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Renewable energy field. Thermal solar

Thermal solar panels- also called “solar collectors” are panels which are useful in order to gather the energy coming from the Sun on the Earth and use it to produce hot water for end-uses at a temperature of 38-45°C. Solar collectors for the production of hot water are a plane surface (or tubes) with a liquid in it which, heated by the Sun, allows to transmit the heat absorbed to the water contained in a storage tank, by heating it.

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The most used solar collector is the plane, that makes heat the plane surface of a panel under the Sun and allows to easily get temperature of the fluid in the panel between 50°C and 90°C, but the latest generation panels are the most efficient, with vacuum tubes. There are several kinds of thermal solar panels – e.g. glazed, non-glazed, selective, non-selective, air, water, etc.

Thermal solar panels can be used in order to provide heating and hot water for domestic or industrial use and for hot water needs for pools, sport facilities, nursing homes, schools and university. The storage tank, provides to store the domestic water which is in contact with the fluid through a coil.

The coil allows to the fluid to transmit to the water the stored energy without contaminating the same water. This water can be used as hot water in houses (in this last case, it is assessed 60-70% for the annual contribution provided) or it can be used in order to integrate the underfloor heating of environments (until 30-40% of integration) or other kinds of low temperature heating. Thermal solar panels can provide a great amount of hot water, but they cannot completely replace the usual heating methods because of the variability of the solar energy.

It is possible to connect the solar system to the existing thermal implant in order to have hot water everytime, if the house is already equipped of an electronically controlled gas instant boiler for the production of hot domestic water. The thermal implant will provide preheated water: this solution allows to save money on the gas bill and have hot water without limit of consumption.

Otherwise, it is important that in the storage tank there is an electrical resistance with a calibrated thermostat to 40°C. The use of solar panels has as a consequence the saving of polluting hydrocarbons and electricity, that in Italy comes from these for 80%.

There are a lot of benefits: (1)energy independence (not to depend on the fuel supply), (2) accessible technology (the easiest solution consists in a black metal tube), (3) low realization and disposal costs, (4) high engine efficiency, (5) elimination of CO2 emissions, oxidised sulphur, nitrogen, and PM10.

Thermal solar systems are very reliable. Their duration is equal to that if a normal heater. A thermal solar implant correctly dimensioned, installed and managed, can live more than 20 years, which is the duration stimatd by technical and economic analysis.

For this reason it is important to plan an ordinary and extraordinary maintenance, which can periodically control the implant status and its performance: indeed, an implant with maintenance has a longer life. For implants to which there is not maintenance, the everage expected life is about 15 years.

When we talk about “lifetime”, it is important to consider each component separately: for example, glazed flat plate collectors – currently the most used – have a lifetime of 20 years.

Costs of a thermal solar implant fall considerably when dimensions of the surface of the panels capturing the Sun radiation increase. A combined thermal solar system -for the joint production of heat for domestic hot water for the heating of the environment with floor systems or at a low temperature (not thermosiphon), if is combined to a condensing gas boiler, allows to obtain a saving energy from 35% to 60%, according to the geographical area. Moreover, thermal solar implant has a 10% VAT (instead of 20%), and they can be put among the costs for which a tax detraction of 55% is foreseen.

Finally, they have some regional, provincial or comunal incentives -as opposed to the photovoltaic plants. Amortization period of the expenditure made for a thermal solar implant varies from 3 to 6 years according to the typology, excluded the incentives.