Status of Solar Heating/Cooling and Solar Buildings - 2014

Status of the Market for Solar Thermal Systems

Market Size and Trends

After the record year of 2008, the German market for solar collectors experienced a dramatic decline. It was only in 2011 the market began to grow once again –2011 approximately 1.27 million m² of new solar heat collectors were installed, 2012 1.15 million m², 1.02 million m². The total collector area installed 2013 is around 17.5 million m² in approx. 1.94 million solar thermal systems with a thermal capacity of 12.3 GW in 2013. (3/2014 BSW-solar

Over 95% of the solar thermal market consists of collector arrays on single- or two-family houses with average systems of 6 m² for water systems and 12 m² for systems that support the central heating system.

An increasing market is expected for solar process heating and solar district heating grids as funding conditions have improved since August 2012. According to BSW-solar´s “Solar Thermal Roadmap”, published 2012, the solar thermal industry must construct increasingly larger plants. Industry in Germany represents a very promising application area for solar thermal technology, since it accounts for 27% of the total final energy consumption and uses 74% of its energy as thermal energy, mainly with temperature < 250°C.

An ambitious expansion goal of the German Solar Heating Roadmap is to increase the share of solar heating in the requirements and regulations for households from around 1% in 2013 to approximately 8% in 2030. In German industry (heat requirement up to 100°C) the solar fraction shall rise from nearly 0% today to 10% in 2030.

With its “Energiewende” (energy turnaround) the German government intends to provide the vast majority of Germany`s energy supplies with renewable energy by 2050.

Typical Applications and Products

The most common applications are small systems for domestic hot water and space heating for one- and two-family houses. Approximately 50% of new installed systems are for space heating systems and 80% of the new installations are combined with new heating systems.

A new application area with great potential, in addition to solar process heat for industrial applications and solar space heating systems are solar district heating systems and smart solar thermal grids.  In the last two years several large solar thermal systems were installed as demonstration projects:

  • The largest solar thermal system in Germany has a 7,500m² collector area for district heating and a 39,000m³ seasonal borehole thermal energy storage in Crailsheim.
  • The private Hofmühl-brewery in Eichstätt in Bavaria installed 835 m² vacuum tube collectors for solar process heating.
  • In Ennepetal in North Rhine-Westphalia a pilot plant using 12 parabolic trough collectors (P3-project) with a total area of 108 m² produces directly saturated steam from the receivers with a temperature of around 140°C and 4 bar. The benefit of steam is that it can be introduced directly into the industrial process without a heat exchanger.
  • In Hamburg the E.ON Hanse Wärme rebuilt the first seasonal solar thermal store in Germany from 1996 with 4,500 m³ storage volume to an multifunctional store with integration in the district heating system.

Main Market Drivers

Besides the environmental awareness of the population the main market drivers in Germany are the European and national building regulations for nearly zero emission buildings in 2020. In Germany this is being achieved through regulation - the Energy Savings Regulation (EnEV) to reduce energy consumption and the Renewable Energies Heat Act (EEWärmeG) to use renewable energy.

The main barriers are higher costs of solar thermal systems in comparison with PV and heat pumps for heating and cooling and better funding conditions for PV or combined heat and power (CHP) for district heating powerplants (feed-in-tariffs).


The German solar thermal industry had a turnover of 1 billion € and employed around 20,000 people in 2013. According to BSW-solar´s strategy document “Solar Thermal Roadmap,” it could have a turnover of around 2.3 billion € in 2020 and could even rise to 3.1 billion € by 2030. This will only be the case, however, if system prices fall by 14% by 2020 and by 50% by 2030.

There are 145 medium-sized manufacturers and suppliers, as well as 86 distributers of solar thermal components. The export quota was found to be greater than 50%. The German value creation rate is 75%.

Solar thermal systems are marketed tripartite, and this in comparison to PV, is one of the reasons that the consumer prices are much higher than the manufacturing costs.


The German solar thermal industry employed around 20,000 people in 2013, including installers and distributers.


