18 September 2012
Norway is home to a silicon producer as well as some large solar module manufacturers, yet solar installations have been limited in Norway. The majority are on off-grid cabins, where solar panels generate enough electricity to supply the cabin with simple lighting and radio access.
Driven by hydro
One reason that Norwegians have not embraced solar power is there is not a lot of solar insolation for two-thirds of the year in Norway, but tests have shown that in the period between May and August it is in fact possible to generate significant amounts of electricity with photovoltaics. Another reason to explain the poor growth could be a lack of financial incentive. However, the real reason is that Norway does not need solar power in the first place as nearly all of the electricity demand is generated by hydro power.
Even though the market for photovoltaics in Norway is small, there are a handful of companies at the forefront of development of global solar resources. REC Wafer was the most notable, but the company declared bankruptcy in August of this year, although the closing had no effect on its Singapore and US based subsidiaries of REC Group.
Elkem Solar built a new silicon factory in 2006 with a price tag of just below half a million dollars with a new self-developed metallurgical process that dramatically lowers costs. The company has pre-sold most of their solar grade silicon production until 2018 to solar manufacturers worldwide.
Scatec Solar, a PV integrator that specialises in developing large-scale installations, recently announced plans to develop photovoltaic solar systems in West and Central Africa with a combined capacity of 350MW. Africa has some of the best resources of solar energy in the entire world, which is why this Norwegian company is focused on that part of the world. Scatec Solar is backed by IFC InfraVentures, a member of the World Bank Group, with expertise in local networks and sufficient investment capacity.
“Joining forces with IFC InfraVentures allows us to combine Scatec Solar’s know-how in photovoltaic development, installation and operations with IFC’s expertise in financing and working with governments in a region where limited supply of electricity is one of the major challenges for growth. We believe that this partnership will be of great value to the countries we work in by reducing the time required from project development to power generation.” said Raymond Carlsen, CEO of Scatec Solar.
Norwegian solar companies might not have the best resources to work with at home, but with willingness to invest and technical expertise, these companies have the capacity to get places in the world that lacks traction up and running – at least when it comes to the developing their own solar resources. This will not only help bring down solar panel costs on a global basis, but also help making solar and other forms of renewable energy accessible to more people.
Written by Mathias Maehlum, a freelance writer who is currently studying Environmental Engineering and his blogs can be found on Energy Informative.
Editor's Note: Elkem Solar, mentioned above, recently announced that the company is temporarily halting production of its solar-grae silicon. Read the news here.