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Solar in the Midnight Sun

Harry Moncur

Scandinavia has a long history of offering global thought leadership. The form of this thought leadership has often been to aim to make the world a safer and better place. The Nobel Peace prize founded in 1895 is a great example, as was Nils Bohlin’s creation of the modern three point seat belt in 1959. In the 1990’s Scandinavian countries led the way in carbon taxation. More recently popular consciousness of environmentalism has been electrified by the contribution of Greta Thunberg from Sweden. Against this backdrop it is interesting to see how solar energy is developing in Scandinavia and the Nordic region.


Sweden takes a chance on solar

Of all the Scandinavian countries, Sweden seems to have the greatest solar ambitions. The sector is expected to grow at about 16% per year. Government policy and support and private demand are the basis for this growth, with the country expected to grow from 477MW in solar in 2018 to around 3.1GW in 2030. The signs are already good, in 2018 the Swedes installed a national record 180MW of solar.

A key part of the growing Swedish solar sector to watch is in the small solar parks. The country is developing a taste for schemes of around 4-6MW in size. This is being driven by an increased appetite for PPAs based on solar energy. A recent 5.8MW scheme in Sjöbo Kommun sold a third of its power by PPA, whilst another developer ENEO Solutions AB has signed a 20 year PPA for another scheme which starts construction in November.

Another exciting development is also coming to Sweden. Sweden is famous for being the home of IKEA. By 2025 IKEA aims to sell solar panels from its stores worldwide, perhaps a “flat pack” solar solution will provide Sweden with a further boost, as DIY and clean energy enthusiasts reach for a set of hex keys (or Allen keys if you prefer).


Forging ahead with renewables in Norway

Norse myth is constantly filled with giants. It’s appropriate that modern Norway is itself a giant of renewable energy. As a country it is a top six producer of hydropower and is blessed with huge energy potential in wind and wave technologies. Given its latitude there are limited opportunities for the deployment of solar in Norway, but the country is home to ample sources of solar grade silicon and solar panel manufacturers.

Hydropower offers another explanation of the limited inroads that solar has made in Norway. Unlike other developed economies, Norway is not having to replace a large number of fossil fuel plants. This reduces the impetus for the uptake of utility scale solar schemes. Where solar has been growing in Norway is in the rooftop market amongst industrial and commercial clients, adoption of the technology in this medium is seen as far north as Trondheim.

Ultimately Norway’s role in the growing global solar market will be that of exporter, sharing its silicon, panels and renewable energy expertise in Europe and beyond.


And they lived happily ever after…in Denmark

Denmark was the homeland of Hans Christian Andersen, the author of more cheerful fairy tales (the ones without the “Grimm” ending). Although he died in 1875, Andersen could easily have written a fairy tale about renewable energy and set it in Denmark. As a progressive country, Denmark has a long history of engagement with renewable energy, in particular in its global leadership of wind energy.

In 2018, solar energy supplied 2.8% of energy consumption in Denmark. Staying with the fairy tale theme, when compared to wind energy, solar is very much the ugly duckling of renewable energy, however in recent years there are signs of change:

  • Denmark is a leading exponent of Solar Thermal Energy Storage (STES), the country has 27 plants of note in this regard including the world’s most productive at Silkeborg (80GWh per year).

  • Denmark achieved its Solar PV target of 200MW set for 2020, eight years early in 2012.

  • Denmark has moved away from an older incentive scheme that encouraged smaller kWh schemes at the expense of larger utility scale projects.

Solar adoption is also gathering pace in the wider economy. Denmark is home to the Svart Hotel, the world’s first energy positive hotel which makes significant use of solar energy to create more energy than it uses. Denmark’s oldest zoo in Copenhagen has installed solar panels on 12 buildings, which will eliminate 170 tonnes of CO2 a year. Elsewhere, a hospital in Odense is having a 4.8MW solar park constructed purely for self-consumption.

So whilst solar is starting from a low base in Denmark it is clear that its wider adoption is on an upward trend.

 

Closing Thoughts

Overall the future is looking bright for solar in Scandinavia. The growth of the sector in Sweden especially and a growing interest in Denmark are special causes for cheer. All the Scandinavian countries also have a sound commercial basis for the sector to grow, with commercial and industrial clients driving demand. Whilst it is unlikely that solar will displace either wind or hydropower to be the dominant energy source in any of these countries, its growing footprint will add additional resilience to the energy supply of all three Scandinavian countries.