The costs for solar thermal energy in Germany range between 8-15 ct./ kWh. The specific system costs run between 500-1.100 €/m².

Costs differ between small and large solar systems as well as between systems for DHW and space heating or large systems. With seasonal storage, the solar heating costs range from 15- 30 ct./kWh. This is approximately double the price of gas. The goal of the German Solar Heating Roadmap is to reduce the costs of a solar heating system by a total of 50% by the year 2030. The steps leading to that goal can be found in the area of simplifying assembly and optimizing complete systems including heat generators as well as new materials for collectors and storage systems.

Other Key Topics

Other key topics for solar thermal energy are installation through pre-configured and possibly standardized and simplified quick assembly of the components to reduce installation costs and installation errors and tax incentives for building owners.

Status of the Market for Solar Buildings


In Germany, all types of solar technologies for buildings are subject to research, demonstration and market activities. Continuity in national funding schemes for R&D is guaranteed by the 6th Energy research programme of the German government, which started in 2011.

The main activities for solar buildings are funded in the sub-program EnOB (Energy Optimized Building). The EnOB research projects involve buildings that have minimal primary energy requirements, high occupant comfort, moderate investment costs and significantly reduced operating costs. With regards to the “Energiewende,” initiated by the German Government in 2011, the main objective is to reduce primary energy demand, to generate most of the demand on site and to reflect energy efficiency in the buildings whole life-cycle. The grid friendly net-zero-energy-building is the main focus in EnOB. The goal requires a proper building design, the integration of different new advanced technologies and the optimized control of the heating system. (

Market Size and Trends

So called “passive houses” are popular, approximately 25.000 units were built “passivhaus-standard” by 2013, 10% of these certified by the passive house institute.

By the end of 2013, more than 1,500 solar active houses, so-called “Sonnenhäuser” (sunhouses) had been built in Germany.

Another concept of solar active houses, so-called “EffizienzhausPlus”- houses, annually produce more energy than they use. Grid connected PV provides electricity for a heat pump based heating system and power for appliances. The main problem is the higher primary energy demand as this concept needs electricity from the grid in wintertime. By the end of 2013 approximately 20 of these houses had been built.

Main Market Drivers

Again, the main market drivers are the European building regulations until 2020 and national the German Energy Savings Ordinance (EnEV).

PV also is a barrier for solar thermal technology on buildings. Economically very attractive feed-in-tariffs for PV installation cannot be achieved through the public funding for solar thermal systems.


There is no information available at this time.


Since 2009 there is a new subject of focus, “Economic viability”, within the accompanying research on the EnOB model projects. Two academic groups at the Universities of Wuppertal and Karlsruhe are dealing with the interrelationships between construction costs, building usage costs and lifecycle costs, as well as the associated optimization potential in regards to minimized CO2 emissions.

R&D Activities

R&D Programmes

R&D for solar thermal and for solar buildings is part of the 6th Energy research Programme of the German Federal Government from July 2011 (

Solar buildings and energy efficiency for buildings and storage is included in the sub-program EnOB ( funded by the Federal Ministry for Economics and Energy. The annual budget is approximately 30 million €.

Active solar thermal systems for different solar thermal applications such as water and space heating and cooling, solar process heat, solar district heating and storages were till 2013 funded by the former Federal Ministry for Environment; Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in the sub-program for renewable energy with an annual budget for low temperature solar thermal systems is approximately 10-15  million € / year.

Since 2014 the funding for both is concentrated in the new Federal Ministry for Economics and Energy.

