The Faroe Islands are determined to achieve a remarkable goal: attaining 100% renewable energy by 2030. Elfelagið SEV, the electrical company in the islands, affirms that they are on track to accomplish this ambitious target. However, they are cautious about over-reliance on wind turbines due to their unstable nature of energy supply and are exploring alternative options, e g batteries for stabilization. The more wind energy in the future, the less diesel will be needed. However, diesel traditionally enhances the quality and stability of supply and thus alternatives are needed.
How do we ensure a stable Faroese electrical grid when the majority of electricity production is derived from fluctuating renewable power sources?
To shed more light on the Faroe Islands’ journey towards achieving 100% climate-neutral energy by 2030, we speak with Terji Nielsen, Head of R&D department at Electrical Power company SEV and responsible for this ambitious goal at SEV, and Helma Maria Trondheim, a young electrical engineer who finished her PHD last year in June about exactly this area.
Helma Maria’s PHD focused on two crucial questions: firstly, how to secure sufficient renewable energy supply, including the necessary number of wind turbines and solar panels required, and the optimal amount of storage capacity. Secondly, how to tackle the inherent instability caused by renewable energy within the system, aiming to maintain a balanced production and consumption equilibrium. In her ongoing work she continues her work on the same subjects, among other.
Today, the green energy resources available are generally unstable sources of power. Says Helma Maria:
“The Faroe Islands are positioned isolated in the heart of the North Atlantic Ocean and, therefore, the country is unable to purchase electrical power from any neighboring countries when their own sustainable power sources, e.g., wind and solar, do not produce sufficient power.”
Other countries, such as those on the European continent, have the possibility to purchase power from their neighbors if needed. These countries, which are linked into a large communal grid, also sell power to each other. The Faroe Islands do not have this opportunity. Thus, the Faroese grid must secure its own reserves (back-up) to ensure a continual balance between consumption and production every second of every day.
According to Helma Maria, it is not possible to conduct this type of research on the mainland because comparable conditions simply do not exist.
“Therefore, other island communities have a great interest in our research, being in the same situation with the same needs.”
In summary, the isolation of the Faroe Islands makes the research very relevant: How do we ensure a stable Faroese electrical grid when the majority of the electricity production derives from fluctuating renewable power sources?
The aim of the project is not solely to determine how many power sources are needed, but also when and where it is most effective to make investments. In addition, we must consider the scenario that the best financial solution may not be technically feasible.
“This research project is another concrete example of the comprehensive analysis that is the hallmark of the Green Energy Course toward the future charted by the people of the Faroe Islands.” (taken from SEV website)
Helma Maria Trondheim utilizes a grid model to further observe and analyze the areas where changes occur, contributing to the overall understanding of the system dynamics.
With an exceptionally high growth in energy consumption driven by salmon farming and the industrial sector, a constant scaling up of the efforts to become neutral on energy is needed in the Faroe Islands. As a testament to their commitment in the islands, two new wind farms were installed just last year. In addition, the Faroe Islands are actively tapping into the potential of tidal power through the Minesto Project and testing solar energy.
Says Terji Nielsen, Head of R&D department at Electrical Power company SEV:
“To unlock the power of tides, potentially serving as a more reliable and sustainable energy source in the future as a young and innovative technology, which could possibly mitigate the unpredictability of wind energy. As water is much more dense than air, tidal energy is more powerful than wind energy. Unlike wind, tides are predictable and stable. Where tidal generators are used, they produce a steady, reliable stream of electricity.”
The Minesto tidal energy is generated through underwater kites offering an innovative approach to harnessing this renewable resource. More on https://minesto.com/
When considering the placement of wind farms, careful environmental assessments are paramount and take place before the construction. An example of a wind farm used for testing technology is the Suduroy wind farm, with findings from there being applied in the other islands..
Recognizing the limitations of relying solely on wind energy, the Faroe Islands have pioneered the implementation of synchronous condensers and batteries to stabilize power supplies. However, challenges remain, such as the insufficient capacity of the batteries, which requires further attention and improvement to ensure a sustainable and stable energy supply.
The target of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2030 is impressive and ambitious. With the proactive efforts of Elfelagið SEV and the continuous exploration of diverse renewable sources like wind and tidal power, and as part of their energy storage strategy, the planning of implementing pumped hydro storage by 2027 and 2028, they are well under way and making significant strides towards a greener and more sustainable future.
In addition to being the leading electrical company, SEV also holds a 50% stake in the District Heating Company, which utilizes waste burning and biogas for heating purposes. It is worth noting that the Faroe Islands, such as other remote island communities, lack a gas infrastructure, relying on Diesel Fuel Oil as a backup solution. However, SEV has recently invested in a new power plant, costing 1 billion Danish crowns, to support their operations.
The primary sources of energy in the Faroe Islands are at presence wind power and hydropower. Offshore floating wind farms will be necessary in a future where green fuels can be produced, but are not being pursued at the moment for normal energy production. (https://www.sev.fo/english/projects/offshore-wind-power)
The utilization of hydrogen propulsion for ship mobility and for ship fuel production is under exploration, with Methanol and Ammonia being considered as the most realistic supplies – all solutions presently still being in a study- or development phase.
Approximately 50% of the total energy consumption in the Faroe Islands is attributed to transport onshore, heating and electricity. Ground-source as well as air-source heat pumps are being utilized, aided by affordable credits.
Come and visit the Faroe Islands with your sport, cultural or business event and make sure to contribute to environment or society through knowledge and purposeful events, using the SDGs as orientation. We are happy to help you design your conference legacy – e g by organising visits and meetings with innovators!
More general information about the Faroe Islands can be found by visiting the Visit Faroe Islands Meetings website.
content: Johanna Fischer / ecomice – FrauBlau for Visit Faroe Islands Meetings, 15.08.2023