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Towards more efficient heating and cooling in Europe’s buildings

An EU-backed consortium couples heat pumps with solar panels for more efficient energy use in residential and other buildings.

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The EU-funded SunHorizon project is investigating new ways to maximise the solar potential for heating and cooling in buildings across Europe. By combining innovative heat pump solutions with advanced solar panels, it aims to reduce emissions, energy bills and dependency on fossil fuels for the heating and cooling of residential and non-residential buildings. The SunHorizon consortium’s heating and cooling technologies are being demonstrated in eight sites representing different climates in Belgium, Germany, Spain, France and Latvia. Since its launch in October 2018, the project is finalising commissioning in three of its eight demo sites: Riga, in Latvia, and Madrid and Sant Cugat del Vallès in Spain.

Demonstrating energy efficiency in Latvia’s cold climate

In Riga, the demo site with the coldest climate, the project partners installed heat pumps with photovoltaic thermal (PVT) collectors and stratified thermal storage in two residential houses. The end users provide feedback on the system through a dedicated mobile app. “Latvia has the highest gas grid penetration in Europe and has rolled out a large number of heat pumps throughout the country,” the consortium stated in a news item posted on the ‘pv magazine’ website. “The data collected may prove to be particularly informative due to the harshness of the winters there.” A gas-driven thermal compression heat pump provides space heating and domestic hot water much more efficiently, while the outside air and heat produced by the PVT panels serve as additional heat sources to the heat pump. Unused thermal energy from the PVT field is stored in a stratified thermal storage tank, and electricity generated by the solar panels fully covers household electricity demands throughout the year. Moreover, surplus electricity from the PVT field undergoes power-to-heat conversion with the aid of a smart electric heater. “Demonstration of the innovative SunHorizon technology package in Latvia is going to provide broad experience for the local stakeholders considering that gas-driven heat pumps, stratified energy storage and PVT panels haven’t been used much in our country so far,” observed Dr Zane Broka of project partner Riga Technical University in a press release posted on the ‘SunHorizon’ website.

Two demo sites in Spain

Located at Sant Cugat del Vallès, one Spanish demo site in which commissioning is being finalised is the Mira-sol civic centre, in which 10 different rooms are monitored with carbon dioxide, temperature, humidity, window and occupancy sensors. The facility’s heating and cooling demands are met by a hybrid adsorption-compression chiller, high-vacuum solar thermal panels, storage tanks, and advanced monitoring and controls interface components. The second Spanish demo site is a former police station in Madrid converted to a social housing building with 10 flats. Here, heat pumps combined with hybrid solar panels and stratified storage tanks are being installed to meet tenants’ needs for space heating and cooling and hot water. Consortium partners Empresa Municipal de la Vivienda y Suelo de Madrid received a second place award at the VIII Premios Eficiencia Energética y Sostenibilidad for their innovative interventions in this social housing project. The SunHorizon (Sun coupled innovative Heat pumps) project’s interventions are expected to improve tenants’ quality of life by achieving a high degree of comfort with minimum energy consumption. For more information, please see: SunHorizon project website


SunHorizon, heat pump, solar panel, heating, cooling, photovoltaic, thermal, photovoltaic thermal, PVT

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