TVP Solar

The power of a vacuum

The high-vacuum flat solar thermal panels developed by TVP Solar achieve yields far in excess of conventional thermal panels. The main applications of this technology – unique to Switzerland – are in district heating networks and industry.

“Fifty percent of the final energy consumed on the planet is thermal energy. We must find an effective way of meeting this demand,” says Gilbert Farina, TVP Solar’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “The easiest and cheapest way of doing that is to use heat to make heat.” This is why TVP Solar designs, manufactures, markets and operates high-vacuum flat solar thermal panels able to produce heat at between 70 and 180 °C regardless of the solar radiation level and external temperature. This technology, protected by a patent portfolio, is also suitable for producing positive and negative cold for cold storage units. It achieves yields between 20 and 30% higher than conventional thermal panels and can operate in higher temperatures than other technologies. It also requires very little maintenance and cleaning and comes with a guaranteed nominal power for up to 25 years.

The technology has been shown to work effectively in a district heating plant installed at the end of 2020 by the utilities company Services industriels de Genève. The plant’s 800 m2 of panels deliver more than 700 kWh/m2/year. This thermal power plant is monitored independently by the School of Engineering and Management (HEIG-VD) in Yverdon – and its actual output has exceeded estimates by 10%. The company has also supplied similar networks in the Netherlands (an installation rated at 37 MW of installed power, 60 times greater than the Geneva one) and in Germany. “The potential is enormous, anywhere in the world,” says Gilbert Farina. “With competition from gas, solar thermal energy had gone out of fashion. But now, faced with carbon reduction targets and the increase in the price of raw materials, entire urban centres are interested in getting hold of this technology.” One square metre of panel can save 200 kg of CO2 emissions a year, and the price per MWh delivered to the client varies between €30 and €60 depending on the geographical location.

This technology also has applications in industry (where 70% of the energy used is thermal), seawater desalination, wastewater treatment and commercial greenhouses. TVP Solar has already supplied a production plant run by Emmi, Switzerland’s leading manufacturer of high-quality dairy products with a significant presence in 14 countries. It has also equipped a Pepsi factory in Brazil and a Saudi Aramco oil extraction site. The company has also had the green light to install large 30 to 50-megawatt solar thermal sites in Brazil, China and Germany. Gilbert Farina concludes: “Time is short. We need to be using mature technology to accelerate the energy transition and that’s what we offer. We are positioning ourselves as our customers’ long-term partner.”