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Solar Thermal Energy: Driver of Cleaner Production

Marisol Oropeza - Intersolar


Perla Velasco By Perla Velasco | Journalist & Industry Analyst - Tue, 09/05/2023 - 17:23

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Q: Most of the energy needs in the industrial sector are met using fossil fuels. How can industries successfully transition from these sources to renewable solar energy?

A: The manufacturing, construction and transportation sectors are key contributors to carbon emissions. These sectors constitute a significant portion of energy consumption and, in most cases, energy consumption relies on fossil fuels.

In Mexico, approximately 95% of the fuels used in the industry are derived from fossil sources. This presents us with a series of opportunities to harness solar energy, especially when considering how this consumption is divided. Energy is often associated with electricity but there is an equally important thermal demand that is mainly covered by LPG, natural gas and diesel, all of which are fossil fuels. Here, solar energy can play a fundamental role.

In the Mexican industrial sector, approximately 67% of energy consumption corresponds to thermal needs, while about one-third is dedicated to electrical uses. This means that both solar technologies, photovoltaic and thermal, are needed. Distributed photovoltaic generation would address electrical needs, while industrial solar heating systems could meet thermal demands for low and medium temperature processes, partially replacing the use of natural gas or LPG.

Q: With rising energy demand and the recent power shortages, how can solar energy contribute to stabilizing energy supply and providing a reliable energy source?

A: When you rely on a supplier, you also depend on their responsiveness. In this case, in Mexico, CFE is the main supplier of electricity. When you buy energy from the grid, you are also confined to the cleanliness of that energy source. By becoming your own supplier through distributed generation or through thermal systems, you gain greater control over the nature of the energy you produce. This approach provides control, security and the advantage of more precise planning. By having control over your system and working with reliable providers offering quality technology and solid installation, these companies can forecast performance and thereby enhance their financial planning.

An additional advantage of thermal systems, unlike distributed photovoltaic generation, is that they do not require grid connection permits. This provides flexibility in generating heat within the facilities, allowing greater control over inputs and operations. The combination of both technologies offers flexible options and the ability to decrease dependence on fossil fuels, positively impacting the company's environmental footprint.

Q: How has adoption of solar thermal systems advanced in Mexico?

A: Mexico is a world leader in the implementation of thermal solar energy systems. Although this trend is still in its early stages and considered an emerging niche, an international survey is conducted annually with thermal solar energy system providers to collect data on its adoption. The results of the latest survey, conducted in 2022, reveal that there are 1,089 operational industrial systems worldwide.

In 2022, at least 114 new systems were installed in various countries. Mexico excels in this field, with a total of 102 installed and operational systems, positioning it as the country with the highest number of functioning systems. In comparison to other countries like Germany with 59 systems, India with 46, China with 40 and Austria with 40, Mexico stands out for its significantly higher adoption of thermal solar energy systems.

Companies choosing to implement thermal solar energy systems vary in size and scope, including multinational corporations, international companies and MSMEs. This trend could be attributed in part to the abundant availability of solar resources throughout Mexican territory, as 85% of the country has favorable conditions for solar projects. Furthermore, the high prices of traditional fuels and the lack of access to natural gas in many businesses make investment in thermal solar energy systems particularly profitable in Mexico.

Q: What is Intersolar’s role in further strengthening the renewables sector in Mexico?

A: Intersolar is part of a series of fairs and conferences held in various parts of the world. In Mexico, this project is relatively recent, as we started in 2019. Since then, we have experienced significant growth.

There is optimism about Mexico's solar potential, which attracts investment and promotes sales. Intersolar is the ideal platform for foreign companies seeking business opportunities in Mexico to present themselves, establish connections and find clients, distributors and experts in the market. It is also a platform where exhibiting companies showcase their products and services related to the solar industry, covering the entire production chain in the photovoltaic sector. This year’s event will include a two-day congress, access to technology talks and the exhibition all related to the solar sector.

Intersolar Mexico is a B2B networking event focused on the Mexican market of photovoltaics, solar thermal and energy storage. This year's edition will take place from Sept. 5-7 at the Citibanamex Center in Mexico City.

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