Every time I start something new, I want it to be done yesterday. I have been talking and writing about our 100kW Kurenurme Solar Project for a couple of years now. Like a Jehovah Witness trying to save the world I sometimes feel no one, not even the Estonian government, wants to listen. It often seems like everywhere else in the world solar energy development and projections are accepted and even considered inevitable.
Then, I remember how it’s not all bleak. Our Economics Minister, Juhan Parts has met with us and has even been somewhat supportive, if only advising us to “do it” instead of just talking about our solar park.
The Estonian Environmental Agency has supported our efforts through a grant. The Estonian Energy Agency is also getting behind us with an additional grant and a loan guarantee. In other EU nations -the local energy company is usually the arch nemesis of alternative energy projects but our local energy company, Eesti Energia, has been refreshingly cooperative and supportive of our efforts to date.
We have even met several times with Ando Leppimann, the director of Eesti Energia’s Alternative Energy section (which primarily deals with wind parks today). We are looking forward to possibly working together on a mutual solar project in the future, if our proof of concept project here in Kurenurme is successful.
What I liked hearing from Ando Leppimann,( a Võru native by the way), is how the same negatives we so often hear questioning the future of solar projects, he remembers hearing about wind -only 5 years ago. He believes solar like wind, has a definite future in Estonia.
Everyone and anyone familiar with the energy field has to admit ultimately the greatest and most consistent source of any future energy source has to be the sun. All other alternative sources, i.e., wind and biomass are only a temporary stopgaps for any future sustainable clean energy production. All that is needed for PV photo voltaic to peak would be a couple of breakthroughs in solar storage capabilities. The moment this happens, no other energy source will make any sense.
Oil and gas, the most polluting sources of energy production, will need to be curtailed in the near future regardless, because India, China, Africa as well as Russia cannot depend on fossil fuels for development as we have in the west. We will soon have to stop exploiting fossil fuels if we wish to assure a livable global environment for our children. We will probably be doing this long before we even necessarily run out of carbon based fuels -if we ever really will.
Our solar park today is finally at the point when actual work has begun on site. Eleven tracker towers need to be situated so no one tower will shade another, year round. Each tracker will hold 44 solar panels and track the light source, so a solid secure foundation is essential. We need to be able to pour eleven concrete foundations and to do so we need to move heavy equipment and concrete trucks across the site. Energy Smart engineer and one of our partners, Tõnu Jogis got together with the site boss from Selista Ehitus (our builders) and agreed this phase of our work is best done while the ground is frozen.
Last spring we heard we would be getting grant assistance from the Estonian government, but we didn’t know then, that this was just the beginning of a whole lot of even more additional paper work. When someone is awarded a grant, don’t think someone from the government arrives and simply hands you a bag full of money and wishes you good luck.
Getting any grant in the first place is a considerable investment of time and money and in itself a major undertaking and achievement. Once your project gets approved, you still need to finalize the paperwork and additional requirements for assuring the support. The final budgets and itemized expenses all need to firmly established. Then, schedules of payments, tasks and completion dates need to be realistically established and documented, and then you can start. So finally -we at Energy Smart have started!