The first apartment block in Longyearbyen received solar panels on its roof last summer. After a one-year test run, the results are surprising.
Solbes, a supplier of photovoltaic systems for Nordic conditions, has evaluated the production of the panels for 2014 and concluded 8,496 kilowatt hours were produced from March to September. The expected production was 3,954 kilowatt hours. Therefore, the result was 115 percent higher than expected.
"This is super and far above what we had thought," said Ann Pedersen, project director for LNS in northern Norway.
Solbes stated production is often higher than expected, but in this case it is unusual because it is more than doubled.
Because the sun is completely gone for a period during the year and is low on the horizon until late March, production during that month was lower than expected. The five subsequent months were well above expectations and, in May, nearly four times as high. Part of the reason for the latter may be a combination of cold and sunlight reflected from snow.
This is the first solar plant on a large scale in Svalbard and Espen Johannessen at Solbes said his conclusion is there is a good basis for utilizing solar energy so far north.
LNS is almost done with a new block of apartments that will also have solar panels on the roof and Pedersen said the results are so good LNS will now consider it from a more commercial standpoint than the company has previously done.
"It can be a competitive advantage," she said.
The challenge is the square-meter price of these homes will be higher, but at the same time residents will have lower electricity bills and all indications are the price of electricity from the power plant will be higher in the coming years.
"We are now ready to build a new building and will consider whether it should be included there. The result is so good that we ought to," said Pedersen, who helped initiate the project in 2013.
More thinking about the sun
The project is supported with a 400,000-kroner grant from the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund. An annual production of 8,496 kilowatt hours is equivalent to 13.5 million kroner at current electricity prices. In addition, it means reduced CO2 emissions because the residences need less electricity from coal-fired power plant. The next apartment block will be ready for people to move into by Dec. 1 and a calculation shows a reduction of 16 tons of CO2 annually from the two apartment complexes.
Other companies are also considering using the sun as an energy source. One is Store Norske, which is currently testing solar energy at Svea. Another is the Svalbard Satellite Station (SvalSat) on Platåberget.
SvalSat is part of Kongsberg Satellite Services, which is now working on a pilot project for solar-based energy in Antarctica. That experience will be used for the station in Svalbard.
"At Trollstasjonen our power is even more expensive, so that is where we get the greatest effect," said Arnulf Kjeldsen, SvalSat's station director.
Trollstasjonen is located at 72 degrees latitude south and analysis done so far shows it is possible to cover a large portion of the energy needs there with solar power.
However, during dark periods of the year or for periods of overcast skies the solar cells are supplemented with diesel generators.
"But on average we believe in the analysis that we should be able to generate the bulk of our energy requirements," Kjeldsen said. "We will initiate a pilot project in Antarctica where we have a small-scale test and when we have learned a bit down there we will also consider the Arctic."
Translation by Mark Sabbatini