October 5, 2023
Discover the Nordic grid system's intricacies and seize solar prospects across Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland in this comprehensive guide.
A comprehensive guide for solar developers that explores the challenges, grid connection process, opportunities, insights, and trends of the grid system in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland.
In the ever-evolving landscape of renewable energy, the Nordic countries stand as beacons of sustainable progress. Their commitment to renewable energy sources, including solar power, has ignited a green revolution. But beneath the surface of this promising frontier lies a complex web of grid systems—a pivotal aspect often overlooked in the quest for solar development.
As solar developers across the globe set their sights on the Nordics, they find themselves at the intersection of innovation and challenge. Each Nordic nation—Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland—offers a unique tapestry of opportunities and obstacles, all intricately woven into their grid systems.
In this journey, we unveil the Nordic grid system's enigmatic layers—exploring recent developments, disruptive partnerships, and research-backed insights. From Norway's robust hydropower-fueled grid to Sweden's quest for transparency, and Denmark's interconnected energy ecosystem to Finland's blend of sustainability and efficiency—we delve into the essence of each grid.
The Nordic power system comprises Norway, encompassing Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, and is a complex and interconnected energy ecosystem.
One of the main challenges of the power system is the need to balance production and consumption continuously. This demand for constant equilibrium necessitates flexibility, the controllable aspect of production and consumption that can be adjusted to maintain balance. Flexibility is particularly important when more intermittent energy sources, such as solar energy, are installed into the grid. It is hence important that renewable energy developers take this into account, and we will therefore delve into the intricacies of grid flexibility.
Flexibility from producers
Today, flexibility is most relevant on the production side. In the Nordic region, this encompasses hydropower plants with reservoirs (especially hydropower plants with the ability to pump up water), thermal coal, and gas power plants. Historically, the Nordic region has benefited from abundant flexibility, particularly from hydropower plants with reservoirs. Hydropower accounted for 88.2% of the total electricity output in the Nordics in 2022. These reservoirs allow for the accumulation of water over extended periods, with minimal cost associated with adjusting power output. Flexible thermal coal and gas power plants have also contributed to meeting flexibility demands.
Flexibility from consumers
Consumer flexibility is less recognized but valuable. Residential and industrial users can adjust their consumption based on market signals. Currently, Nordic end-users are relatively inflexible, responding more to high energy prices. During energy shortages, high prices encourage producers to maximize output and consumers to reduce usage. Although consumer-level flexibility sources are limited now, the emergence of EV batteries and smart homes is introducing more flexibility to the demand side.
Time horizons and flexibility needs
Different time horizons require varying degrees of flexibility. These include long-term balancing to account for seasonal and yearly variations, medium-term adjustments between months, weeks, and days, and even finer adjustments on a day-ahead, intraday, and operational basis.
Impact on the market - Nord Pool:
The growing demand for flexibility, coupled with limitations in existing hydropower and thermal production, is expected to lead to increased price volatility in day-ahead markets and higher operational balancing costs. In addition, greater fluctuations in power flow and larger imbalances may necessitate additional reserves. Running the Nordic energy market, Nord Pool has a pivotal role in facilitating and incentivizing new mechanisms that will fit this new technical situation.
Ensuring adequate transmission capacity:
Grid flexibility relies on available transmission capacity. Managing grid congestion plays a central role in ensuring system stability and efficient resource utilization. Geographical imbalances in primary reserves and a lack of Regulation Power Market (RPM) bids during critical periods create congestion challenges in the southern part of the Nordic region (refers to SE3, SE4, Southern part of Finland and Denmark), affecting both reserves and system security.
Changing landscape and the way forward
The ongoing electrification of society implies a need for more energy, and the energy is required at different times than today. As an example, the electrification of the transport sector (both private and industrial) is highly challenging for the current grid.
This shifting pattern of energy consumption paints a formidable challenge for it as well. Furthermore, we are witnessing substantial changes on the production side. The dominant trend here revolves around the increasing integration of intermittent renewable energy sources and a more decentralized approach to energy production. This new production scheme sets new requirements for flexibility at other production units. The increased share of distributed production challenges the grid capacity. In many countries, the grid is historically not dimensioned for such distributed energy production. Additionally, the introduction of greater transmission capacity to neighboring systems further intensifies competition for the low-cost flexibility offered by hydropower.
Grid operators find themselves navigating through an era of profound change. They must adapt to evolving consumption patterns while simultaneously managing a radically different energy production landscape, and all of this must happen at an unprecedented pace. For most countries, this is a completely new situation, and the problem is so far largely theoretical. In order to provide a secure and stable energy situation, all parts of the energy system must work together:
Each of these elements plays a critical role in the ongoing energy revolution we are witnessing. If any part lags behind or fails to align with the others, it could lead to bottlenecks, impeding the entire process of transformation.
