Despite this summer’s cloudy weather, the amount of solar energy produced this year in Finland is about the same as during the same period of last year.
That’s due to more capacity and higher efficiency, and because monthly variations tend to balance each other out – while solar panels are more effective in cooler weather.
While still modest, the number of solar panels in use in Finland is growing briskly. Jarmo Partanen, professor in Electricity Market and Power Systems at Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) in eastern Finland, predicts a steady upward trend in the coming years and decades, even in northern Europe.
“This will happen quickly; we won’t have to wait long,” he told Yle. “When you look at the development of solar electricity in the past decade and then forward to the 2020s and 2030s, there will be really major changes, as the leaders of China and Saudi Arabia have already indicated.”
Emissions-free and cost-efficient
Solar energy has significant advantages over many other energy sources, he argues.
“The advantages of solar electricity can be summed up in two points. The first is that it is completely clean energy and the second is that its cost efficiency is always better today than it was yesterday. In other words it has a continuously-decreasing cost ration and price is what finally settles things,” says Partanen.
Storage of solar electricity and heat is still rare in Finland due to its cost, though. However in Germany, for instance, battery storage of solar electricity is more common. Both the cost of energy storage systems and solar panels are projected to keep dropping as the technology improves.
“We’ve had a learning curve for a long time. As the global capacity has doubled, the price has dropped by 20 percent. That doubling may very well be repeated several more times,” Partanen predicts.
Worldwide faith in the sun
In Germany, state subsidies have made the country a forerunner in solar energy. Solar is seen as the key to a fossil-free energy future elsewhere as well.
“Saudi Arabia, for instance, believes that probably after 2050 they won’t be selling oil, they’ll be selling solar electricity. They see climate change as such a powerful guiding force in the world that there will be no room for fossil fuels, which will be replaced by solar and other renewable forms of energy,” Partanen says.
While the Middle East has plenty of sun, the Nordic countries do not, except in summer – and this year not even then. However the newer generation of panels is more effective in dim light conditions. Still, on cloudy days output can drop to half, and on rainy ones to a quarter of that on a bright day.
Indeed, despite this summer’s rainy weather, the amount of solar energy produced this year in Finland is about the same as during the same period of last year. That’s due to more capacity and higher efficiency, and because monthly variations tend to balance each other out – while solar panels are more effective in cooler weather.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Canada’s remote communities work to reduce diesel use, Eye on the Arctic
Finland: One of world’s largest geo-bio-energy facilities slated for Finland, Yle News
Norway: Japan wants wind power from Arctic Norway, Barents Observer
Russia: No alternative to Arctic oil says Russia environment minister, Barents Observer
Sweden: Wind power investments down in Sweden, Radio Sweden
United States: Alternative heating system shows promise for reducing fuel costs in Interior Alaska, Alaska Public Radio Network