Is solar thermal technology still a niche market?
There are a number of mature markets like Israel, Austria, Barbados, China or Cyprus where solar thermal is used by a wide majority of people for heating the domestic hot water and sometimes for room heating.
One factor that shows the market penetration of this technology in a certain country is the total capacity installed per capita. In Cyprus there were 0.65 kWth in operation per capita at the end of 2007 followed by Israel (0.5 kWth/head), Austria (0.23 kWth/head) and Barbados (0.2 kWth/head). You find niche markets when looking at market penetrations such as in the United States with only 0.006 kWth per capita or in sunny South Africa with so far not more than 0.0036 kWth per capita. Also, there is still quite a large untouched potential worldwide in using solar thermal technology for cooling and for supplying process heat.
Further information: Solar Heat Worldwide, a study from the IEA Solar Heating & Cooling Programme, May 2009 (http://www.aee-intec.at/0uploads/dateien648.pdf)
0.7 kWth nominal solar thermal power equals 1 m2 of collector area.