Store Norske Energi, a Norwegian energy company, has initiated a groundbreaking pilot project in the remote Svalbard archipelago, situated at the 78th parallel north. Known for being among the last inhabited locations before the North Pole, the islands face prolonged darkness during the winter months. The project focuses on transitioning to renewable energy solutions, particularly crucial in the challenging Arctic conditions.
The solar photovoltaic (PV) system, located near the Isfjord Radio, includes both rooftop installations and a ground-mounted array. Mons Ole Sellevold, renewables project manager for Store Norske Energi, highlighted that the project's aim is to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels by an impressive 70%, showcasing a potential blueprint for other Arctic communities.
The ground-mounted PV system comprises 360 bifacial panels, each boasting a capacity of 550 W, resulting in a total system capacity of 198 kW and an estimated annual energy production of 161,000 kWh. The rooftop PV system, spanning three buildings, utilizes panels with capacities of 231 W and 415 W, achieving a combined installed capacity of 96 kW and an expected annual energy production of 60,000 kWh.
The energy storage components of the project include a 405 kWh battery storage system, a 240 kW inverter capacity, and thermal storage with 12,000 liters of hot water distributed across 12 storage tanks.
Before the renewable energy transition, Isfjord Radio relied heavily on almost 200,000 liters of diesel annually. The introduction of battery storage and thermal storage has already significantly reduced diesel consumption. With the integration of solar panels, a further 70% reduction in fossil fuel use is anticipated.
The challenging Arctic construction conditions, including permafrost foundations and extreme weather, required careful execution to minimize disruptions to tourists and wildlife. Heidi Theresa Ose, CEO of Store Norske Energi, expressed optimism about the project, stating, “We are well underway in establishing Isfjord Radio as a pilot for emissions-free hybrid energy systems for off-grid communities in the Arctic, with the long-term goal of arriving at a completely renewable solution.”
Isfjord Radio's transition to an autonomous energy system, combining renewable energy, energy storage, and diesel generators, holds promise as a scalable model for the approximately 1,500 Arctic communities facing energy challenges due to their remote locations and reliance on traditional energy sources like coal and diesel. Store Norske Energi emphasizes the shared responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance security of supply, and address the high costs associated with fossil energy in the Arctic.