Five from Finland
The sun is rising for Finnish solar innovations.Julia Helminen
Given that the sun barely shines for six months of the year in Finland, local businesses have found numerous ways to ensure they are basking in the sunlight on a global scale.
Known for its limited daylight hours during the winter months, Finland has become an unlikely pioneer in solar energy innovations. It’s not just Finnish businesses that are spotlighting solar power; local research is also paving the way to the solar future. A good example is VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. In recent years, VTT has developed new ways of harvesting solar energy, optimising solar energy systems and integrating solar energy solutions to built environments.
Here are five more highlights of Finnish expertise in solar energy and related fields.
Valoe is also the company behind Finland’s first solar-powered refrigerated trailer, designed for TIP Group.Valoe
This seasoned expert in photovoltaic (PV) technology is developing new efficient methods to generate renewable solar electricity. With factories in both Finland’s Juva and Lithuania’s Vilnius, Valoe manufactures PV cells and modules customised to the customers' requirements and suitable for a variety of applications.
One of the crucial areas of interest for Valoe is developing technologies enabling the introduction of affordable solar electric vehicles to the global market. For example, Valoe is part of GIANTS (Green Intelligent Affordable New Transport Solutions), a three-and-a-half-year EU project which aims to simplify the production of light electric vehicles.
Earlier this year, Valoe introduced decorative solar energy glass, an exciting innovation developed together with glass construction company Itä-Helsingin Lasi, allowing to transform the glass surfaces of buildings into solar energy power plants.
“Promoting the use of clean and safe solar energy is the core of our operations,” emphasised Iikka Savisalo, CEO of Valoe. “We are proud of our Finnish innovation, which enables real estate also in Finland to be converted into solar energy producers.”
Solar panels integrated in roofing sheets at the factory are easy to install and visually appealing.Virte Solar
Part of Virte-Metalli, a Turku-headquartered roofing company with a history of over 50 years, Virte Solar was one of the first companies in the world to introduce solar roofing. A combination of a metal roofing sheet and copper indium gallium selenide (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 sheets already at the factory and the entity is delivered and installed in one go.
“Personally, I am sure that the new CIGS thin-film solar panels are a winning technology,” said CEO Jaakko Virtanen. “The low weight, safety, practicality and visual outfit of solar energy systems are now taken to a completely new level. I hope that the new technology finally opens doors for the broad use of solar energy in all Nordic countries. The world simply needs well-functioning solar solutions.”
With its solar-powered desalination technology, Solar Water Solutions is revolutionising access to safe affordable drinking water in rural areas.Solar Water Solutions
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 over 300 locations across Africa, Asia, Oceania and other parts of the world.
“Reverse osmosis typically requires much energy. Solar Water Solutions comes in to provide a technological solution to solve this energy challenge,” CEO Antti Pohjola told us a few years ago. “Our solution makes it possible to supply safe water to people living in remote areas without electricity coverage.”
Listed among best inventions for 2020 by the TIME magazine, the company’s water purification solutions have a profound impact on communities struggling with water scarcity and play an important role in improving living conditions, public health and overall wellbeing in these areas.
Bolt Arena in Helsinki is set to become Finland’s first solar-powered football stadium thanks to the co-operation between HJK, Lumme Energia and its subsidiary, Solarigo Systems.Lumme Energia
A subsidiary of Lumme Energia, Solarigo Systems is a dynamic player in the solar energy industry whose expertise lies in designing and constructing solar power plants, particularly for commercial and industrial clients. Since its foundation in 2015, Solarigo has installed over 200 solar power plants and large-scale solar energy parks in Finland.
The company’s projects significantly contribute to reducing carbon footprints and promoting sustainable energy practices in the Finnish business sector. Solarigo recently made headlines for being chosen to convert Helsinki-based Bolt Arena into Finland’s first solar-powered football stadium.
“The solar power plant will produce approximately 20 per cent of HJK’s electricity use during the season,” commented Johanna Viskari, director of customer experience at Lumme Energia.
Researchers at Aalto University have made harnessing energy from clothes a reality.Aalto University
Last year, design and physics researchers at Aalto University, alongside industrial partners Lindström, Haltian and Foxa, completed a three-year project, Sun-powered Textiles. The project aimed to explore the possibility of integrating solar cells in textiles to provide energy-autonomous operation for wearable electronics, such as sensors that measure humidity or temperature, and smart textile applications.
The project produced a jacket prototype made of a machine-washable fabric with concealed solar panels. The fabric of the garment was optimised so that enough light could pass through to power the wearables without compromising aesthetics.
“Solar cells hidden under textiles are worth considering as energy sources for electrical equipment that, for one reason or another, has to adhere to textiles, look and feel like a fabric, be machine-washable, use as little power as possible and whose battery is otherwise either too hard or too expensive to charge or replace,” commented Janne Halme, lecturer at Aalto University.
Promising applications for the innovative textiles include work, sports and outdoor clothing, safety and protection wear, as well as curtains which react to changes in the amount of light.