Weather records in Finland – Opportunities for renewables

Kuittila Farm CHP

Finland has seen extremes in weather conditions within the recent weeks, December 2015 has been exceptionally mild whereas the new year starts with cold records in January. Those extreme conditions offer chances for renewable energy, especially energy from forest resources.

December 2015 warm – January 2016 cold.

Finland has seen higher temperatures in December 2015 than ever before, with a new record broken on Sunday 20th of December. The exceptionally mild winter continued in Finland, with temperature records broken twice already in December. On 6 December Åland basked in a relatively balmy 11.1 degrees, but that record was broken on Sunday 20th in Kokemäki, where monitoring stations recorded 11.2 degrees.

That has, however, changed now in January. Cold air from the Arctic is dominating weather conditions in Finland, with the coldest temperatures of the winter so far recorded on Wednesday 6th of January. Finland is enveloped in a Siberian deep freeze this week, severe cold continues to chill Finland, with temperatures below -20 degrees Celsius across the country – and a new winter low recorded in Muonio, Lapland. Up there the mercury dipped to -40.7 degrees at 6am on Thursday, before dropping to -41 at 8am. That is colder than at any time this winter. (Sources: Yle)

Opportunities for renewables.

The cold can cause power cuts affecting especially households dependent on electricity for heating, which is still very common in rural areas. Also milder conditions with an increased number of storms cause problems to the supply of energy to the customers. Storms have caused power cuts as a result of trees falling on power lines.

Renewable energy from forests can offer a solution in those extreme conditions. Fireplaces, stoves and other wood-based heating systems often function as back-up systems and additional heating sources. Wood energy consumption per capita in Europe is highest in Finland and Sweden. In Finland, wood-based energy accounts for approximately 85 % of the total consumption of renewable energy.

The use of chopped firewood, pellets or wood chips is very common in the rural parts of Finland. Larger scale combined-heat-and-power (CHP) plants cover the heating of large cities through district heating systems. They are often based on renewables such as wood chips from nearby forests. More than half of the energy wood purchased in the third quarter of 2015 as raw material for forest chips was pruned stemwood. This was the most valuable type of energy wood; crown mass accounted for one third of energy wood sales. (Sources: Natural Resources Institute Finland)

Forest energy based heating systems are ideal when facing extreme weather conditions in the Northern Periphery and Arctic regions. The Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) is working with forest energy within the GREBE project and will deliver solutions to other regions through technology and know-how transfer.

Renewable energy and Iceland

Geotermisk område på Island
Geotermisk område ved Krysuvik, Reykjanes Halvø, Island Foto: Yadid Levy / Norden.org

Why is Iceland taking part in GREBE project?

During the course of the 20th century, Iceland went from one of Europe’s poorest countries, dependent upon peat and imported coal for its energy, to a country with a high standard of living where practically all stationary energy is derived from renewable resources. In 2014, roughly 85% of primary energy use in Iceland came from indigenous renewable resources. Thereof 66% was from geothermal sources.

Icelands unique geology allows it to produce renewable energy relatively cheaply, from a variety of sources. Iceland is located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which makes it one of the most tectonically active places in the world. There are over 200 volcanoes located in Iceland and over 600 hot springs.  There are over 20 high-temperature steam fields that are at least 150 °C [300 °F]; many of them reach temperatures of 250 °C. This is what allows Iceland to harness geothermal energy and these steam fields are used for everything from heating houses to heating swimming pools. Hydropower is harnessed through glacial rivers and waterfalls, which are both plentiful in Iceland.

Even though Iceland is rich in terms of renewable energy there are regions in Iceland that are dependent on importing energy from others parts of the country.  Most common reason for the energy dependency is that some regions have few options in hydro or are far away from the grid, and regions are based on low geothermal areas.  These areas are often characterized with high mountains and fjords.  It is difficult to maintain the power lines plus it´s expensive.

It is important to Iceland as other countries in the NPA region to develop solutions in RE sector especially because of with dispersed settlements in Iceland, small population and dramatic weather conditions. There is a need for more entrepreneurs and SME´s within RE sector and solutions designed to fit each community based on their specific situation. GREBE project will enable local entrepreneurs and SMEs to grow their business, to provide local jobs, and meet energy demands of local communities. GREBE will support diversification of the technological capacity of SMEs and start-ups so that they can exploit the natural conditions of their locations.  So there is a lot to gain for Iceland as well as other countries within NPA region that the GREBE project delivers valuable results to the communities involved.