January 31, 2023
To meet Finland's 2035 carbon-neutrality goal, efficient solar development and understanding the grid system is crucial.
The Finnish government has set a bold goal to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2035, and to become carbon-negative thereafter. As a result, the race is on to identify the best solar sites and develop them as efficiently as possible. So what should solar developers know about the Finnish grid system?
Energy transitions around the world are notorious for being slow and gruesome for businesses wanting to expand their portfolio. Long delays and bureaucracy in approving interconnections for renewable energy projects are a widespread problem that could hinder or even interrupt efforts to decarbonize and increase the use of renewable energy. In Finland, the process of initiating and approving a project can take up to two years, making it essential for developers to fully understand the complexity involved at the beginning stages to avoid delays and ensure smooth progress.
There is no standardized process for developing solar energy in Finland, and the developer is obligated to find out about the obligations and responsibilities themselves. The requirements for permitting are dependent on the size of the project, the location, the project's regional impact, the zoning plans and other land usage plans. Development of solar power can be addressed on all land planning levels: the regional plan (maakuntakaava), the zoning plan (yleiskaava), and the city plan (asemakaava). Thus, there might be multiple levels to address in the permitting process.
In Finland, the authorities are required to process permit procedures for site construction, grid connection and usage, and other administrative approval procedures within a two year period. Upon updating an existing solar power plant, or building a smaller than 150kW plant, the aforementioned permit procedures have to be finished within one year. Thus, the timeline for getting approval has to be embedded in all project plans.
In the matrix below we have gathered all the administrative procedures required for solar energy facilities in Finland as defined by the ELY Centres.
The high number of MAYBE in the matrix above is caused by a high dependance on site specific factors. Only the notification regarding construction and removal of power plants under the Electricity Market Act is required in all projects.
In Finland, large-scale solar power plants or large panel groups require at least an action permit in accordance with the Land-use and Building Act. If a large-scale solar power plant can be considered a construction, it may also require a building permit instead of an action permit. Depending on the location of the plant, its effects on the surroundings and a possible connection to agricultural activity, construction may require a separate zoning plan in an area where there is no such plan that directly guides the construction. Special sites require special care, which is certainly the case also in building a plant in the vicinity of an airport. In these cases, it is necessary to examine possible effects of panel reflections and glares that might be a risk factor for the air traffic. An assessment can be requested from the company Fintraffic Lennonvarmistus Oy.
Thus, the multitude of considerations that go into solar development makes projects rather complex, and consulting the regional ELY-Centres and the municipality is recommended in all cases. At Glint Solar, we believe that endorsing a transparent and clear application pipeline and bureaucratic processes is paramount for the Finnish carbon-neutrality goal and the smooth co-operation between solar developers and authorities.
In Finland, all projects that meet the technical requirements have the right to be connected to the region’s grid. The grid operator’s connection terms and requirements have to be unbiased, impartial, and reasonable as per the Finnish Energy Authority. The energy producer has to ensure from the grid operator that the plant’s hardware meets the requirements of the grid and all other electrical safety regulations. Once all obligations have been met, the energy producer and the grid operator will sign a contract to begin operation. In the Finnish market, there is no priority for the connection of renewable energy capacity, unlike in other countries such as Germany. However, endorsing priority connections for renewables is key to align the growth of the renewable energy pipeline with transmission capacity.
To connect a solar park to the grid, a developer has to reach out to the local electricity grid operator and request an estimate of connection costs and the timeline for completion. The grid operator is obligated to provide a detailed and clear estimate of connection costs and delivery time.
Furthermore, the grid operator is obligated to state the following information publicly:
In case the energy plant is equipped with a battery system to level power output, it has to be separately agreed upon with the grid operator. Any additional utilities used for the grid connection might also require some additional land usage permits. For instance, if the power line between the plant and the grid is at least 110kV and there is no place for it on the zoning plan, the solar developer has to apply for permission from the municipality.
A ground-mounted solar power plant, which produces electricity and has an installed capacity of 10 megawatts, will be placed in an area, part of which is zoned as an industrial area. The project needs the following permits and administrative procedures:
Zoning (Land-use and Building Act)
Procedure license (Land-use and Building Act)
Notice on the power plant construction plan and commissioning (Electricity Market Act)
Furthermore, the facility must have an agreement with an electricity network operator and a buyer for the electricity it produces in order to be connected to the electricity network.
At Glint Solar, we see Finland as one of the key markets for developers in Europe with strong ambitions to grow and a lot of potential for accelerated PV development. Glint Solar helps solar developers more accurately assess the potential impact of their projects on the grid and take steps to ensure that necessary infrastructure and permits are in place to support them. This helps to avoid bottlenecks and facilitates a smoother transition to renewable energy sources.
With the Glint Ground software developers can reach more efficient and reliable early-stage site screening. When accelerating the solar pipeline, having a powerful based tool like Glint Ground enables higher quality project initiation by providing technical site specifications, accurate typography, 3D site visualization, effective communication with stakeholders among other things. We are constantly adding new features to make the process ever more seamless, and we are excited for what is in store for 2023 and how we can support you.
Useful links for developers entering Finland: