Solar Heat is Crucial for Industry Decarbonization
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Solar Heat is Crucial for Industry Decarbonization

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Antonio Gozain By Antonio Gozain | Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst - Tue, 03/08/2022 - 19:01

Industrial processes are on the path toward decarbonization by using renewable sources of energy. Heat remains the most frequently used form energy around the world, but most of it is generated through fossil fuels. Solar heat systems can meet this massive heating demand sustainably, making net-zero manufacturing a tangible reality, said Katia Bernal, CEO, CITRUS.

In countries where agriculture, textiles, cement and food processing industries are important industries, solar thermal energy can provide the hot air and water needed for curing, drying, dyeing, washing, boiling, pasteurizing and sterilizing, according to IRENA. Solar heat helps replace fossil fuels used for heating processes, including natural gas, LP gas, diesel and fuel oil. Using these polluting fuels is no longer sustainable, said Bernal, as companies operating in Mexico such as Bimbo, Unilever and Coca-Cola have committed to net-zero goals toward the near future.

“Heat represents around 67 percent of Mexico’s energy demand. The sun is an unlimited renewable heating source, capable of meeting this demand. All the products we see at the supermarket need steam and water to be produced,” said Bernal.

The integration of solar heat into industrial processes is not always easy, explained Bernal. However, companies like CITRUS, which has 15 years of experience, engineer these systems to be integrated optimally in industrial processes. “Our system reduces costs and CO2 emissions in several industries, such as food and beverages, mining, automotive, chemicals and pharmaceutical production, among others.”

Globally, industrial process heat accounts for more than two-thirds of the total industrial energy consumption. Half of this demand is below 400°C, show IRENA’s numbers. Currently, around 40 percent of industrial primary energy consumption is covered by natural gas, another 41 percent by fuel oil. Thermal solar has  the potential to provide 15EJ of heat by 2030, which is around 10 percent of the total global industrial energy demand.

CITRUS has already developed solar heat projects in Mexico, said Bernal. At Unilever, the company installed a system to generate hot water at 80°C and processed water at 110°C. The solar heat system was also implemented at another company in Mexico, where they heat 9000 liters of water a day at 120°C, cutting 114 tons of CO2 emissions per year and saving 76,000 liters of LP gas.

Despite the technical potential and economic benefits of using solar heat in industrial processes, development levels remain quite low due to poor policy-making and high upfront investments, which are usually barriers for small and mid-sized companies, proves IRENA.

Therefore, offering different purchasing options is important for clients, said Bernal. “We offer an option where clients buy the project and benefit from tax incentives, while getting an ROI between 1 to 5 years. However, CITRUS also offers leasing, where clients pay a monthly fee. By the end of the contract, they have the chance to buy the system at its residual cost.”

More of these options are materializing in the market, added Bernal. “Under a Heat Purchase Agreement (HPA), companies require zero initial investment. CITRUS installs and operates the system and the client pays a constant price for its clean energy.”

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