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Expert: Selling solar electricity to grid will become costlier

Solar panels.
Solar panels. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Ten thousand electricity producers have joined the Estonian grid in the past two years and interest in solar parks remains extremely high. Ivo Palu, a professor at Tallinn University of Technology, said the very low price of solar energy makes it unprofitable to sell energy to the grid, but it is profitable to construct solar power plants for residential use.

Building solar parks is becoming increasingly popular.

"Currently, 255 micro producers are awaiting an offer but there are over 600 applications from larger producers awaiting an offer as well," Marii Uduvee, head of electricity network connections at Elektrilevi, said.

Estonia already has nearly 17,000 electricity producers, of which about 9,000 are micro-producers. Their grid-connected generation capacity is currently 649 MW.  Renewable energy producers can meet summer demand with this capacity.

"Last month, record production capacity covered 75 percent of consumption capacity." However, larger and specialized producers, such as wind farms, are also included. Uduvee said that microgenerators produce approximately 10 percent of the total capacity produced.

Moreover, the current generation capacity already makes summer electricity prices exceptionally affordable.

"It tends to remain close to zero. With a daily average of 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, the low prices are zero," Palu said.

Eesti Energia anticipates that solar panels installed on the top of a 9,000 kilowatt-hours residential structure will generate the bulk of the building's electricity and pay for themselves in 13 years. The offer no longer includes this payback time or the opportunity to sell to the utility.

"Cost-effectiveness must be assessed over a long period of time." The energy recovery period of solar panels is influenced by a number of factors, including the cost of power. There are also grid fees and individual consumption shares.

The most advantageous approach, according to Mikk Tootsi, head of solar and storage systems at Eesti Energia, is one in which the bulk of energy is utilized locally via storage systems.

Palu agrees that a small solar power system can help to cover family expenses.

"Consider what you are able to use by yourself; there is no need to pursue 15 kilowatts in the hopes that it will support your retirement. The vendors also want their share when selling to the grid, so selling to the grid will become costlier, not cheaper," he said.

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Editor: Marko Tooming, Kristina Kersa

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