According to a new report from SolarPower, Europe experienced a significant increase in solar power capacity in 2022, adding 41.4 GW of new solar production, compared to 28.1 GW in 2021. That makes another record-breaking year for solar on the continent, with a total of 10 GW more capacity added than expected.
Rising to the top
Regarding solar power per capita, Estonia has emerged as one of the new leaders. The country is ranked 6th among 27 EU members, with 596 Watt per capita in 2022, jumping from 405 in 2021. With accelerated growth in recent years, it has the potential to reach an even higher mark soon.
Thanks to a steady flow of investments and public-market cooperation, Estonia has already reached the goals designated for the 2030 National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP).
One of the few nations to outpace the targets, it now aims to produce all domestically-consumed еnergy using renewables by 2030. To make sure solar will have a good presence in the future energy roaster, the report states three main factors:
- The solar target should be increased to further support the use of solar power in the country.
- Estonia, one of the most bureaucracy-free nations in the world, has streamlined the creation of a manual of proceedings and identification of suitable areas for development with local authorities. The next stop is to implement a one-contact-point system.
- Another decisive factor is the development of solar prosumers, or individuals and businesses who generate and consume their own solar power. So far, it has been a key objective of Estonian energy policy.
Being a Nordic country with less sunlight than in Western and Southern Europe, Estonia has achieved a solid place at the top with its 1,923 sunny hours in the year.
“In the next few years, we will reach the point where electricity produced from solar panels and wind farms covers our summer electricity demand”, said Kaja Kallas, the Prime Minister of Estonia, recently.
A big part of Estonia’s success story should be attributed to the solar-oriented startups and scaleups that emerged here. Estonia has been a clear leader in attracting climate-tech investments, states PwC’s Net Zero Future50 report. What are the bright stars?
Roofit.solar is a company that produces steel roofs with integrated solar panels in a traditional Nordic design style. These roofs generate on-site energy and reduce the carbon footprint of roofing materials, as well as the cost of installation.
The company claims that its 2-in-1 roofing material with solar modules does not use aluminium frames and offers approximately 9% CO2 emission reductions compared to mainstream solar panels in Estonia. Roofit.solar has installed more than 200 systems in 10 European markets and operates a manufacturing facility with an annual output of 10 MW.
The company aims to create an all-European solar value chain to reduce dependence on imports from China, the world-leading exporter. To achieve this, the company offers larger roof modules rather than individual small solar tiles, slashing manual labour and costs.
Solarstone is an Estonian startup that produces building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) that integrate solar panels with regular roof tiles. The company’s Click-on Full Solar Roof concept addresses issues of complexity, compatibility, and price by allowing standard PV modules to be attached to the framing with no screws or adhesive.
Solarstone also offers an aluminium framing system that can transform solar panels into a two-in-one, sublayer-free roofing material that is waterproof. In collaboration with BMI, the world’s largest tiled roof producer, Solarstone claims that its products require just half the amount of building materials as traditional solar roofs. The company was founded in 2015 and has installed over 700 solar roofs in eight countries. In July 2022, Solarstone raised €10 million to fund European expansion.
According to the report, the EU’s total solar power capacity grew by 25%, from 167.5 GW in 2021 to 208.9 GW in 2022. And it will only grow further with the “most likely” scenario promising to double it by 2026.
“The numbers are clear. Solar is offering Europe a lifeline amid energy and climate crises,” said Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe. “No other energy source is growing as quickly, or reliably, as solar. We’re building a secure, green, prosperous Europe on a foundation of solar.”
Still, there are several key areas that need to be addressed to speed up the transition. These include expanding the pool of solar installers, maintaining regulatory stability, improving grid stability, streamlining administrative procedures, and strengthening European manufacturing.
“It’s more than high time to take solar seriously,” said Dries Acke, policy director at SolarPower Europe. “That means tackling barriers head on. We need more electricians and stable electricity market regulation. A solar-powered Europe can only be based on smoother administrative processes, speedier grid connections, and resilient supply chains.”
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