Jordan’s concentrating solar heat potential
High solar radiation levels and energy-intensive manufacturing industries along with expensive electricity tariffs make Jordan an ideal market for Concentrating Solar Heat (CSH) technology. But the lack of pilot systems and limited financing options have so far deterred potential users.
By Heba Hashem
Solar process heating can significantly help reduce industrial fuel use in Jordan. Currently, industry accounts for nearly 20% of final energy demand and 60% of this is used for process heating, according to a 2017 paper published by German Aerospace Center DLR.
Jordan also enjoys high direct solar irradiation that exceeds that of its neighboring countries due to its altitude and dryness – receiving 5-7 kWh/m2 per day according to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.
Moreover, electricity tariffs have considerably risen in recent years on the back of subsidy cuts and expensive fuel imports by the non-oil producing country. Large industries for instance pay 17–33 US cents/kWh in Jordan. In contrast, industries in Dubai pay 6–10 US cents/kWh.
“Companies and factories in Jordan pay 50–100% more in energy than the average competitor pays elsewhere in the region,” said Eng. Mahmoud Shattel, founder and CEO of Taqetna, an Amman-based renewable energy company.
The business case is especially strong for CSH, which can be used in the production processes of many industries, including the chemical industry (distillation), mining (nitrate melting), textile (dyeing), and pharmaceutical (sterilization).
“There is a great potential for CSH in Jordan. In the food sector alone, we have more than 400 industry segments that are using temperatures higher than 100°C, and about half of these use temperatures above 150ºC,” explained Eng. Muhieddin Tawalbeh, manager of the Energy Efficiency & Solar Thermal Division at the National Energy Research Center (NERC), one of the technical centers of Jordan’s Royal Scientific Society.
“In 2017, we carried out 12 energy audits for food industries under a project funded by the EU. We found that these industries can use solar heating for their process heat,” he said.
The chemical sector also has a high thermal energy demand and huge potential for CSH. “In general, food and chemical industries use more than 150 ºC,” Yacoub Marar, director of the Renewable Energy Department at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in Jordan said.
The most promising sectors for CSH in Jordan based on their national importance are potash, phosphate and bromine processing, as well as fertilizer manufacturing, according to the DLR paper. In smaller industries, manufacturers of resins, detergents, or chlorine products could benefit from using CSH in their industrial process.
Altogether, the energy consumption of industrial heat processes requiring above 150ºC in Jordan is estimated to be 300,000,000 KWhth (around 1 x 1012 BTU), Tawalbeh noted.
Despite the clear potential of solar process heating in Jordan, only one company has capitalized on this opportunity. Pharmaceutical manufacturer RAM Pharma installed a 223kW solar-process heat system in 2015 to provide saturated steam for drying, sterilization and fermenting.
Developed by Germany’s Industrial Solar, the Fresnel-based plant supplies steam at 160°C and has reduced the factory’s annual diesel consumption by 42%, according to Mahmoud Al Najami, General Manager of RAM Pharma, cited in the Solar Heat for Industry brochure.
1. RAM Pharma’s System in Amman, Jordan
The lack of pilot projects is one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of CSH technology. “We lack pilot systems in Jordan – we have only one and it’s not concentrated; they use evacuated tube [collectors] for process heating,” Tawalbeh highlighted.
Funding is another barrier as most companies in Jordan are not able to finance CSH systems from their own resources. Thus, they would need to obtain loans or seek grants, Tawalbeh noted.
RAM Pharma’s solar-process steam plant, for example, was funded by German development agency GIZ, whereas the monitoring of the plant in 2016 and 2017 was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).
CSH is also seen as costly compared to other technologies. Shattel stressed that the potential for CSH will remain weak in Jordan unless its major parts are manufactured domestically because of custom clearance issues and the import of expensive equipment.
A report on solar heat for industrial processes, published by the International Renewable Energy Agency in 2015, estimates that the cost of a solar parabolic dish is in the range of USD 400-900/kW, and a parabolic trough USD 600-2,000/kW.
“We have windows in Jordan to finance renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, through institutions such as Ahli Bank and Capital Bank. However, they have mostly financed PV systems because they are more well known to them,” Tawalbeh explained.
“We need more awareness for CSH technology, capacity building, and a demonstration project to disseminate the information that industries need,” he said.