Danish industry site Energy Watch has reported on an application submitted by Denmark’s Bregentved Estates to local municipal authorities for a 100 MW capacity solar park to be located in Faxe municipality, Sjælland, eastern Denmark.
To be clear, 100 MW is a significant capacity for a solar park — indeed it would easily earn itself a position in the list of Europe’s largest solar farms. It’s an especially bold ambition on the national level, since Denmark’s current largest solar installation is just 2.1 MW. That park is the Danfos Solar Park, which was brought online in February 2014 and remains the largest PV plant in the Nordic region. Accolades aside, at 100 MW, the proposed park could supply some 28,500 Danish households with power.
In fairness, the Sun isn’t the first thing one thinks of at the mention of Denmark, and nor is solar power for that matter. The small Scandinavian country is a true champion in the wind industry, with close to 40% of its electricity consumption provided for by wind alone in 2014, and the highest level of installed wind capacity per capita on the planet.
Looking at the graph below, showing development of Danish energy consumption by source, it’s plain to see where Denmark has concentrated it’s investment in renewable energy — wind power (both onshore and offshore). But in the last few years solar power capacity has expanded; the subtle beginnings of a trend in the making.
Context on Solar Development & Potential in Denmark
So what’s the outlook for solar development in Denmark? A complicated question to be sure, but there are grounds for optimism.
To begin with, consider annual solar radiation in Denmark. At a latitude of 56° north, Denmark’s clearly not a Sun-soaked nation. But remember, solar radiation penetrates clouds, and with today’s technologies, PV is absolutely a valid means of energy generation, even in Scandinavia. Reliable measurements estimate Danish solar radiation at approximately 1000 kWh per m2 per year for a horizontal PV surface; and slightly higher (1200 kWh) for south-facing, inclined panels.
Denmark has in recent years seen big development in its solar capacity, too. The greatest jump came in 2012 when 406 MW were installed. Back then, an especially favourable national net-metering scheme was in place which incentivised solar investments. In fact, solar PV installations operating under the scheme reached grid-parity in 2012 at €0.30/kWh.
Unfortunately, that net-metering scheme is no longer in place, and other (related) disruptions to Denmark’s PV industry also emerged between 2013 and 2014, to the extent that in 2014 only 48.5 MW of capacity was added. This meant that Denmark’s total installed PV capacity at the end of 2014 was around 610 MW, and PV generation was 597 GWh — a figure corresponding to some 2% of Danish electricity consumption. None of these figures have shifted too greatly through 2015.
It’s worth noting though that the vast majority of current PV installations are small: 73% of the total photovoltaic cell capacity in Denmark by the end of 2014 comprised of units ≤ 6 kW, while utility-scale is virtually non-existent with just 38 MW supplied by plants >400 kW.
Largely owing to its pioneering of wind power, Denmark has fostered a highly capable energy sector with a strong energy technology and knowledge base. Assets such as these would be indispensable in managing future introduction of significant amounts of solar capacity into the national grid.
Denmark also has an industry PV association, Dansk Solcelle Forening, established in late 2008, and with about 75 members, the association has provided the emerging PV industry with a framework, common voice, and is introducing ethical guidelines for its members. Dansk Solcelle Forening has been aiming for 5% of the electricity to come from solar PV by 2020, however, they are revising that target, and lobbying for greater investments to be made such that the nation builds on its solar potential.
Lastly, many national energy targets for the period post-2020 are up for discussion in the coming two years. This opens up opportunity for solar to get a share of whatever fresh renewable policy the government choose to pursue.
All of these points serve as positive indicators for the future of Danish solar industry. Indeed, many of Denmark’s characteristics come together to represent a solid foundation upon which increased solar power capacity could be built off.
Of course context is critical in fostering growth. This is especially true in the case of renewable energy proliferation, where national policy and government will are critical nutrients. So while it remains uncertain how Danish policy might evolve into something more complementary for solar investments, there remains a significant unknown.
If nothing else, a 100 MW solar park would be a terrific flagship project for Denmark’s solar industry, not to mention Europe at large. Unfortunately we’re going to have to wait and see what’s next for the Bregentved Estates’ application. But we’ll be keeping an eye on the project for more details.
NB. A useful resource on this topic is the IEA National Survey Report of PV Power Applications in Denmark 2014, which is available from the IEA Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme.