Powerful panels

In the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the MTS Group has installed an advanced solar-powered water-heating system in the Olympic Village.

DATE 2023-11-28 AUTHOR Jan Hökerberg

TWO WEEKS BEFORE the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games on 8 August, some 16,800 athletes and officials from all around the world will move into the Olympic Village. The residential area of the village comprises 42 buildings with 1,868 suites, as well as a health clinic, restaurants, a library, a recreation centre, gyms, swimming pools, tennis courts, basketball courts and jogging tracks.

In general, August weather in Beijing is hot and sunny, which is one reason the Chinese Olympic Committee chose to use solar energy for the water-heating system in the village. A more important reason, however, was the environmental aspect. Since China has committed to making the 2008 Olympics the “Green” Olympics, the organizers decided to use clean technology and renewable, recyclable materials wherever possible. In this sense, solar power has many advantages: It is renewable, silent and non-polluting, and it requires very little maintenance.

The MTS Group (Merloni Termosanitari) of Italy, won the tender as exclusive supplier of the water-heating system for the Olympic Village. The MTS Group employs some 1,500 people at its three production sites in Wuxi, west of Shanghai, where a research and development centre was also established recently. The company also has manufacturing facilities in India and Vietnam.

Since 1986, the MTS Group has had a presence in China, where it is known mainly for its Ariston brand, which is a market leader in domestic water heating. Recently, the MTS Group introduced the Chinese market to its Elco brand, which encompasses advanced technologies, with renewable sources of energy and energy saving (solar energy and heat pumps) its core businesses.

“In the Olympic Village, we installed an Elco maxi solar plant, which is unique in many ways,” says Wang Lei, Elco Far East project director for the MTS Group. “With 6,000 square metres of solar tubes, it is the largest of its kind in the world. It is also a very advanced and sophisticated system, fully in line with high-quality European standards, and it is the first system of its type to be used in China, as well as the first to be used in conjunction with the Olympic Games anywhere.”

The solar plant will provide hot water for all the athletes, who will be guaranteed a constant water temperature day and night.

Across the middle of the Olympic Village is an ecological corridor, ending at the east and west edges and dividing the village into four areas. Each of these areas has a centralized water supply system, which means that the water sources for these four areas are independent of each other. “We estimate that some 600 tonnes of hot water will be used per day during the games,” says Wang.

Alfa Laval delivered 37 M6 plate heat exchangers and 18 air coolers to the MTS Group for the project. “Alfa Laval has been one of our suppliers for more than a decade, providing products for our domestic home boilers,” says Wang. “Their products are of a high quality, their service is excellent and their people are very flexible.” After the Olympics and the following Paralympic Games, the village will be transformed into a residential area, but the solar water system will stay.

However, says Wang, “sometimes the sun’s radiation may not be sufficient in Beijing, so back-up gas boilers will also be used.”