TINA-Heating Revolution

 

by Ferdinando Pozzani Co-founder and CEO TEON SRL

The evolution of detection technologies, simulation models and satellite analysis allowed scientists to define an increasingly accurate view of the planet health status. Signals of a changing climate are intensifying and, although the discussion remains open, there is a growing academic consensus in attributing greater weight to the anthropic cause.

Without necessarily siding with those who ascribe global warming for 95% to human activity, it is however undeniable that in urban-dense areas this is the (almost) unique cause of pollution and greenhouse gases discharged by industries, transports and – above all – heating.

If we agree on an alternative future, it is also necessary to wonder how to build it and when. We as TEON are interested in participating in the collective project of a different future, which moves from environmental education, institutional sustainability and, even more importantly, research and innovation.

TEON industrial project was born and developed precisely around the idea that innovation and sustainability are the foundation to initiate a green revolution in a sector which is still anchored to an obsolete production model: the heating of buildings.

In the environmental sector, the signature of the Kyoto protocol triggered a major transformation in the way electricity is produced. Today, 40% of electricity is generated from renewable sources in Italy, in particular from photovoltaic and wind power plants, also through the deployment of a new distributed generation model.

The (incentivized) diffusion of electric and biofuel vehicles – with the profusion of huge investments in research and innovation by traditional OEMs, but also with the entry of new players not related to the automotive sector – is opening up our cities to progressively sustainable mobility.

In the heating sector, on the other hand, we have not witnessed developments worthy of note: the penetration of renewable energy sources (RES) is only 19% of final gross consumption in Italy, out of which 90% is comprised by heavily emissive biomasses. As a result, heating is by far the main source of pollution of our urban areas.

Why did we come to this point? The reasons have to be searched on one side in the age of the Italian buildings and on the other in the scarce (or late) deployment of sustainable solutions.

Constructions are equipped with traditional radiator systems in 9 out of 10 cases; 1 out of 2 buildings are older than 40 years; 1 out of 4 are in “mediocre” or in “poor state of preservation”; 1 out of 10 can be classified as of “historical” interest.

The technology deployed in traditional heat pumps makes them efficient only with “low temperature” heating systems unless costly and invasive renovations of terminals are involved. This is why 90% of the Italian buildings are still served by fossil fuel boilers. The question then is: are we doomed to burn fossil fuels or biomass – and therefore to pollute our cities – to warm up? Obviously not.

TEON’s response rests on a research path that led to industrialize a family of innovative solutions in the energy-environmental field (denominated “TINA” and awarded with several recognitions, starting with the Smart Future Minds Award in 2011), whose performance is the result of technological configurations protected by national and international patents.

“TINA” is a heat generator that, unlike traditional heat pumps, works up to 80°C. Its coefficients of performance (COP) make it (highly) economically convenient to replace boilers fuelled with natural gas, LPG, gas oil on buildings equipped with traditional radiator systems. The environmental result is that more than 70% of the useful thermal energy (at 80°C) is extracted from groundwater or other available water resources. A distinctive feature is the adoption of a natural refrigerant, vis-à-vis the still massively adopted F-Gases in traditional heat pumps, which have been ruled out by the EU for their high global warming potential.

At the country level, the adoption of a heat generator like TINA in 1 out of 4 buildings for example, only considering the northern area, would allow to meet the Country targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases in 2030 and to reduce the imports of natural gas by about 5.1 billion scm per year.

Until a few years ago it was hardly plausible to accomplish growth in wind and photovoltaic electricity generation equal to what we have witnessed, nor would it be the technology evolution level that enables the grid parity to be within reach. Today, with the introduction of high-temperature heat pumps like TINA, there is a real possibility to transform the heating production model, thus strengthening the contribution of the energy sector to the competitiveness, safety and environmental protection of the Country.

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