Solar Process Heating in the MENA Region

The Middle East should wake up to its potential

Martin Haagen
Martin Haagen

The largest share of industrial energy demand is heat, which accounts for around two thirds of total industrial consumption and around 20% of the energy needs of a country. However, while the installed capacity of solar power generation is rising tremendously in the Gulf region, industrial heat supply has hardly been addressed.

To achieve a sustainable energy supply, solutions for industrial heat supply are needed. This is also imperative from an economic point of view as in recent decades GCC countries have invested heavily in diversification and can now create more added value per unit of fuel in downstream activities.

In countries which have little fossil fuel reserves and which are phasing out energy subsidies, industrial heat supply is already of key importance. In Jordan for example, which imports more than 95% of its energy demand and which started to reduce fuel subsidies in 2005, industrial fuel prices threaten the competitiveness of energy intensive industry.

All over the world rising industrial energy costs lead to a transformation towards higher efficient processes and more renewable energies. In the sun blessed countries of the Middle East, solar energy can easily provide a large share of the industrial heat supply and thus contribute to the long term prosperity.

Due to the importance of energy supply, industry has very high expectations, especially in respect to reliability and control. At Industrial Solar we have developed a Fresnel collector which is optimized for industrial applications. It can provide temperatures of up to 400°C, is capable of direct steam generation and can be installed on industrial rooftops.

To achieve these temperatures uniaxially tracked mirrors concentrate the solar irradiation onto a vacuum absorber tube. A heat carrier is pumped through the absorber tube and brings the heat to the processes. The concept of concentrating solar irradiation is so far mainly applied in solar thermal power plants.

Industry only recently started to adopt this technology. The Fresnel collector from Industrial Solar has already proven its suitability to the local climate several times in installations in Qatar or the UAE but the latest project in the region was recently completed in Jordan.

There the collector system with a total aperture area of 400 m² is installed on the roof of a pharmaceutical company, RAM pharma, and provides steam for their processes. The system is equipped with a buffer storage where the steam accumulates when demand is low.

In the first month of operation the fuel demand of RAM Pharma dropped by 40%. To guarantee a reliable supply the systems are always installed parallel to the existing boilers and feed directly into the distribution grid. Fuel demand is reduced while security of supply is increased.

Similar systems can be installed in most industrial sectors, like the food & beverage, chemical, oil processing, textile or pharmaceutical sector where a large share of the heat demand can be provided by the sun.

What makes this application especially interesting is that the legislative framework is straight forward. Without interconnection to a public grid there is no need to apply for licenses or to adhere to grid codes.

The transformation of the industrial energy system just started, with major changes still to come. Those companies who manage best will be more competitive as their production costs fall – and with its abundant sunshine the GCC is well positioned to profit from this trend. At Industrial Solar we are excited about the next years and expect a strong growth of the solar process heating market in the GCC region.

Martin Haagen is Business Development Manager MENA region for Germany-based Industrial Solar



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