Status of Solar Heating/Cooling and Solar Buildings - 2020

Status of the Market for Solar Thermal Systems

Market Size and Trends

2019 was another year of market decline in the German solar thermal sector, only 0.51 million m² of collector area were installed, roughly as much as in the previous year. The total collector area installed in 2019 is around 21 million m² in approximately 2.4 million solar thermal systems with a thermal capacity of 14.8 GW (April 2020; BSW-solar

The majority of the solar thermal market still consists of collector arrays on single or two-family houses. Overall, it can be observed that there is an increasing market for solar district heating grids as well as for solar process heat systems. Think big: there has been a growing solar district heating market for the past several years. This market is picking up speed although many more projects are needed. Experts predict that 15% of district heating in 2050 could be solar (around 30 million m2²). In 2019, new projects added 26 MW. There is a rising awareness by utilities. Today, 38 large-scale solar thermal plants with a total capacity of 53 MWth are feeding their heat into district heating systems in Germany.

Broad marketing measures were done within the context of the project “SOLNet4.0”. Integration of solar thermal systems into heating network systems is expected to expand but remains ambitious, as nearly all heating networks operate at temperatures from 80° to 130°C requiring highly efficient collectors. The largest solar thermal installation in Germany is a 10.4 MW systme is in Ludwigsburg-Kornwestheim. This plant has overtaken the Senftenberg utilities (Stadtwerke Senftenberg GmbH) project as one of the biggest installations with vacuum tube collectors worldwide and at the same time the first large-scale installation to supply a public district heating network. Other district heating systems in Chemnitz-Brühl, Hennigsdorf are part of R&D projects.

Other projects that began operating last year: Bernburg (6.0 MW), Potsdam (3.6 MW), Halle (3.6 MW), Ettenheim (1.2 MW). Also, so-called solar assisted bioenergy villages - smaller communities in rural areas - have switched from de-central heating oil boilers in every single house to small district heating networks using renewable energy sources. Solar thermal plants provide the entire heating demand in summer, often combined with large biomass boilers for the winter periods. In 2013, the first solar district heating plant of this type went into operation in the village of Büsingen in the south-western part of Germany. Another eight plants followed, five of them in the year 2018 (Hengsberg (3,000 m²), Randegg (2,400 m²), Liggeringen (1,100 m²), Ellern (1,245 m²), Hallerndorf (1,300 m²), Moosach (1,067 m²), and Schluchsee in 2019 (3,000 m²).

At present more than 300 systems for process heat are in operation. Twenty installations with 1.8 MW went into operation in 2019. The number of applications is growing due to several years of continued financial support for process heat plants. A spirit of optimism is caused by CO2 pricing schemes that will be introduced in 2021. Most of them have been installed in SME (two third in the range of 20-40 m², one third 40-100 m²). In 2018, there was a trend towards larger installations. In 2019, 38% of the subsidised solar thermal installations were installed in pressure regulator and gas control stations and 25% for drying processes in agricultural sector. Guidelines and fact sheets are available on webpage www.solare-prozesswä new technical guideline “VDI-Richtlinie 3988 Solar thermal process heat“ was published in the beginning of 2020. In Germany, 60% of the heating demand and nearly 35% of the final energy consumption are used in applications below 100°C for space heating, domestic hot water and process heating and heating networks. 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 2015 to approximately 8% in 2030. In German industry (heat requirement up to 100°C), the solar fraction shall rise from a little more than 0% today to 10% in 2030. These are largely determined by the key targets of energy policy: halving primary energy consumption by 2050 compared with 2008 and achieving a renewables ratio of 60% to gross final energy consumption. Through almost complete decarbonisation, the energy sector must additionally help ensure that Germany become largely greenhouse-gas neutral by 2050.

Typical Applications and Products

The most standard applications are still small systems for domestic hot water and space heating for single and two-family houses. Growing markets with great potential are in the field of solar process heat for industrial applications and solar district heating systems and smart solar thermal grids (see above). In the last three years several large solar thermal systems were installed as demonstration projects:

  • The largest solar thermal system in Germany has 14,500 m² in Ludwigsburg Kornwestheim followed by Senftenberg 8,300 m² (see above).
  • In Crailsheim, 7,500m² of flat plat collectors for district heating and a 39,000 m³ seasonal borehole thermal energy storage were installed. The collectors will be replaced by collectors with a higher efficiency within the next years.
  • Büsingen (near Konstanz and close to Switzerland) is Germany´s first solar assisted bioenergy village. More than 1,000 m² CPC vacuum tube collectors are integrated in a newly installed heating network combined with biomass heating. Heat energy price is less than 40 €/MWh.
  • In Grafenhausen, one of the biggest process heat systems for the brewery Rothaus went into operation in in 2018, 1,000 m² vacuum tube collectors.

