A Chinese coal stove in a private apartment and exhaust from the same stove – nearby power plant is not used to supply heat. Picture from Tongchuan old town.
A cooling tower near an urban area with heat demand. Picture from Tongchuan.
One of the largest future problems regarding heating in China is what to do in rural villages and farm houses, where they are currently using very inefficient and polluting coal stoves. The heat consumption is higher per square meter in rural areas, due to one-family houses and bad insulation, and almost half of the Chinese population lives in rural areas. It has been shown that solar heating combined with seasonal heat storage systems and heat pumps could be the right renewable solutions for these areas. Instead of having one solar collector for hot tap water and a boiler or heat pump in each house, DH systems can be a much more efficient solution regarding loss, investment, O&M and flexibility. A good example of this can be seen in Tibet where the Danish company Arcon-Sunmark is building solar collectors in combination with heat storage systems showing that the change and development of new solutions has started in China for rural areas as well. To decrease poverty and to ensure employment in rural areas, it can be important to keep the created revenues by avoiding imported energy like natural gas and power. In other cases, small biomass boilers able to use energy from own residues in an efficient and affordable way, perhaps even combined with a storage system, could be solutions suitable for these rural areas. These kinds of solutions are still not developed in China but can trigger a huge potential.
Natural gas boiler room for multi floor apartments – nearby power plant is not used to supply heat. Picture from Tongchuan
Today, much of the development in China does not integrate power, heat, cooling, industry or gas systems; and often new solutions only optimize parts of systems and create curtailment in other parts. Examples of this can be: • Wind power curtailment – because CHP plants need to produce heat • Power production when no wind resources are available – instead of storing/using the heat from CHP plants to produce both cooling and heating • Hot tap water produced by electricity when excess district heat is available • Flaring waste energy in the industry and power sectors instead of collecting it for heating/cooling purpose • Waste to landfilling instead of reusing it or incinerating it at CHP plants to satisfy an industry heat/cooling demand • Too high subsidies for producing power are giving incentives for stand-alone power production instead of importing renewable electricity. Transmission cables are not used enough in China due to local stand-alone power productions. • Fixed heating season – outside the heating season buildings are often heated using electricity even when excess heat could be available • Power only plants in areas with no heat demand • Natural gas shortage – when individual natural gas customers could be supplied by excess heat or local residues in district heating systems
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