ÖkoFlussPlan: Successful implementation of sustainable insulation and installation of a solar thermal system for the "Real Lab" in Kyrgyzstan

"Real Lab" in Ak-Tal, Kyrgyzstan

The non-profit organization CAMP Alatoo was insulating the "Real Lab" with locally available, sustainable insulation material. In this way, the "Real Lab" will function as a model house in the region. (© Ruslan Ismailov – CAMP Alatoo)

The solar thermal system including storage tank and stove in the Real Lab is installed. (© Jakob Beringer – TH Ingolstadt)

Installation works on the roof and inside the building are ongoing. (© Jakob Beringer – TH Ingolstadt)

Over the summer months, construction work on the Real Lab - a community house in the framework of ÖkoFlussPlan project in Kyrgyzstan continued successfully. The main objective of the Real Lab is to demonstrate the combination of sustainable insulation and renewable heating technologies.  In that regard, the building is insulated with reed. For sustainable heat supply, a solar thermal system was successfully installed on the roof of the community house, which generates heat for domestic hot water and space heating.

The Institute of New Energy Systems (InES) at Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt (THI) is responsible for work package 5 (Renewable Energies) in the ÖkoFlussPlan project. The main objective of this work package is to find feasible solutions for the integration of renewable energies in rural Kyrgyzstan. In addition to the original scope of the ÖkoFlussPlan project, THI started the construction of "Real Lab" - a community house to demonstrate the use of sustainable energy solutions.

The Real Lab takes a multi-dimensional approach to spread knowledge and awareness about renewable energies in rural areas of Kyrgyzstan. It is a 100 m² building that is being constructed in Ak-Tal, a village in the Naryn region. The focus of the work is on sustainable insulation and sustainable heat supply.

Sustainable insulation

Our own investigations have shown that many residential buildings in rural Kyrgyzstan are not thermally insulated and in poor conditions (see also here). The outdated structural conditions and the absence of proper thermal insulation result in high heat demand and low thermal comfort in Kyrgyz houses. To maintain thermal comfort, the local rural people use solid fuels operated traditional heating stoves during the winter months. At the same time, locally available sustainable insulation materials such as sheep wool, reed, and straw bale can help to reduce the heat demand affordably. In that direction, by insulating the community house with reed (cf. Figure 1), a practical way to sustainably reduce their heating needs is shown to the residents.

Sustainable heat supply

By considering the great and untapped potential of solar energy in Kyrgyzstan (which is due to the more intense irradiation 60% higher compared to central Europe), the Real Lab was equipped with solar thermal system for space heating and domestic hot water use (cf. Figure 2). In cooperation with the partner company Citrin Solar, a 1000-litre storage tank was installed in the building and five collectors on the roof (cf. Figure 3). Substructures were installed for the solar collectors. This increases the angle of inclination and results in achieving higher solar yields during the winter months when the sun is lower in the sky. Due to the climatic conditions in Kyrgyzstan a special fluid for the solar system is necessary. It needs to withstand the frosty temperatures during winter where temperatures below -20 °C are not uncommon.

Since the solar system is not able to cover the entire heat demand by itself, the system is coupled with a high-efficient stove. The Kyrgyz-manufactured stove has a heating capacity of about 13 kW and an integrated water pocket, which allows the stove to be combined with the storage tank. The flue gas is cooled by this built-in water pocket, which significantly improves the efficiency of the furnace. The heat released to the fluid can then be temporarily stored in the 1000-liter heat storage tank and used for space heating when needed.

In the unusual working environment of Central Asia, THI employees were able to install the entire piping of the heat supply system within a few days. The students from the Bachelor programme Energy Systems and Renewable Energies Jean-Philippe Berndt, Philipp Boortz, Dominic Schmidtner and Felix Ulber were part of the working group. They all completed vocational training before their studies and managed to utilize their practical experience in this research project.

Future use

As partner in the ÖkoFlussPlan project, the Ak-Tal self-governance will use the community centre beyond the project period. To improve awareness of the benefits of renewable energies and building insulation in the Ak-Tal community and neighbouring regions, visits to the Real Lab will be free of charge for all interested parties. In addition, the building will be used in various ways for the benefit of the Ak-Tal community, such as hosting community meetings or housing the local kindergarten. As an academic partner in the project consortium, Naryn State University will play a key role in addressing and taking responsibility for the technical components of the "Real Lab" facility. To maximize the benefits, NSU students will participate in regular research training sessions at the "Real Lab," which will give them the opportunity to expand their knowledge in the field of renewable energies. However, the scope of the scientific activities is not limited to on-site training, but also includes research activities and maintenance of the installed technologies as well as the preparation of technical reports that provide information on the efficiency of the installed energy systems in the Kyrgyz climate.

The ÖkoFlussPlan project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and started in 2019. ÖkoFlussPlan is part of the BMBF initiative Client II.