Main Market Drivers

Beside 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 with the Energy Savings Ordinance (EnEV) to reduce energy consumption and the Renewable Energies Heat Act (EEWärmeG) to use renewable energy. Both directives will be merged into a new “Gebäudeenergiegesetz” (process is still ongoing). The building regulations are a key driver for building integration of solar systems especially active and adaptive facade systems. A main barrier are the current low prices for gas and oil and the decline in prices of photovoltaics (PV) and the trend to electric heating systems with heatpumps as well as the higher funding rates for PV or combined heat and power (CHP) (feed-in-tariffs). New pricing of CO2 emmissions: The Climate Action Programme 2030 was adopted in November 2019. One major element of the Climate Action Programme 2030 is a proposal for a new national carbon pricing system that covers the transportation and buildings sectors. The national emissions trading system will be launched in 2021 with a fixed price system. A price per tonne CO2 will be set at political level. The fixed price will initially be 25 euros per tonne CO2 and rise to 55 euros per tonne by 2025.


The German solar thermal industry had a turnover of approximatley 0.70 billion € (database 2016). According to BSW-solar´s strategy document “Solar Thermal Roadmap”, it could even rise up to 3 billion € by 2030. This will only be the case, however, if system prices fall by 50% by 2030.

There are approximatley 140 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% (database 2016). The market leaders for large-scale systems for solar heating network integration and process heat integration are the company Ritter XL Solar GmbH and Viessmann. Solar thermal systems are marketed tripartite. 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 2016, including installers and distributers (database 2016).


The costs for solar thermal energy in Germany range between 10-15 € Cent/kWh for hot water and space heating in single and multi-family houses and 5-10 € Cent/kWh for large scale systems. The specific system costs run between 500-1,100 €/m² (database 2016). Costs differ between small and large scale solar systems as well as between systems for domestic hot water and space heating or large systems with and without seasonal storage. For large solar process heating systems and solar assisted heating grids costs from 4-7 € Cent/kWh have been realized, 5-3 € Cent/kWh could be reached. The main target for solar thermal energy is to reach gas-parity. Two ambitious R&D projects focused on cost reduction: “KOST” and “TEWISOL”: The project objectives were to reduce the solar heat generation costs by approximatley 40% and to increase the competitiveness of solar thermal energy versus other heat generation technologies, primarily achieved by standardization. Results were discussed in 2019 and provided input to the IEA SHC Task 54: Price Reduction of Solar Thermal Systems. University of Kassel presented its learning curve of solar thermal systems in Germany at the 2017 Solar World Congress/SHC Conference in Abu Dhabi: learning rate of DHW systems is 18%, of Combi systems 8%. 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. Cost reduction of solar thermal systems is one of the main targets of R&D.

Other Key Topics

Other key topics are:

  • Pre-configured and standardized and simplified quick assembly of the components to reduce installation costs and installation errors,
  • Advanced building integration and system integration of solar heat and solar power (PV, PVT), and 
  • Solar active houses with higher (up to 100%) solar fraction for heat and power for single and multi-family houses.

Status of the Market for Solar Buildings


In Germany, all types of solar technologies for buildings and industry are subject to research, demonstration and market activities. Continuity in national funding schemes for R&D is guaranteed by the government's 7th Energy research programme. The building and neighborhood sectors comprise a broad range of R&D topics. In the course of sector coupling, buildings and neighborhoods will have to interact more with the power and also transport systems. Linking the building infrastructure with energy supply in the transport sector, for example using vehicles as storage units for locally produced renewable energies, can contribute to improving the climate footprint and energy efficiency. With regards to the energy transition 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. 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

Passive houses are popular, approximately 25,000 units were built in Germany according to the passive house standard ( and 10% of these certified by the passive house institute (database 2016). By the end of 2016, more than 2,200 solar active houses, “Sonnenhäuser” or “sunhouses”, had been built in Germany. Additionally, the "efficiency house plus" initiative is worth mentioning: 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.

Main Market Drivers

Again, the main market drivers are the European building regulations until 2020 and 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.


For the last few years there is a new subject of focus, “economic viability”, within the accompanying research model projects (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

