European consortium develops ways to couple heat pumps with solar panels

The Sun Horizon consortium has started to collect performance data on two pilot projects that combine heat pumps with solar systems using hybrid panels on homes in Riga, Latvia. The solution features a heat pump for space heating and domestic hot water and PVT panels to produce power for heating and domestic appliances, with excess power fed to the grid.

November 11, 2021

French companies Boostheat and Dualsun and have teamed up with German heating system supplier Rathiotherm to launch the operational phase of the Sun Horizon project.

The European Commission supports the ambitious project under the Horizon 2020 (H2020) program. It is designed to demonstrate different ways to pair PV and PVT solar panels with heat pump technology for heating and cooling applications across several pilot sites around Europe.

Initially, the three companies installed heat pumps with solar energy system using hybrid panels on two homes in Riga, Latvia.

“Latvia has the highest gas grid penetration in Europe and has rolled out a large number of heat pumps throughout the country,” the consortium said. “The data collected may prove to be particularly informative due to the harshness of the winters there.”

A Boostheat heat pump will provide space heating and domestic hot water for the two homes, while the Dualsun panels will produce power for heating and domestic appliances. They will also generate as much heat as possible, with excess power to be injected into the grid. A cloud-based monitoring platform will evaluate performance data and key performance indicators.

The consortium also includes France’s National Solar Energy Institute (INES) – a unit of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) – and Schneider Electric. It has already developed five different designs for the coupling of heat pumps and solar panels, known as Technology Packages (TPs). Each design may include different technologies developed by the consortium’s members.

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The technologies are a gas-driven HP consisting of one or more thermal compressors in parallel developed by Boostheat, and a hybrid unit connected in parallel with a thermally driven adsorption chiller, using water (R718) as a refrigerant and a vapour compression manufactured by German specialist Fahrenheit. There are also two types of reversible brine-water and air-water heat pumps from Dutch supplier BDR Thermea Group, a high vacuum flat plate solar thermal technology developed by Switzerland’s TPV Solar, Dualsun panels, and a thermal storage solution made by Germany-based Ratiotherm.

The first solution uses TVP solar collectors to cover most of the household’s space heating and domestic hot water and a gas-driven heat pump to cover non-solar periods. With the second proposal, the thermal output of the PVT panels helps the evaporator and covers preheating of demand, which improves HP performance. PV will be used to cover power demand.

Via the third solution, the household’s heating demand is covered by the PVT panels in winter. In the summer, PV output drives the adsorption chiller to meet the space cooling needs. Under the fourth approach, the heat pump benefits from the thermal and electric outputs of the PVT panels and is used as backup.

The fifth design includes solar panels, a storage tank, a hybrid chiller and a thermal heat pump. Hot water produced is produced by the solar module and is stored in the high stratification tank. The chilled water produced by the chiller is stored in a smaller tank and then delivered to the space cooling system. During the winter, the preheated water by the solar panels is delivered to the gas-driven heat pump. If necessary, it heats it up to cover space heating and domestic water demand.

The consortium is now testing all of the approaches at eight demonstration sites in Latvia, Germany, Spain, and Belgium.

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