The Nordic power system is undergoing significant structural changes, and as a solar developer, below are the key trends you should be aware of:
Now, let's go a step further and examine these trends through a national lens, pinpointing opportunities and challenges unique to each Nordic country. This insight will empower solar developers like you to make informed decisions about site selection, collaborate with other renewable projects (such as offshore wind farms), and maximize the economic viability of your solar ventures.
But there's more to it than just that. To navigate this ever-changing situation effectively, we need to analyze it from a Nordic point of view. Moreover, it's crucial to broaden our perspective and look at the bigger picture. This approach will help us assess situations that might cause issues and, as a result, identify opportunities for regional cooperation.
Norway's grid system is robust, and primarily powered by hydropower. This well-established grid infrastructure ensures reliability and stability, making it conducive for solar park integration.
However, the challenge lies in adapting solar projects to complement the existing hydropower capacity, ensuring seamless integration. Solar developers in Norway must also consider grid management practices and collaboration with local utilities to optimize solar power generation while maintaining grid stability.
Denmark's strength lies in its interconnected European grid, enabling efficient energy exchange.
For solar developers, this means access to a well-established renewable energy ecosystem. Opportunities abound for solar park integration, but competition is fierce.
Developers must navigate regulatory frameworks and market dynamics. Collaboration with local utilities and leveraging Denmark's expertise in wind energy can lead to successful solar projects. Interconnection also offers the potential for cross-border energy trading, enhancing project viability.
Sweden's grid transparency challenge is a hurdle for solar developers. The need for readily available grid capacity information complicates site selection and project planning.
However, this challenge presents an opportunity for solar developers to pioneer solutions. Collaboration with local utilities, municipalities, and energy authorities is essential.
Developers must actively engage with grid stakeholders to gain insights into available capacity and streamline project execution. Innovative approaches to grid analysis and capacity assessment are key to overcoming this obstacle.
Finland's energy landscape combines energy efficiency and sustainability. Solar developers can tap into a market driven by a commitment to clean energy. Opportunities exist for solar park development, especially in regions with a focus on renewable energy.
Challenges include adapting solar projects to Finland's unique energy mix and regulatory framework. Collaboration with local partners who share the sustainability vision can facilitate successful solar ventures. Finland's emphasis on energy efficiency offers prospects for grid optimization and intelligent integration of solar power.
Here's a step-by-step process for solar PV developers looking to connect their projects to the national grid of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland:
Getting your utility-scale solar project connected to the Norwegian regional grid involves a series of essential steps, ensuring smooth integration with the power system. Here's a brief overview of the process:
Step 1: Assess your project feasibility
Begin your solar project, keeping in mind that spare capacity must be available at all grid levels for production or consumption within the power system.
Step 2: Contact your local grid operator
Reach out to your local grid operator for initial guidance. They will assist you throughout the process and liaise with Statnett, the entity responsible for the highest grid level. Use the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate's (NVE) atlas to locate your local grid operator on the map. Filter under "grid facilities" (nettanlegg) and "area licensees"(områdekonsesjonærer) in the left column.
Step 3: Grid connection path assessment
In most cases, solar projects are connected through local or regional grid operators. For those requiring major power exchanges (around 300 MW and above), direct connection to the transmission grid may be considered. Your local grid operator, in collaboration with Statnett, will determine the appropriate connection path.
If your project requires a direct connection to the transmission grid, your local grid operator will facilitate the transition to Statnett's customer dialogue process. This typically applies to industrial customers with high power demands or significant power producers. For others, the dialogue remains with the local grid operator.
Step 4: Review the process
Get an overview of the various steps involved in the connection process. Statnett provides information for both local grid operators and direct customers. You can also find answers to frequently asked questions, an inquiry form for capacity requests, and contact details for further assistance on the Statnett page for the grid connection process.
Step 1: Assess power requirements
Determine the power requirements for your solar project. Understand the scale of power needed which will dictate whether you connect to the local or regional grid.
Step 2: Identify potential locations
Identify potential locations for your project within Sweden, considering factors like proximity to suitable land, resources, and other operational needs. A tool like Glint Solar can help you find prime solar sites based on your needs and country regulations.
Step 3: Collaborate with NodePole
Engage with NodePole, an organization that aggregates information for future data center establishments. Collaborate with NodePole to explore available power resources in the region where you intend to establish your project.
Step 4: Contact the local distribution system operator (DSO)
Reach out to the local Distribution System Operator (DSO) responsible for the region where your potential project site is located. Submit an application to the DSO to request information on power availability at your chosen plot. The DSO will provide details about power capacity at specific locations. In Sweden three large companies own and manage most of the regional grid: E.ON Power Grids, Fortum Distribution, and Vattenfall Power Distribution.
