Solar district heating (SDH) plants are large-scale solar thermal plants delivering heat via district heating systems. District heating and solar thermal energy play an important role in the energy transition of the heat sector in Europe. Find out more about the advantages of this combination here.


Solar district heating solutions exist for different types of integration. The collectors can be ground-mounted or installed on roofs or infrastructure.

Solar district heating systems delivering heat to towns and communities in the countryside allow for a fast and comprehensive transition to local renewable resources.

In Büsingen, a 1090 m² collector system provides the entire heat load for 100 buildings in summer, preventing the uneconomical operation of a biomass boiler. This district heating network has been in use since 2013.

A local network is a good option for heating renovated buildings or new urban districts. Usually, solar thermal contributes up to 20% to the total heat supply, although the addition of seasonal storage can increase the solar fraction to 50%.

One centralised system based on biomass and 680 m² of roof-integrated solar thermal collectors has been installed in Vallda Heberg, a residential area set up in 2013 in Sweden.

Large urban district heating networks typically source thermal energy from combined heat and power systems, heating plants or industrial waste heat. The decentralised arrangement of large-scale solar thermal plants is one possibility for increasing the proportion of renewable energy in DH.

For example, in Graz, more than 16 500 m² of solar thermal collectors feed heat into the city’s district network and subsystems at several locations.

Find out more about the technology and how to implement it in the SDH Guidelines.

Growing SDH market

Solar district heating is a tried and trusted technology. Operators and industry professionals have amassed over 20 years’ experience in developing, operating and maintaining SDH systems. The last decade has also seen a rising interest in the commercial use.

So far, 300 plants above 350 kWth of capacity have been put into operation in Europe. The market has experienced a boom in Denmark and sound growth in several other places, such as Austria, Germany and Sweden. The total installed capacity amounts to 1100 MWth and the mean market growth over the last 5 years was more than 35% annually. Other European countries have begun to follow suit and new markets have started to develop.

Have a look at our database of solar district heating plants in Europe, or find out about your country in our market reports.

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