As early as the 1980s, the use of thermal solar energy experienced a first boom in the area of water heating and the heating of swimming pools. At the beginning of the 1990ies it was possible to develop a considerable market in the field of solar combi systems for hot water and space heating. In the period between the year 2002 and 2009 the solar thermal market grew significantly and reached the peak in 2009 due to rising oil prices but also due to new applications in the multifamily house sector, the tourism sector as well as new applications in solar assisted district heating and industrial process heat.
After the phase of massive growth until 2009, the domestic market has been declining for more than a decade. This development is not only observed in Austria, but with a few exceptions also in most European countries. In 2020, the Austrian domestic market again recorded a decline of 17 % compared to 2019.
As a positive aspect, it has to be emphasized that two large solar thermal plants for district heating systems with a total capacity of mit 4,6 MWth (6,543 m²) as well as a solar cooling system with a collector area of 3,500 m² and a cooling capacity of 660 kW were commissioned in 2020.
Market development of solar thermal collectors in Austria until 2020, Source: AEE INTEC
By the end of the year 2020 approx. 4.9 million m² of solar thermal collectors were in operation. This corresponds to an installed thermal capacity of 3,4 GWth. The solar yield of the solar thermal systems in operation is equal to 2,116 GWhth. The avoided CO2-emissions are 345,637 tons.
In 2020 a total of 76,060 m² solar thermal collectors were installed, which corresponds to an installed thermal capacity of 53.2 MWth.
The export share of thermal collectors increased from 81 % in 2019 to 84 % in 2020. The turnover of the Austrian solar thermal industry was estimated with 131 million Euros for the year 2020. Therefore approx. 1,100 full time jobs can be numbered in the solar thermal business.
In addition to the collectors described above, a total of 1,309 m² of PVT collectors with a thermal output of 730 kWth and an electrical output of 238 kWpeak were produced in Austria in 2020. About 72 % of the production was exported (mainly to Germany and Switzerland). Taking into account imports to Austria, a total of 370 m² of PVT collectors with a thermal capacity of 199 kWth and an electrical capacity of 61 kWpeak were newly installed. The cumulative installed PVT collector area amounts to 1,950 m² in Austria at the end of 2020.