Finnish heat enterprises investing in solar power

Solar PV at Eno
Satellite picture based 3D model of the solar PV plant in Eno (Kim Blomqvist, Karelia UAS)

The heat entrepreneurs have been actively involved in the latest developments of the solar power in North Karelia, Finland. Several investments will take place this autumn to provide renewable electricity for district heating plants.

Finnish heat entrepreneurship is mostly based on biomass. The number of heating plants has increased steadily between the early establishments in 1990’s, to 330 plants in 2006 and 618 in 2015. About 25 % of the plants were connected to the district heating network, and the median size of the heating plants is 500 kW. The heat enterprises are mostly private companies (43%), cooperatives (12.7%) and other types of firms, mostly single entrepreneurs (44.5%).

The heat entrepreneurs have become increasingly interested in solar power integrated to the heating plans. The plans have stable electricity consumption profiles, i.e. less hourly variations compared to many other end-users. The systems require very limited service and maintenance work, and profitability is better than in solar thermal. The economic analyses indicate that the new investments in DH plans located in North Karelia will have approximately 11-15 years paybacks and 5-9 internal interest rates.

The Power from the Sun project, run by Kim Blomqvist from GREBE project partner Karelia UAS, has supported the establishment of the systems in four energy enterprises in Eno, Tuupovaara, Kiihtelysvaara, Kontiolahti and Biowin Karelia Ltd. The investments have received 25% energy support from the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation. Seven solar power plans have total capacity of 70 kW, varying between 5 to 21 kW, and estimated annual production is 52 000 kWh. The systems will be provided by a local company Mirotex Ltd. and installed in September.

Fair Isle, one of the UK’s most remote inhabited islands, will soon have 24/7 supply of electricity

Image 1 08-08-17

Fair Isle, is a three mile long, island in northern Scotland, belonging to the Shetland island group. It is located 24 miles south of the Shetland mainland, between Orkney and Shetland.

Image 2 08-08-17

Since 1980, the community of Fair Isle, currently totalling 55, has been reliant on a combination of diesel generators and wind power for its electricity needs. However, none of the two, has proved to be sufficient to provide the required amount of energy. One of the two turbines has stopped working, while the other one is reaching the end of its days.

Image 3 08-08-17

In addition, the back-up diesel generator frequently is turned off during the night, in order to preserve fuel stocks, as deliveries are reliant on the ferry running. Thus, currently, if the wind is not blowing at Fair Isle, the lights need to be off between 11pm and 7am. Furthermore, at present there is no storage ability or capacity for new residents.  Fair Isle is yet another example of the challenges faced by peripheral, isolated, island communities. The community has acknowledged the significance of developing an infrastructure, to allow them to sustain and grow its population, as well as, to transform life on the island.

In the beginning of this year, the project was awarded over £1m of capital stage support by the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme’s (LCITP) funding call for large scale transformational low carbon infrastructure demonstrator projects. LCITP is supported through the European Regional Development Fund and is a partnership programme led by the Scottish Government, with support from HIE, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Futures Trust and Resource Efficient Scotland. The Scottish government has promised half the cost of the project (£1.325m), with Scottish Water and HIE Shetland pledges to match fund the project. The Big Lottery Fund has been approached for £600,000 (not yet confirmed),  the National Trust may contribute up to £100,000 and Fair Isle Electricity Company will put in £20,000. The Shetland Islands Council (SIC) political leader Gary Robinson said:

“It is clear that no stone has been left unturned in this one in search of funding. What we have here is a well thought through and carefully worked up proposal. It’s absolutely clear that Fair Isle needs to have a reliable energy scheme. I am really pleased to see the lengths gone to bring in external funding”.

The £250,000 funding granted by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), marks the completion of the full funding package totalling at £2.6m. Fiona Stirling, development manager at HIE’s Shetland area team, said: “It’s a key factor in attracting new people to the island as well as helping businesses to develop.”

Great Glen Consulting was selected to be the project manager assisting and developing the project, while the technical design and engineering of the project will be carried out by Arcus. The project is being led by a community group, known as the Fairs Isle Electricity Company. The company director Robert Mitchell said:

“Having a constant electricity source may help to attract more people to live in Fair Isle as well as benefit the residents. It will also bring new employment opportunities and sustain existing employment. This ambitious project is the first step in ensuring that the community of Fair Isle continues to thrive.”

