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Couple weeks ago our solar energy park site in Kurenurme was visited by several representatives from our neighboring Baltic countries, Latvia and Lithuania. The scientific academic community in Estonia, i.e. Jaan Saar, Director, and Ain Kallis of EMHI as well as Enn Meliakov from Tallinn Technical -have all been very supportive of our solar “proof of concept” project right from the start. They believe solar energy should and must be taken more seriously in the Baltics.

This group was led by Harald Kitzmann, The Chair of Operations Management of the Institute of Business Management at Tallinn Tech.  (Harald is German but speaks Estonian and English very well). This august group included Robertas Urban-vicius, Vice President of the Lithuanian Solar Energy Association, Didzis Dejus, Board Member of EKOdarbi, and from Solar Think Tank, Researcher  -Baiba Zelve, Project Manager -Lelde Stukle, and Project Coordinator Jänis Jätnieks.  We were just one stop for them in Estonia, but according to them – a very important one. They had visited members of our Estonian Parliament earlier discussing solar potential and were surprised to hear how even though they in Lithuania and Latvia are aware of our 100kW solar energy project, many members of our Estonian Parliament are not.
The group was delighted when, while standing on site, I pointed out to them the little farmhouse in the distance. It had once belonged to the father of our Economics Minister, Juhan Parts. As one member of the group pointed out, Estonia seems only to be interested in global oil shale development, limited biomass and off shore wind. Regardless of all the scientific evidence to the contrary, there still seems to be a common misconception here in the Baltics that we have no sun here.
 The Kitzmann group was moving on from our Klöbi Talu to the Maa Ülikool to discuss the hows and ifs of solar potential with them. Mait Klassen, the Director of Maa Ülikool and I have spoken several times about coordinating our mutual efforts regarding solar energy development in Estonia. We are hoping to become a research facility for comparison applications.  I met a few weeks ago with Villo Sallaste, of ABB, (the people who make wind turbines), hoping to convince ABB to put up an intermediate sized wind turbine on our solar site as well. This would show the cumulative effect of combining wind and solar on a given site. It would also compare the energy accumulation data.
 Energy Smart Director, Michael Wegecsanyi had arrived a little late for the meeting. We were asked how we arrived at this or that choice regarding trackers and solar panels and what we are hoping to ultimately accomplish with our pilot project.
Our aim is to prove the merits of Estonia, as well as the Baltics to become an exporter of clean energy into the European energy grid, we must make absolutely sure this pilot project of ours is successful.  Michael explained, we need to be 100% sure our solar installation will operate effectively and efficiently or our entire effort will be fruitless.
It has been revealed EU agricultural subsidies will probably be stopped for all because of the financial crisis brought on with Greece and Portugal. With potentially Spain and Italy requiring bail outs in the near future makes future subsidies also in question. Any agricultural assistance for Estonia or other Baltic states would also have to be given to Poland as well which would make it all prohibitively expensive for the EU.
However, our agricultural ministry could already be applying for clean energy assistance and subsidies for our farmers from the EU. There are also significant EU funds available and allocated for cross border energy solutions within the EU. Latvia needs all the solar energy our farmers could produce during our summers when their hydro electrical systems are critically low. Energy that is used locally and does not need to be transported saves 20% already. This alone would help Estonia reach Kyoto levels.
The Kitzmann group wanted to know the differences between our solar energy production and our solar hot water systems. Energy Smart has installed solar hot water systems into schools, apartment complexes and private homes. With vacuum solar hot water systems, water gets preheated and fed directly into any existing heating system producing savings of 40% or more on electricity bills. Solar vacuum tubes are developing into a market success in the Baltics. Michael told the group about our Latvian investor who we hope will help us to expand both of our solar efforts into Latvia as well.
There are, and have been other Estonian efforts at work, promoting alternative energy for the Baltics. Tallinn Tech has worked on innovative solar panels for years and already has several patents on file and pending. Maa Ülikool has been developing different alternative energy sources. The Estonian Meteorological and Hydrological Institute has been compiling solar data for over 60 years and provides NASA with their data.
All alternative energies are not equal. Biomass, wind, hydro, and wave are all secondary sources of energy.  Solar is still the primary energy source for the world and always will be. Once we manage even a minor breakthrough in economically and efficiently storing this solar energy, all other sources of energy will immediately become obsolete.  
Energy will then no longer be a problem anywhere in the world, but clean fresh water will be. How many of us Estonians realize that 90% of our fresh ground water is passed through the oil shale burners to cool them down, every day?  Both water and oil shale should be considered valuable resources for Estonia. Neither should be wasted.  You cannot make polymer compounds from solar or wind, so the global dwindling of fossil fuels will make our oil shale resources even more valuable in the future. Therefore, only as a last resort should our carbon resources be wasted on generating electricity. If Estonians knew what they really paid for their heavily subsidized electricity and who is profiting, they would be more than happy to purchase their energy from the European grid.  Estonia should think in terms of tomorrow’s technology instead of being locked into yesterday’s.
 

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