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Milk Round accelerator: Soltropy

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Milk Round accelerator: Soltropy

CENSIS is supporting solar thermal technology company Soltropy to develop its water heating system, helping dairy farmers to cut energy costs and reduce consumption, using IoT.

The Glasgow-based company has designed and developed a smart monitoring method for its water heating system with the support of the CENSIS Milk Round accelerator. The initiative is part of the Digital Dairy Chain, a project funded by UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund.

For dairy farmers, access to hot water is essential for regular cleaning and sanitisation of parlour floors and equipment but traditional water tank heaters consume significant amounts of energy. In contrast, Soltropy’s roof-installed system uses energy from the sun and a series of solar thermal panels to provide plentiful hot water on demand. Estimates from the company suggest farmers could make savings of up to £6,000 per year in energy bills, depending on their supplier.

Soltropy’s heat-generating solar thermal panels are three times more efficient than photovoltaic panels, which convert sunlight to electricity. Unlike other solar thermal systems, Soltropy’s panel needs less maintenance and, crucially, do not require antifreeze, a major obstacle for widespread use of solar thermal systems in the UK as antifreeze needs replaced every three years.

The latest generation of the heating technology – which can easily be retrofitted on to existing systems – will feature IoT-connected solar tubes to enable remote monitoring. A typical farm setup is around ten times the size of an average domestic system.  Data collected will help farmers to monitor the system’s performance with automated alerts pointing towards necessary repairs, rather than relying on a physical inspection of the panels and solar tubes to ensure optimum performance. Over time, analysis of the data could move from highlighting faults to predicting when maintenance is needed.

For dairy farms, which can be based in remote, rural locations, the system also provides an alternative off-grid option for renewable energy. The thermal technology can also be applied to other businesses and sectors with large requirements for hot water, such as hospitality and tourism destinations.

Following tests of the new system, Soltropy plans to complete an on-farm trial. The product is expected to be available on the market later in 2024.

Soltropy case study

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