibility criteria and how to apply are set out here. A registered solar PV installer must be used and a full list of registered installers is also available on the SEAI website.

Government approves scheme to diversify green energy


A new scheme designed to diversify the State’s renewable energy production and boost its chances of meeting key EU targets has been approved by the Government. The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) is designed to help the State meet its renewable pledges up to 2030. Its first priority is to boost renewable energy production quickly to help turn 16 per cent of the State’s energy needs “green” by 2020. The scheme will incentivise the introduction of sufficient renewable electricity generation by promoting investment by community groups in green projects. Offshore wind and tidal projects will be central if the State is to meet its targets, while it is expected to also support an immediate scale-up of solar projects. Projects looking for support under the scheme will need to meet pre-qualification criteria, including offering the community an opportunity to invest in and take ownership of a portion of renewable projects in their local area.

Auction system

The RESS scheme introduces a new auction system where types of energy will bid for State support. It is proposed that the scheme be funded through the Public Service Obligation Levy, which is a charge on consumers to support the generation of electricity from renewable sources. Individual projects will not be capped, but the Government will limit the amount that a single technology, such as wind or tidal, can win in a single auction. The auctions will be held at frequent intervals throughout the lifetime of the scheme to allow the State to take advantage of falling technology costs. The first auction in 2019 will prioritise “shovel-ready projects”. “By not auctioning all the required capacity at once, we will not be locking in higher costs for consumers for the entirety of the scheme,” Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten said. In effect it should make it easier for solar and offshore wind to get investment, yielding multiple billions for green projects over the next 15 years.

2020 vision

It is hoped renewable energy will represent 40 per cent of the State’s gross electricity consumption by 2020, and 55 per cent by 2030, subject to determining the cost-effective level that will be set out in the draft National Energy and Climate Plan, which must be approved by the EU and in place by the end of 2019. In addition the scheme is intended to deliver broader energy policy objectives, including enhancing security of supply. “This scheme will mark a shift from guaranteed fixed prices for renewable generators to a more market-oriented mechanism [auctions] where the cost of support will be determined by competitive bidding between renewable generators,” said Mr Naughten. The next step for the Government is to secure EU approval for the package, which typically takes six to nine months. It is estimated that the first auction will be in the second half of next year.

Solar energy technology demonstration starts in North Karelia


Choosing the most suitable PV or solar thermal system for you is not always easy.

Karelia UAS has invested in number of different solar PV and thermal technologies. Sirkkala Energy Park will house five different PV panel and inverter combinations, four solar thermal collector types and one PV-T hybrid panel system.

Various different PV technologies are commercially available and the most common and the most promising ones were acquired to Sirkkala Energy Park. Silicon polycrystalline and monocrystalline cells dominate the markets with nearly 90 % market share. Monocrystalline based PV-systems have lower production and investment costs compared to polycrystalline cells, but what they gain in investment costs will be lost in efficiency in most cases. Thin cell PV technologies will be demonstrated in the form of CIGS (Copper Inidium Gallium Selenide) and amorphous silicon. There are also various emerging technologies being researched, but most of them are not yet commercially available.

Various types of PV system architectures and technologies will be demonstrated, including single panel power optimisers, panels in series with maximum power point tracking (MPPT), panels with microinverters and mobile thin cell technologies. Total gross area of installed PV will be 80 m² and total peak power over 11 kW.

Solar thermal collectors are used to produce heat by absorbing sunlight. Two types of main technologies exists; evacuated tube collectors and flat panel collectors. Total of three types of flat panel collectors with different absorber material (copper, aluminium and stainless steel) and one type of evacuated tube collector will be demonstrated. Gross area of solar thermal collectors will be 32 m².

Hybrid PV/Thermal –panels are also demonstrated to assess the feasibility of this technology. Size of the hybrid panel array will be 8 m² with peak power of 1,1 kWp.

According to Project coordinator Mr. Markus Hirvonen, after installation of solar systems the Sirkkala Energy Park will be able to provide unique information on solar energy technologies and the characteristics of each different setup.

“The different solar energy setups provide new information on solar technologies in North Karelian environment and makes it easier for consumers and companies to make good solar PV and thermal investment decisions.

Within the GREBE –project context, Sirkkala Energy Park provides new insights into the market access paths of modern RE solutions, and their business opportunities and challenges.

Sirkkala Energy Park, located in Sirkkala campus of Karelia UAS in Joensuu, is a research, development and education facility of RE technologies. The energy system established in 2015 includes different solar and wood based i.e. a modern small-scale combined heat and power (CHP) -plant fueled with locally produced woodchips.