R&D Infrastructure

R&D Institutions
Institution Type of Institution Relevant Research Areas IEA SHC Involvement Website
TU Berlin University daylighting, electric lighting 50
TU Braunschweig University solar buildings, active solar thermal systems, thermal energy storage -
ISE Freiburg Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft PV, solar thermal systems; solar buildings; energy economics, urban energy system modelling 39,40,42,43,44 47,48,49,50,51, 52
ZAE Bayern Garching Solar Institute of the State active solar thermal, thermal energy storage 42,48
ISFH Hameln Solar Institute of the State PV, active and passive solar thermal 44,49
KIT Karlsruhe University / Helmholtz-Institut energy efficient building, energy economics 51
Uni Kassel University solar process heat, thermal energy storage, monitoring 49
DLR Köln Helmholtz-Institut solar thermal concentrator technologies 39,46,49
HFT Stuttgart University energy systems for communities 44,48,49,51
IBP Stuttgart Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft building research, low energy buildings, day lighting 40,47,50
Universität Stuttgart University active solar thermal, thermal energy storage 43,44,45
BU Wuppertal University energy efficient building, energy economics, sustainable mediated urban planning 40,51

Actual Innovations

Market: Solar water and space heating, large solar systems > 100 m² collector area, low energy buildings, solar houses with solar fraction > 50%, are available but not yet feasible.

Demonstration: Solar process heating, large solar thermal systems with seasonal and multifunctional storages.

Technology for solar active houses is available based on the Passiv Haus concept; PVT-systems, smart solar thermal grids, solar thermal absorption cooling for small and medium outputs, combined solar- CHP- systems.

Concentrating collector systems for process heating and cooling (PTC, Fresnel), solar facades, intelligent control systems for solar buildings.

Research: Advanced thermal storages with higher storage capacity (PCM/PCS, TCM), PVT-systems with optimized heat and power, new collector and storage materials, cost reduction systems and installation, system integration for solar process heat, and flat-plate-collectors with higher efficiency (low-e).  Actual call on storage technologies will cover these topics.

Support Framework


“Energiewende” stands for a drastic transformation of the energy system. The goal of reducing CO2 emissions by at least 80% by the year 2050 relative to 1990 levels can only be reached if a clear shift to renewable energy sources in the heating sector combined with a reduction of the energy demand occurs. The goals are part of the German Energy Saving Ordinance (EnEV) and the German Renewable Energies Heat Act (EEWärmeG).

Solar heating is a most natural and sustainable form of heat production. Solar heating should be an integral part of the heat supply system in the majority of residential buildings. In the area of industrial process heat, solar heating contributes significantly to reducing the energy costs of companies. The strategic goal of the German Solar Heating Roadmap of the BSW-Solar is to achieve tremendous growth up to the year 2020 and then a breakthrough by 2030.

Government Agencies Responsible for Solar Thermal, for Solar Building Activities

The Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi) coordinates energy research in good cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Project Management Jülich (PtJ) supports its clients in the German Federal Government and the federal states as well as the European Commission in implementing their research policy goals with a focus on project funding. This includes SHC on advanced new concepts and technologies to improve the energy efficiency and lower the specific primary energy demand of buildings in R&D projects for energy efficient and solar buildings and active solar thermal systems and thermal energy storages.

Most Important Public Support Measure(s) for Solar Thermal and for Solar Buildings

The most important support for solar thermal systems is the German Market Incentive Programme (MAP) for renewable heat. The funding depends on solar yield and quality assurance (Solar keymark). Since the middle of August 2012, the funding rates increased for solar thermal systems, especially for solar process heat and solar district heating.

Tax incentives for building owners are currently lacking.

Information Resources

National Associations on Green/Solar/Sustainable Buildings

  • German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB – Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen e.V.)
    Founded in 2007 by 16 initiators from various subject areas within the construction and real estate sectors. Their goal is to promote sustainable and economically efficient building even more strongly in the future
  • Passive House Institute (PHI) 
    Independent research institute that has played an especially crucial role in the development of the Passive House concept - the only internationally recognised, performance-based energy standard in construction
  • German Energy Agency
    Focuses on energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and intelligent energy systems at the interface between politics and business
  • Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt DBU (German Federal Environmental Foundation)
    One of Europe's largest foundations and promotes innovative and exemplary environmental projects

Most Important Media for Solar Thermal and Solar Buildings