The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Solar Heating and Cooling Programme (SHC) has released a report which finds that solar thermal markets grew 14% in 2010, with 60.2 million square meters of solar thermal collector area added in 55 nations.
The 2012 edition of "Solar Heat Worldwide" finds that China represented 81% of the 2010 market at 34.3 GW-thermal, and that evacuated tube collectors are increasing their market share at 78% of new capacity. The report also finds that while domestic water heating for single-family homes remains the most common use of the technology, other applications including combined space and water heating are becoming more popular.
"In several well-established markets in Europe as well as in some Latin American (Brazil, Mexico) and Asian (China, India, Japan) countries, the market penetration of solar combi-systems, solar supported district heating networks, industrial applications and solar cooling systems is increasing," notes the report.
"Germany, Spain and Austria have the most sophisticated markets for different solar thermal applications. They include systems for hot water preparation, systems for space heating of single- and multifamily houses and hotels, large-scale plants for district heating as well as a growing number of systems for air conditioning, cooling and industrial applications."
European solar thermal markets contract 7.5% in 2010
The 55 nations covered in the report represent 61% of the world’s population, but an estimated 90% of the solar thermal market. While the agency has not produced a full evaluation of 2011 markets at this time, it estimates that the aggregate market increased 16% by thermal capacity to 49 GWth in 2011.
Following China, European nations together represented the second-largest regional market at 3.93 GWth, or roughly 14% of the global market. However, while the global market grew 14%, European solar thermal markets fell 7.5% from 2009 to 2010.
Among national markets, Turkey moved into second-largest with 1.16 GWth added in 2010, displacing Germany. The United States followed with 814 MWth of new capacity, with Germany at 805 MWth, Australia at 755 MWth, Brazil at 677 MWth and India at 622 MWth. It should be noted that the majority of the U.S., Australian and Brazilian markets were unglazed water collectors, mostly for pool heating in the U.S. and Australia.
China drives dominance of evacuated tube collectors
While evacuated-tube collectors represent 57% of installed capacity, they increased to 78% of the market in 2010, almost exclusively due to their popularity in the enormous Chinese market. Flat-plate collectors represent 32% of global capacity, but were only 18% of capacity added in 2010.
Shares of both unglazed collectors and air collectors similarly fell to 4.1% and 0.2% respectively in 2010.
Globally 3/4 of all solar thermal systems installed operate on the thermosiphon principle. The remainder are pumped solar heating systems.
New applications becoming more popular
Another significant finding of the report is that new applications of the technology grew in popularity in 2010. Combination solar water and space heating represented 8% of 2010 installations by capacity, as opposed to 5% of existing installed capacity. A category of solar district heating, solar process heating and solar cooling also made up 2% of new capacity.
The share of solar water heating systems for multifamily homes, tourism and the public sector remained at 10% of both the market and existing capacity in 2010.
Solar thermal represents three times the energy production of PV, CSP
The report notes that solar thermal continues to make a larger contribution to energy production and greenhouse gas reduction than solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP). In 2011, solar water heating produced an estimated 204 TWh of energy, roughly triple the combined share of PV and CSP at 73.1 TWh.