The fourth phase of the SOLTRAIN project came to a close at the SOLTRAIN conference which took place on December 7th and 8th in Somerset West, South Africa. About 120 attendees from the six SOLTRAIN partner countries - Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho and Mozambique - as well as international experts from the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling program attended. The conference was opened by Prof. Wikus van Niekerk, Dean of Engineering at Stellenbosch University and the Austrian Ambassador Romana Königsbrun.
Participants at the SOLTRAIN conference held on December 7th and 8th in Somerset West, South Africa
The results of the project, which has been running since 2009, were presented and discussed in numerous presentations. Between 2009 and 2022, around 5000 people have been trained as experts in the field of solar thermal systems in more than 200 training courses. Theoretical training was carried out in cooperation with universities, energy institutes and training centres, whilst the practically oriented training courses were handled in cooperation with vocational schools and solar technology companies. In addition, 27 students were supported with bursaries during their studies and master theses on the topic of solar thermal energy.
The knowledge acquired has been applied to 671 demonstration plants with a total installed solar collector area of 7 330 m2 corresponding to a capacity of 5.1 MWth. Of the total number of systems installed, 343 were installed in Phase IV.
SOLTRAIN installation in Mozambique
The range of plants extends from small thermosiphon systems to larger solar plants for hospitals, orphanages and hotels. In addition, the first solar district heating network in Sub-Saharan Africa, numerous solar plants for industrial process heat as well as solar plants in combination with heat pumps and a PVT system were built and financially supported from Austrian development cooperation funds.
These solar thermal systems save 3.33 GWh of electricity annually and are associated with the annual avoidance of nearly 2 000 tons of CO2.
Based on roadmaps developed in stakeholder processes and lessons learned from the constructed demonstration plants, broad roll-out programs are now intended to be implemented to use solar thermal systems on a large scale.
SOLTRAIN has received numerous international awards for its training program, construction of the solar plants and the support for policy makers, including the Emirates Energy Award 2017, the Energy Globe Award 2019, and the IEA SHC Solar Award 2022.
The SOLTRAIN program has been successfully built up in the last 12 years leading to positive impact across the solar thermal market in Southern Africa, and AEE INTEC will continue the SOLTRAIN success story with 9 partners in 5 Southern African countries (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe) while reaching out to other countries of SADC too.
Wolfgang Gruber-Glatzl, Austrian Ambassador Romana Königsbrun and Werner Weiss
Another 4 years of capacity building and demonstration will be funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). The ‘+’ is reflective of the extended scope which will now include renewable heating and cooling solutions in general with focus on heat pumps and excess heat recovery in industry and commerce, hospitals, hotels and social housing. Solar thermal will still be the at the core of all activities.
Werner Weiss, often referred to as the ‘father’ of the SOLTRAIN initiative is enjoying his well-earned retirement, which will bring him back to Africa on private trips along with his family. He is succeeded by Wolfgang Gruber-Glatzl who has worked for AEE INTEC in the field of renewable energies for industrial systems for 10 years. Wolfgang will bring along his expertise in energy efficiency, excess heat and solar process heat which he has earned in projects in Europe, Asia and Africa. The hand-over was accompanied by Austrian Ambassador Romana Königsbrun, who joined the SOLTRAIN conference on 7th and 8th December 2022 in Somerset West, South Africa.
The Southern African Solar Thermal Training & Demonstration Initiative is a regional initiative for capacity building & demonstration of solar thermal systems in the SADC region. It is funded by the AUSTRIAN DEVELOPMENT AGENCY. Please visit SOLTRAIN on the web at www.soltrain.org for more about the programme.