The £2.65m investment is for three 60kW wind turbines, a 50kW solar array and lead-acid battery storage of 500 kW hours. According to the project manager Maurice Henderson the summary of costs is the following: £620,705 will be spent on the high-voltage system; £609,435 on the storage; £660,000 on the wind turbines; £125,000 on the solar power; £98,000 on new diesel generators; £192,000 on project management and £345,786 on a contingency fund. Mr Henderson acknowledges that the scheme is not of the highest technology quality available, but he asserts that it is intended for robust reliability, which is an essential consideration for a remote island. It is envisioned to make best use of the use of wind in times of low demand. The scheme will also extend a high voltage network to the north of the island to enable grid connections to the Scottish Water treatment works, Fair Isle Bird Observatory, the airstrip and the North Haven harbour.

South Mainland councillor Allison Duncan believes that the project would help secure the future of Fair Isle, as three new families were moving in, after years of population decline. Project manager Maurice Henderson said: “I would consider this as a key project in the development plan for Fair Isle for growing more population.”

Responding to the announcement, Stephanie Clark, Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “Renewable technologies are bringing power to remote communities which otherwise either wouldn’t have electricity, or would have to rely on diesel generators for their supply. It’s great to see Fair Isle will soon join the likes of Eigg and Gigha in taking advantage of a green electricity network. Scotland’s geography and abundant renewable energy resource make it the perfect place to test these advanced energy system.

Interest grows in large-scale solar in Ireland

AR solar 03-08-2017

Irish power utility EBS and wind specialist Bord na Móna are planning a giant solar project across three counties in the middle of Ireland. Meanwhile, large-scale PV projects with a combined capacity of 1.47 GW were submitted to the local grid operator for approval.

Ireland’s state-owned power utility Electricity Supply Board (ESB) and local wind power specialist Bord na Móna announced a plan to develop a giant PV project across four locations in Roscommon, Offaly and Kildare, in the middle of the country.

In their press release, the two companies said the plant will be able to power 150,000 homes and businesses in the area, without releasing additional information. Local media, however, reported that the installation will have a capacity of 570 MW, and that it will require a global investment of around €500 million ($545.9 million).

The Irish Minister for Communications, Climate Action, & Environment Denis Naughten welcomed the co-development agreement between ESB and Bord na Móna claiming that it will place solar technology “at the heart of the solutions needed by the Irish economy and society.”

“Wind will continue to have a major role to play in supporting the decarbonisation of our energy system, but I am acutely conscious of the need to diversify our renewable generation portfolio in order to meet our ambitious climate and energy objectives. I therefore expect other technologies, including solar, to have a growing role,” Naughten said.

This is not the first investment that ESB has made in the Irish solar sector. In October 2016, the company invested €2.5 million to acquire a majority stake in Irish company Terra Solar. “This strategic investment will see the development of multiple solar PV farms within Ireland in the future, which will result in a lower carbon footprint and contribute to increased energy production from renewable sources,” the company said at the time.

That interest in large-scale solar project is increasing in Ireland was confirmed to pv magazine by the local grid operator EirGrid, which revealed that, as of the end of February 2017, it had received approximately 1,474 megawatts of solar applications from approximately 20 developers. All of these applications were for PV projects exceeding 40 MW. “It is worth noting,” said EirGrid, “that this represents a minority of solar generation applications, the majority of which are seeking connection to the distribution system operated by ESB Networks.”

Despite this growing interest for MW-sized PV projects, Ireland has currently an installed PV capacity of around 6 MW (which is almost entirely on rooftops), according to the report Ireland’s Solar Value Chain Opportunity recently published by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

SEAI said that the main driver for this 6 MW was Part L of the domestic building regulations, which requires a proportion of the energy consumption of a dwelling to be provided by renewable energy sources. According to the report, almost 4,000 new dwellings recorded in the country’s Building Energy Rating (BER) database have included some solar PV generation capacity.

The Irish government has certainly shown a clear commitment to renewable energy sources within the country, but has yet to finalize its renewable energy policy or the financial incentives that will be made available to renewable developments. One thing that makes the country particularly attractive for solar PV development is the growing deployment of energy storage solutions across Ireland, which should make solar technology easier to integrate.

The Irish solar landscape could grow to around 3.7 GW by 2030, said a report released in November 2015 by the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA).

The report concluded that the rapid cost reduction of solar seen globally since 2008 could deliver large-scale solar in Ireland at a cost of €150/MWh, and if just €670 million in investment in the sector was forthcoming between 2017 and 2030, the solar industry of Ireland could support around €2 billion of Gross Added Value.

Further information is available at https://www.pv-magazine.com/2017/05/02/ireland-interest-grows-in-large-scale-solar/