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Solar energy product development is carried out in Korsnäs

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The demand for solar energy is rapidly growing in Finland, and keeping up with the fast-paced developments in the industry requires entrepreneurs to take new actions. Vaasa-based company Nordic Electro Power Ltd. (NEPower) built its own solar park in Korsnäs last autumn, which is intended to be used especially for the development and product testing of new solar energy solutions.

“It’s a kind of pilot plant. We’re learning the best solutions for building a solar power plant and testing various mounting structures there. The park is small in size, only about half a hectare, with 606 panels. However, we can scale up the proven solutions there to larger parks when they are ready to be built,” says Matti Autio, the chief designer responsible for the project at NEPower.

Customers interested in building their own solar power plant can also visit the park. There, the customer can see how the solar park operates in practice, providing a more concrete understanding of the future investment. Several customers had already visited the park shortly after its completion.

The energy equivalent of 16 electrically heated detached houses

Why was the solar park built in Korsnäs then? Autio explains that several factors influenced the finding of the site. Firstly, it had to be relatively close to the company’s office in Vaasa. Additionally, both the landowner, neighbors, and the local grid company had to be favorable towards the construction of the plant. “The site must be chosen particularly carefully, especially if it’s a larger solar park. The electricity grid needs to have sufficient capacity to receive the energy produced by the plant,” Autio remarks. The environmental values of the area and the potential wildlife are also assessed to minimize disturbance from the construction process.

Although the solar park is primarily built for testing purposes, its panels also generate energy. The annual production of the solar park is approximately 300,000 kilowatt-hours, equivalent to the annual consumption of about 16 electrically heated detached houses. The energy produced by the test park is sold at market prices to the local distribution network company.

Not all energy needs to be transferred to the grid immediately. Part of the energy can be transferred to battery storage in solar power plants, such as the one planned in Korsnäs. Energy storage can compensate for production peaks in electricity. Those who follow the prices of electricity on the stock market know that on windy days, the price of electricity drops even below zero. It is precisely at times like these that the energy generated from solar panels should be transferred to the battery to wait and be sold to the grid at a better time when other electricity production is lower.

Although solar energy production is low during the winter months, its popularity is increasing

Renewable energy is all the rage right now, and solar energy is experiencing the most significant growth in Finland. Panels are already a familiar sight on the roofs of private properties as well as in large solar parks along roadsides. “The capacity of solar power is currently growing at about a 50 percent annual rate,” says Autio. It can certainly be said that NEPower will definitely have plenty of work in the field of solar energy in the future as well.

In the darkness of winter, many are surely wondering how Finland’s dark winter affects solar power production. Does heavy snowfall completely cover the panels? “Indeed, our seasons and northern latitudes have a significant impact on production. Most of the production occurs between March and September. A bright, sunny winter day may provide a nice boost to production, but the short daylight hours mean that we don’t reach summer production levels then,” explains Autio. Generally speaking, however, panels perform better in cooler weather than in hot weather.

Actual winter maintenance, on the other hand, is not needed for the panels. “Snow may accumulate on the panels, but as the weather warms up, it quickly slides off. The panels and supports are designed to withstand the snow and wind loads prevailing in Finland. In large parks with tens or hundreds of thousands of panels, cleaning the panels from snow would be quite a task. In addition, the risk of damaging the panel during cleaning increases significantly,” Autio explains.

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