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Solar District Heating in Europe (SDHTAKE-OFF)

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Solar district heating (SDH) plants are a large-scale solar thermal technology supplying renewable, zero-emission heat from large solar collector fields via district heating networks to where a demand for heating and/or cooling exists. Long term experience is available from demonstration projects in Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Austria. The commercial application of SDH is presently starting in some countries. In particular in Denmark, where SDH is operated at feasible heat costs, the realisation of plants is booming. Newcomer SDH activities are developing e.g. in Italy, France, Spain and Norway. The project rolled out actions for preparing a commercial market introduction of solar district heating, focusing on five countries and broader dissemination activities at European level. These actions aimed at improving market know-how and boundary conditions, providing expert know-how for project realization, implementing training structures and organizing dissemination activities and events as well as know-how transfer between experienced and newcomer countries. A key element was the direct cooperation of SDH experts with associations and companies of the district heating sector in order to bridge the Gap between these sectors.


  • SDH arrived in the DH sector: Before the SDHtake-off project, in most countries solar thermal was not seriously considered by DH stakeholders due to a lack of knowledge or awareness. Through the SDHtake-off project, and in particular by the concept to integrate a tandem of DH association and solar thermal expert from each implementation country, the gap between the solar thermal and the DH sector was bridged. Cooperation and networking between stakeholders and association of the two sectors became intense and solar thermal is acknowledged as technology to be considered for DH.
  • Newcomer countries and stakeholders reached: This applies also to the ‘SDH newcomer countries’ Czech Republic and Italy. The Czech DH association states that SDH was almost unknown before the project. In particular in Italy the new SDH activities receive a high level of attention as well as on international level also in countries not participating. Also beyond the consortium an impact on newcomer countries was achieved.
  • Products of the SDHtake-off projects are intensively used: The products produced in the SDHtake-off project (market and policy documents, SDH guidelines, training materials and services, brochure and ranking list) are intensively used by stakeholders on international level. Visits to the document download and service sections of the project website were more than 14 000 during the project period.
  • New SDH plant capacity triggered: Today approximately 457 000 m² / 320 MWth SDH capacity is in operation. This means that appr. 180 MWth of new plant capacity was installed since project start. Planned capacity is estimated to 300 MWth of which 250 MWth in DK only. New plants are in planning in newcomer countries: ES, FR, IT. New plants were constructed in newcomer countries: ES, JO, NO, US, SI, FR.
  • This project has ended. Activities on solar thermal district heating are continuing under the IEE funded SDHPlus project:

Lessons learned

  • Bridging the gap between two sectors for initiating cooperation, involvement and commitment requires continuous effort. In this project the cooperation between solar thermal sector and DH sector made a significant step forward. The direct and involvement of the DH associations as project partners and the integration of ‘tandems’ of ST experts with DH association was crucial for this success. appreciated and well accepted. They create immediate interest and B2B contacts. The awareness and examination of ST within the DH sector could be started in learning countries and significantly increased / broadened in experienced countries. Concrete feasibility investigations could be triggered.
  • Organizing target oriented practical events (e.g. plant visits) for addressing newcomer stakeholders have been one of the most effective measures for stimulating new SDH activities. For many employees of companies or authorities it seems, however, to be difficult to get permission for attending two-day events abroad. Also the concept of working meetings, i.e. to present results in already existing committees of the target groups instead of organising stand-alone workshops turned out to be very effective.
  • The introduction of new concepts is a process that takes time (often more than 3 years).

Partners and coordinator

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Steinbeis Forschungs- und Entwicklungszentren GmbH
Contact point: 
Pauschinger Thomas
Mr. Thomas Pauschinger


Key documents

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In brief

01/07/2009 to 30/06/2012
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