Norway is not readily associated with sunshine. During peak wintertime, there are northern parts of Norway shrouded in near total darkness. Yet the Norwegian solar power industry employs 2,000 to 3,000 people domestically and generates more than NOK 10 billion per year in turnover, according to the Norwegian Solar Energy Society, and has a global presence stretching from California to China.
The Norwegian solar cell industry has surprisingly established itself among the world leaders within the production of materials and equipment for photovoltaic (PV) solar energy, according to a recent report by Menon called Norwegian Environmental Technology and National Advantages.
What is surprising is that there is relatively no home market for solar power in Norway.
According to the IEA, the largest markets are in Germany, Spain, Japan and the US. Other countries such as Australia, China, France, Greece, India, Italy, Korea and Portugal are gaining momentum due to new policy and economic support schemes. As a result, most Norwegian solar power companies are internationally oriented.
The driver behind Norway’s solar success internationally has been its tradition at home within metals production. The country possesses the raw material silicon, which is used to make semiconductors, and can also be used for solar cells. Norway also has access to abundant hydropower, a necessity for the power-intensive solar cell production process.
|Mayor of Aprilia, Domenico D’Alessio, and Statkraft chief executive Bård Mikkelsen officially opening the solar park in Casale, Italy, March 2010.
The first solar wafer plant in Norway started in 1997 at a former Norsk Hydro metals plant in Glomfjord that was transformed by ScanWafer and its founder Alf Bjørseth. The company became Renewable Energy Corporation (REC), which is now one of the most integrated companies in the solar power industry.
REC Silicon and REC Wafer are among the world’s largest producers of polysilicon and wafers for solar applications. REC has regional offices in Germany, Italy, Spain, France, California, Korea, and Singapore, and recently started test production at its new integrated manufacturing complex for wafers, cells and modules in Singapore.
REC has been the locomotive for Norway’s solar power industry, according to Menon. Many solar-related companies have sprung up around REC representing all parts of the value chain. These include NorSun, Scatec Solar, Umoe Solar, Metallkraft, Innotech Solar, Elkem Solar, Hydro Solar, Tordivel Solar and hydropower company Statkraft, which has expanded into other renewables. Common to most of these companies is their international presence abroad.
Statkraft recently started energy production at its first solar park, Casale, in Italy and has an agreement related to the acquisition of eight ready-to-build solar power projects in the Puglia region. Statkraft cooperated with Norsk Solkraft, a solar plant developer and turnkey provider, to develop Casale. Statkraft is also looking at options in Spain and Southeast Europe.
Italy is regarded as one of the most attractive future solar energy markets in Europe. Currently, Germany, Spain, Japan and the US account for almost 80% of the total global cumulative installed PV capacity, according to the IEA Technology Roadmap Solar Photovoltaic Energy. The report forecasts that by 2050, PV will provide around 11% of global electricity production (4,500 TWh per year), compared to 5% in 2030. PV currently provides 0.1% of total global electricity generation.
“This is an industrial revolution we are talking about,” said Terje Osmundsen, Scatec Solar senior vice president of strategic projects at Fondsfinans’ Nordic Renewable Energy Conference in May.
Scatec Solar is part owned by Bjørseth’s company Scatec, together with Itochu of Japan. Scatec Solar operates in the downstream part of the solar industry, providing site identification, permitting, design, construction, operation and maintenance of solar plants. It was the world’s first triple certified solar system integrator.
|Scatec Solar’s photo solar park near Neumarkt, Bavaria.
© Scatec Solar
Scatec Solar recently made a great breakthrough in China through the creation of a joint venture called SanSca with the Chinese renewable energy company Sanhe Group to build 2.5 GW of solar power in China. The partners will build a Green Energy Farm in Taonan consisting of 100 MW of wind power and 5 MW of solar power. In addition, SanSca and Datang Renewable Corp, part of China’s second largest power producer, signed an agreement covering the realization of 2,500 MW of PV plants in several Chinese provinces during 2011-2016.
“China is on the offensive when it comes to green energy in general and is emerging as the world’s most important market for solar PV systems,” said Raymond Carlsen, Scatec Solar chief executive, in connection with the SanSca announcement.
Bjørseth is also the founder behind NorSun, a producer of mono-crystalline wafers. The company is one of a handful of ingot and wafer suppliers that currently meet the stringent specifications for high efficiency cells. It has plants in Finland and Norway and is building another one in Singapore.
NorSun has developed special technology to help bring down production costs. One of these is NorSun Additional Charging technology, which reduces ingot conversion costs by approximately 15%. It is also in the process of commercializing a fixed abrasive sawing technology that has the potential reducing wafer slicing costs by 40%.
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