Solar District Heating (SDH)
“More and more countries recognise that solar thermal district heating is the most cost-effective way to decarbonise the heating sector”, explains Guthrie. The first SDH installations above >500 m² (350 kWth) came online in France, Serbia, Australia and Kyrgyzstan. In total 15 large-scale solar thermal systems were added in 2017 mostly in the established markets as Austria, China, Denmark, Germany and Sweden. For the first time parabolic trough collector technologies were used for feeding energy into district heating networks. The largest installation started operation in Inner Mongolia in October 2016 (75,000 m2) followed by a Danish installation with 26,929 m2 in the municipality of Brønderslev (see photo).
Residential markets under pressure
Due to increasing competition with other renewable technologies in the residential sector and the continuously low fossil fuel prices throughout 2017, new installations in China and Europe declined. The added global solar thermal capacity of around 35 GWth was down by 4.2 % in 2017.
This downward trend of the previous year flattened out somewhat in China last year due to the rising demand for solar space heating and solar water heaters for large real estate projects. New installations in China declined by only 6% relative to 2016, which saw a 9% one-year market decline, following an even larger year-to-year contraction (-17%) in 2015.
Market growth was recorded in India (26%), Mexico (7%) and Turkey (4%). All three markets have cost competitive residential solutions and no direct subsidy schemes in place. Therefore it is no surprise that India and Turkey have the lowest solar hot water prices with 2 to 3 €-ct/kWh according to the Levelised Cost of Heat calculations in chapter 5. On the high end of solar heat costs are France with 19 €-ct/kWh for small systems and 14 €-ct/kWh for multi-family houses, and in Denmark with 16 and 12 €-ct/kWh respectively.
Other key market trends
Collector technology depends on the region: Vacuum tube collectors dominated the global solar thermal capacity in operation (72%), whereas flat plate collectors are most common in Europe (83%).
In 2016, solar thermal systems in multi-family houses, hotels and schools contributed 27% to globally produced solar heat. Solar water heaters for single family houses reduced their market share slightly. Swimming pool heating (4%) and solar combi systems (2%) were niche markets.
The leading countries for air collector installations were Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States. Solar air heating provides typically 20 to 30% of the annual space heating demand of buildings and dries agricultural products.
Key Global Figures of Solar Heating and Cooling
Total capacity in operation end of 2017 1
Growth in total capacity in operation 2015/2016
Climate protection contribution in 2017
388 terawatt hours of solar energy saved
41.7 million tons of oil and 134.7 million tons of CO2
Top five countries: new capacity 2016 2
China, Turkey, Brazil, India, and United States
Top five countries: total capacity in operation end of 2016 2
China, United States, Turkey, Germany, and Brazil
Top five countries: total capacity per capita end of 2016 2
Barbados, Austria, Cyprus, Israel, and Greece
1 Unglazed, glazed flat-plate and evacuated tube collectors with water as the energy carrier as well as glazed and unglazed air collectors are considered.
2 Glazed and unglazed water collectors are considered.
Solar Heat Worldwide
First published in 2002, Solar Heat Worldwide 2018 gathered market data on installed capacities, costs and share of applications from 66 countries. The 93-page report includes chapters on commercial applications and Levelized Cost of Heat. Solar Heat Worldwide has a solid reputation as reference for solar heating and cooling data among international organizations including REN21 and International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The study was again the main contributor for the solar heating and cooling chapters of REN21’s Renewable 2018 Global Status Report (GSR), which is one of the key policy adviser reports on renewables.
A-sun solar water heater manufacturer Organize release