Study: Solar Heating Could Provide More Than 80% Of Heating Energy For Households In Finland

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Up to around ~80% of the heating energy needed for Finnish households could be met through the use of solar energy, depending upon the method of technical implementation, according to a new study from Aalto University.

To be more specific, the study found that solar energy could be used to cover between 53% and 81% of annual domestic heating energy consumption in Finland. These findings relate, in a somewhat inexact way, to the potentials in neighboring countries at the same latitude as well.

“In the Helsinki Eko-Viikki housing area, nine properties have been equipped with solar heating systems for producing heat for water heating systems and, in a few of the houses, for underfloor heating. From the solar panels, the accumulated heat is conducted to an insulated water tank functioning as a thermal storage.” Photo by Helen Oy

“In principle, this result is also valid for Sweden, Norway and other locations at the same latitudes. Of course, local conditions have some effect on this,” commented researcher Hassam ur Rehman, a doctoral candidate at Aalto University.

The press release provides more: “The researchers calculated the amount of solar heat obtained for heating the households when excess energy was stored for use during cold periods. The researchers calculated the amount of heat obtained for practical use when energy for heating households was accumulated using solar heating and the accumulated heat was stored for use during cold periods. In their calculations, the researchers studied the use of both above-ground water storage tanks for short-term heat storage and a borehole storage suited for seasonal storage. The results depended on the method of how the heat pumps and the water storage tanks and the borehole storage for storing heat were used together.”

To draw attention to the implications of the work, I’ll note here that heating accounts for roughly 40% of all energy consumption in the European Union. Natural gas- and coal-fired power plants are currently the primary energy modality used to satisfy these needs.

“In Finland, more than 80% of the energy consumption in households goes to heating buildings and water, and this is on the increase. Solar energy offers economically sensible solutions for the collection of energy for this purpose, and for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, especially in southern Finland where the majority of the population lives,” noted Kai Sirén, Professor at Aalto University.

As the findings of the new study are somewhat inexact and deal with broad generalities, the researchers involved are planning to continue their work and to next conduct real-world measurements.

“We are talking about a computational result which includes factors of uncertainty even if the initial values have been carefully selected and the simulations conducted meticulously,” explained Sirén.

So, we’ll have to wait to see what the real-world options are … or not — those of you in the region who want to experiment can of course do so now!