Work underway on Finland's largest PV system

Construction is expected begin on the over 800 kW Kivikko solar power system this June, spokeswoman for Helen, Atte Kallio tells pv magazine. It will be installed on the roof of the Kivikko Ski Hall, which is owned by the City of Helsinki.

While the bidding process for equipment suppliers is still ongoing, she estimates the project budget to be between €1.5 million and €1.6 million. The system is scheduled for grid connection this autumn.

Once complete, the around 3,000 PV panels will be rented to Helen’s customers for €4.40 a month, with the electricity generated from the 285 W panels being deducted from the customers’ electricity bills. Each panel is expected to produce around 230 kWh per year.

Kallio says that with Helen’s first PV system – the 340 kW Suvilahti PV plant – individual customers rented anywhere between one and five panels.

When asked why Helen has decided to rent its PV panels out to customers, as opposed to introducing a net metering of feed-in tariff system, Kallio replied, "We asked our customers what they want and they wanted designated panels."

While declining to go into specifics, she said Helen’s customers will lead its solar development. "We will continue investing in solar energy according to demand," she explained. "We have already started planning a third plant, and our customers will decide how quickly it will be built. The reservations and sales in Kivikko will have an impact on our next investment."

She added that there is a "clear demand" for solar in Finland. "With the designated panel concept, anyone can start producing solar power without a large initial investment," she explained.

Finland’s solar landscape

According to a release by Helen, once the Kivikko PV system is complete, it will increase the total solar electricity capacity connected to Finland’s grid by up to 20%. Still, at 0.01%, the share of solar in the country’s energy mix is negligible, particularly in comparison to countries like Germany, which has a similar solar irradiation.

In an excerpt from her research article, "Does the sun shine in the High North? Vested interests as a barrier to solar energy deployment in Finland", published on pv magazine, Teresa Haukkala, a doctoral candidate at Aalto University School of Business looked at the obstacles to solar in Finland.

Having conducted 18 interviews with politicians, NGOs and solar energy professionals, she concluded myriad factors affect its deployment, including a lack of political will, resistance to change, traditional energy lobbyists and storage system problems, which are particularly pertinent during Finland’s dark winter.

Despite this reluctance, solar is slowly creeping into Finland’s energy system. In addition to Helen’s three PV systems (two of which are yet to be realized), a 220 kW PV array has been installed at the Lappeenranta University of Technology.

Meanwhile, a 420 kW system in Oulu and 10 MW PV plant in Nakkila are said to be in the planning by other Finnish firms, reports Finnish news outlet, yle uutiset. At the time of going to press, pv magazine was unable to unearth more project details, however.

Iikka Savisalo, president and CEO of Cencorp Corporation also confirms this upward swing. He tells pv magazine that with the current trends away from fossil fuels towards cleaner energies seen across the globe, Finland is making some headway in the solar industry.

Cencorp, which provides turnkey solutions for back contact PV module manufacturing, has a 20 MW PV module test facility in Mikkeli. He says the company will be "very active" in terms of solar projects in Finland. He was unable to provide any specific details at the moment, however.