Step 5: Review power availability
Review the information provided by the DSO to assess the power availability at your chosen plot. Ensure that the available power capacity aligns with your project's requirements.
Step 6: Connect to the grid
Once you have determined the suitability of your chosen location based on power availability, work with the DSO to initiate the process of connecting your solar project or energy-intensive industry to the local or regional grid.
Here’s the link to the Svenska Kraftnät's application form if you wish to connect to the transmission grid.
Step 1: New project
The plant owner contacts his grid company and informs them about location, effect size, schedule, etc. for connection purposes.
Step 2: Screening
The network company and Energinet carry out screening analyses of whether the plant must be connected to the distribution or transmission network.
Step 3: Transmission/Distribution
The grid company and Energinet clarify connections in either the distribution or transmission network.
Step 4: Connection
The grid company notifies the facility owner of the decision connection in the distribution or transmission network.
The above 4 steps take approximately 3-6 months.
Step 5: Screening agreement (duration: 6-24 months)
The plant owner enters into a screening agreement per connection with Energinet. The agreement date indicates the plant owner's place in the portfolio of connections. If the plant owner significantly changes information such as location or power quantity,
screening is completed, and the process is started again with new clarification and a new place in the portfolio. The plant owner pays in advance or provides a guarantee, but only pays for the hours used. If the connection requires changes to the network, Energinet creates a project in parallel and gets the basis for this project approved. The plant owner has 3 months to enter into a maturation agreement. If this deadline is not met, the plant owner's place in the portfolio of connections will be forfeited.
Step 6: Maturation of the project (duration: 6-18 months)
The Plant owner and Energinet enter into an agreement on maturing the project (preparation for the construction phase) which contains a schedule for the project. Energinet performs the necessary calculations and analyses. The plant owner and Energinet enter into a grid connection agreement (covers both the construction phase and the grid-connected
facility) containing i.e. conditions for the construction of the connection station, the establishment of the grid connection point, and interconnection agreement. Energinet creates the plant in the master data register. The facility receives a GSRN number. The facility owner sends documentation of the agreement with the balance officer.
Step 7: Construction phase (duration: 12-36 months)
Plant owner builds his plant. At the same time, Energinet makes necessary changes to the network.
You can find all the details and links related to the Danish grid connection process here.
Step 1: Contact the local electricity grid operator
Initiate the process by reaching out to the local electricity grid operator responsible for the area where your solar park is located. Request an estimate of connection costs and inquire about the expected timeline for completion.
Step 2: Request a detailed cost estimate
The grid operator is legally obligated to provide you with a detailed and transparent estimate of connection costs. This estimate should include all relevant expenses associated with connecting your solar park to the grid.
Step 3: Verify technical requirements
Ensure that your solar park's hardware and infrastructure meet the technical requirements specified by the grid operator. This step is essential to guarantee that your facility aligns with grid standards and electrical safety regulations.
Step 4: Discuss battery system integration
If your energy plant includes a battery system to stabilize power output, engage in discussions with the grid operator regarding its integration. Address any requirements or agreements related to this aspect of your solar project.
Step 5: Check for additional permits
Depending on the specific circumstances of your grid connection, you may need additional permits for utilities or infrastructure. For example, if the power line used for connection is at least 110kV and is not part of the zoning plan, you may need to apply for permission from the municipality.
Step 6: Review publicly available information
Make use of publicly available information provided by the grid operator. This includes details on the technical requirements for connection, terms of sale, price lists, criteria for determining subscription fees, and a reasonable timeframe for processing network access requests. Ensure you have a clear understanding of these terms and conditions.
GIF: Glint Solar Software
In the ever-evolving Nordic clean energy landscape, Glint Solar offers country-specific capabilities to guide solar developers through the complexities of grid systems. These capabilities include access to vital data such as substations with voltage information, grid lines with voltage data, accurate typography, and parcel proximity to the grid, all of which vary by country. Additionally, Glint Solar provides environmental layers and municipality details to assist in project planning and alignment with local regulations.
To further streamline solar project development and save valuable time in the pre-design process, Glint Solar introduces an innovative 3D project visualization feature. This tool facilitates landowner negotiations and collaboration by offering a visual representation of solar projects and enhancing communication and agreement processes. As solar pioneers shape the future of green energy in the Nordic region, Glint Solar equips them with the essential tools to navigate challenges and seize opportunities.
Ready to experience the benefits of Glint Solar firsthand? Try Glint Solar for free or book a free demo to see the tool in action and discover how it can revolutionize your solar project development process. Save time, streamline collaboration, and pave the way for a sustainable future with Glint Solar.