German energy research is a strategic element of German energy policy and is indispensable for the long-term success of the energy transition. Since 2014, the funding is concentrated in the new Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. R&D for solar thermal and for solar buildings is part of the Energy research Programme of the German Federal Government ( In April 2016, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy together with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research started the R&D Programme for "Solar buildings and energy efficient cities/ areas" with a budget of 150 million € for 3 years. The input based on recommendations of about 500 experts in the research network. Six milestone projects have started in city districts. In preparation for the 7th Energy Research Programme, the Economic Affairs Ministry engaged in a broad-based consultation process in 2017. Numerous stakeholders from academia, commerce, civil society and the Bundesländer participated in this, submitting position papers and expert recommendations. The results were presented to the public in February 2018. The 7th Energy Research Programme defines the current principles and priorities for Federal Government for an environmentally-friendly, reliable and affordable energy supply funding for innovative energy technology. In September 2018, the Federal Cabinet adopted the 7th Energy Research Programme entitled “Innovations for the Energy Transition”. It contains the guidelines for energy research funding in the coming years. In the context of the 7th Energy Research Programme, the Federal Government is making around 7 billion € available for projects. In addition to specific technologies, funding is made available for overarching, cross-sector issues such as energy efficiency, reduction of consumption, sector coupling and digitisation. This contributes to ensuring a holistic funding approach. Thanks to the innovative funding format of ‘living labs’, the energy system of the future can already be tested today. The results and experience serve as a blueprint for the actual practical implementation. At the same time, more funding is planned to be made available to start-ups, which are essential to provide fresh impetus to the energy transition. It is essential that research is closely linked at European and international level. For this reason, cooperation with international organisations will be expanded and scientific exchange will be promoted. Furthermore, the improvement of the capacity to export and of the competitiveness plays an important role. Since the launch of the 1st Energy Research Programme in 1977, the Federal Government has invested around €12 billion to fund over 17,300 non-nuclear energy research projects (database 2018). Active solar thermal systems for different solar thermal applications such as water and space heating and cooling, solar district heating and storages are included in the sub-program “Energy optimized buildings and areas”, solar process heat is includes in the sub-program “commerce, trade, services sector and industry”. In 2019, we looked back on 25 years R&D in solar energy. R&D started with the support programmes “Solarthermie 2000” and “2000plus” with pilot and demo systems. In recent years, it has delivered impressive results. In November 2015, on the side-lines of the Paris Climate Change Agreement (COP21), the initiative Mission Innova¬tion was established, whose members now include 23 states and the European Union. The member states, including Germany, have committed to double public investment in research and development for clean energies within five years.

R&D Infrastructure

Institution Type Research Areas 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 39,43,44 47,48,49,50,51, 52, 53, 54, 56, 57
ZAE Bayern Garching Solar Institute of the State active solar thermal, thermal energy storage 42,48, 53, 58
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, 55
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, 56
Universität Stuttgart University active solar thermal, thermal energy storage 43,44,45, 54, 55, 57
BU Wuppertal University energy efficient building, energy economics, sustainable mediated urban planning 40,51
TU Dresden University heating grids 55
TU Chemnitz University heating grids, thermal energy storage 55
Universität Saarland Unniversity energy system, digitalization, automatization 60

Actual Innovations

Market: Solar water and space heating, large solar systems > 100 m² collector area, low energy buildings, solar active houses with solar fraction >50%, solar process heating systems for different industries 

Demonstration: Solar process heating, large scale solar thermal systems with seasonal and multifunctional storages, solar district heating systems, smart solar thermal grids, solar thermal absorption and adsorption 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 output; New collector and storage materials; Cost reduction for solar thermal systems through standardization and plug&play- installations; Development of accelerated aging tests for solar thermal collectors and their components depending from location and different extreme climates; System integration for solar process heat, building integrated modelling, advanced building integrated photovoltaics and solar thermal power

Support Framework


“Energiewende” means a drastic transition 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. After having made major progress in many areas, the energy transition is now entering a new phase. While the initial main concern was with expanding renewable ener¬gies and energy-efficient technologies, greater focus will now be placed on systemic issues. The goals are part of the National Action Plan of Energy Efficiency (NAPE) and the Energy Efficiencies Strategy for Buildings (ESG) of the German government and also part of the German Energy Saving Ordinance (EnEV) and the German Renewable Energies Heat Act (EEWärmeG). Both directives, ENEV and EEWärmeG will be merged in a new “Gebäudeenergiegesetz”, process is still ongoing. 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 and areas. In the field 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 Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) coordinates the federal energy research. 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. The Federal Government has amalgamated the funding of research, development and demonstration measures for energy-efficient buildings and neighbourhoods in the research initiative, ENERGIEWENDEBAUEN (Energy transition construction). In addition to ongoing calls for proposals and specialist portals, this also includes its own research network.

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). By the end of 2017, a total of 1.2 million projects (investment grants 1.46 billion €) have been supported. Since the beginning of 2019, funding for solar process heat systems is reorganized within the framework of "Richtlinie zur Förderung von Energieeffizienz und Prozesswärme aus erneuerbaren Energien in der Wirtschaft“.

Feasibility studies and realization for new generation of district heating systems (systems with supply temperatures of 20-95°C, 50% renewable energies) are subsidized within the frame of “Wärmenetze 4.0” (

The R&D funding is part of the 7th Energy Research Programme “Innovations for the energy transition” of the German Federal Government

Information Resources

National Solar Associations (industry and non-industry)

The solar industry is represented in different associations:

  • German Renewable Energy Association (BEE)
  • German Solar Industry Association (BSW)
  • German Industry Association of Heating Technologies (BDH)
  • German Heat and Power Association (AGFW)

For research, important actors are:

  • Renewable Energy Research Association (FVEE) (

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

Federal Report on Energy Research: transparency for the Federal Government’s funding policy: The report is published every year and serves to give an extensive overview over the Federal Government's research promotion policy in the field of energy. Progress made and current trends in the field of research promotion are presented in the report in a transparent manner. The figures on project funding contained in the Federal Report on Energy Research are also made transparent by EnArgus, the central information system on energy research of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

The most important source for information and dissemination of research projects in solar thermal and solar buildings:

German website on solar process heat: www.solare-prozesswä