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Five from Finland

Solar solutions

The sun is rising for Finnish solar innovations.

Julia Bushueva

Given that the sun barely shines for six months of the year in Finland, local innovations have found numerous ways to ensure they are basking in the sunlight on a global scale.

It’s not just Finnish businesses that are spotlighting solar power, local research is also paving the way to the solar future. In recent years, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed flexible solar panels and an emission-free solar power chiller, and come up with a way to convert solar power-produced electricity into gas or liquid fuels.

Here are five more highlights of Finnish expertise in solar energy and related fields.

Founded by a Finnish entrepreneur in 2011, Sun Spot has built Uganda’s first-ever facility for the assembly of solar energy systems, where Chinese components help to create ready-made kits that can power anything from water heaters to perimeter fence lamps.

“We want to reach people in rural areas so they can have access to energy,” noted founder Viljami Kettunen.

Having gathered momentum, Sun Spot now focuses also on bigger projects, especially for public sector customers. One of the company’s most significant orders to date has been the Entebbe street lighting project carried out with Chinese road constructors.

Established in 2016 as a parent company for a number of companies operating in the south-west town of Salo, Solar Finland is aiming at bringing innovative solar products and solutions to the domestic and international markets and eventually making solar energy available to everyone.

The company streamlines the operations of Salo Solar, Salo Tech, Salo Automation and Salo Energy, all seasoned solar energy specialists dealing with various aspects of designing, manufacturing and installing solar energy systems, as well as selling solar energy-generated electricity.

Salo Solar, for example, takes particular pride in the fact that all its solar panels are being designed and manufactured domestically. The factory’s high level of automation, which guarantees top quality and efficiency of the panels, has generated a lot of interest among international clients, including Asian energy companies.

“They have already seen what buying poor quality products means and how it affects the production after five to ten years. They trust European products,” concludedAnu Areva, Salo Solar’s CEO.

Turku-based Virte Solar was one of the first companies in the world to produce solar roofing. A combination of a metal sheet roof and CIGS thin film cells, the innovative product is over 90 per cent lighter than its predecessors.

For the convenience of house owners, the electricity-producing panels are integrated in the roof sheets already at the factory and the entity is delivered and installed in one go.

“I have dreamt of building materials that would themselves generate electricity, from roofs, windows and walls,” CEO Jaakko Virtanen stated in 2016. “Now that’s becoming a reality.”

With its award-winning solutions, Savosolar has established itself as a game changer for solar thermal energy. The company, for example, has made impressive inroads in the Danish solar market in recent years, gained a foothold in Latin America and entered the Chinese market in early 2019.

This year, the Mikkeli-headquartered company will deliver a solar heating system to north-eastern France and carry out ambitious projects in other parts of Europe together with its German partner, Uniper.

“Our unique technology means minimised heat loss and maximised energy yield, and the results are best seen in practice,” stated CEO Jari Varjotie.

This cleantech company is helping to tackle the global water crisis with its unique technology for producing drinking water from seawater, lakes and rivers with solar power. The patented solution is based on an innovative reverse osmosis process and has already proved reliable and efficient in Africa.

“Reverse osmosis typically requires much energy. Solar Water Solutions comes in to provide a technological solution to solve this energy challenge,” told CEO Antti Pohjola. “Our solution makes it possible to supply safe water to people living in remote areas without electricity coverage.”

Aiming at a three-per-cent share of the renewable energy-powered water purification market and over 100 million euros in revenues by 2025, the company recently reached its maximum crowdfunding goal of 1.2 million euros on Finnish investing platform Invesdor in less than two weeks.

Originally published in January 2017. Updated in August 2020

By: James O’Sullivan