Today, at EnerSolar+ 2011, the event on renewable energies taking place at fieramilano, was the day on thermal solar energy, a sector in which Italy already has a leading role, but which needs suitable incentives to exploit to the utmost its important potential.

"Italy is the second market in Europe after Germany, for thermal solar energy, with 2.7 million square metres of installed power, equal to almost 2.0 GWth, and a turnover of half a billion Euro (+3% in 2010 compared to the previous year). The sector employs about 15,000 people." This is what Valeria Verga, the general secretary of Assolterm, l’Associazione Italiana Solare Termico - Italian Association of Thermal Solar Energy, said today during her presentation at one of the conferences of EnerSolar+ 2011, the event dedicated to renewable energies, which will continue until tomorrow, Saturday 19 November, at fieramilano, Rho.

"These are important facts and figures, but if we take into consideration energy installed per person, the panorama changes, to indicative significant development margins caused by a legislative framework not so positive for the correct development of thermal solar energy until now, and not because of the lack of sunlight, which we have in abundance here in Italy," Valeria Verga continued. "The density of installed plants in Italy, in fact, is still below the European average, despite the huge potential. In short, much has been done, but there is much still to be done."

To enable the full development of the sector in Italy, we need to have a suitable system of incentives, which involves different technologies and applications, and other measures must be taken such as building integration and simplification of administrative procedures, together with more information, training and research.

"Our industry also includes important thermo-hydraulic companies and small and medium companies specialized in solar energy, and which has reached considerable levels of development, creating employment and wealth in Italy and has concentrated much of its efforts, despite the lack of interest from institutions, in the quality of products and production processes, in the professionalizing of services offered and in technological innovation," concluded the general secretary of Assolterm.

Marco Calderoni of the Dipartimento di Energia del Politecnico di Milano (Energy Department of the Milan Polytechnic) , also participated in the conferences, speaking about solar cooling technology. "Solar cooling has always attracted considerable interest from end users, legislators, as well as from public and private companies and organizations involved in different ways in renewable energies," said Calderoni. "There are numerous reasons behind this interest: on the one hand, solar cooling is a fascinating solution with regards to technology, if we consider that it uses the heat from the sun to produce cooling; on the other hand, it contributes in solving the long-standing problem of the overloading of the grids in summer, which, in the past few years, has increased significantly because of the higher use of air conditioning using electricity. Until now, however, solar cooling has not developed as expected a few years ago," continued Calderoni, "mainly due to the rather high costs of investments and the lack, above all in residential buildings, where thermal solar energy is more frequent, of air conditioning plants using thermal solar energy. Today, however, there is a new and interesting opportunity for this technology: the European directive on renewables and the Italian implementation by means of the legislative decree 28/11, in fact, extend the obligations of use of renewable energy plants to include those for air conditioning, where, until now, renewable solutions have been scarse. Thanks also to the growth of the market in the past few years, along with the development of many new products, an interesting development of solar cooling is to be expected in Italy and in Europe."

Today, during Greenergy Expo, the event part of EnerSolar+ 2011, the potential and the contribution of geothermal energy to renewables was also discussed, an energy that gives rise to high hopes and has significant potential. If compared to other sources, in fact, if offers numerous advantages, due to the fact that the heat contained in the Earth’s crust is an endless and continuous source of energy.

According to data from the Manifesto della Geotermia - Geothermal Energy Report from Associazione Termotecnica Italiana (Italian Thermo-Technical Association), Consiglio Nazionale dei Geologi (National Council of Geologists) and Ugi (Unione Geotermica Italiana - Italian Geothermal Union), by 2020, Italy will have 1,500 MWe of installed power, with the generation of 10 billion kWh/year, equal to the energy needs of nine million inhabitants. To this we must also add that the foreseen development of geothermal energy from now until 2020 will avoid the release into the atmosphere of eight to ten tonnes of CO2 per year.

The positive forecasts of the sector have also been confirmed by a report from the American research company Pike Research, according to which, by 2012, at worldwide level, there will be a 134% increase in the total capacity of geothermal energy. If these forecasts were to come true, it would mean doubling the present capacity of 10.7 GW, which could reach up to 25 GW.

The debate on biofuels was also very interesting, and which, as Maria Rosaria Di Somma, managing director of Assocostieri-Unione Produttori Biocarburanti - Union of Biofuel Producers reminded us, "they contribute significantly in the decrease in emissions both in terms of CO2, as well as those regarding particulate matter in the transport sector." According to findings, the sector today is expanding and the outlooks are positive, also for the contribution that biofuels can provide to the overall growth of renewable energies, and for the strategic importance of the sector, essential to be able to reach the ambitious goals of renewables in 2020.

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