May 21, 2015 / 2:17 PM / 4 years ago

Statkraft testing solar in four nations including India, in shift from hydro

PARIS (Reuters) - Statkraft, Europe’s biggest generator of renewable energy, is running small tests of solar power in four countries to see the potential to diversify from hydro and wind power, chief executive Christian Rynning-Toennesen said.

A boy dusts off a solar panel installed on the rooftop of his house on the outskirts of Ahmedabad October 27, 2014. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

The Norwegian state-run firm, whose energy portfolio is about 97 percent based on renewables, is testing solar in Britain, Germany, Turkey and India, as part of efforts to promote clean energy and slow climate change, he told Reuters.

“Solar power is expanding rapidly and has a huge potential. Statkraft therefore explores opportunities by running a few test projects,” he said. He was attending a May 20-21 summit on climate change and business in Paris.

At the Dörverden hydropower plant in Germany, for instance, Statkraft has installed 40 solar panels on a roof, each providing 250 watts.

“This initiative is being run not primarily to produce electricity but to gain new hands-on experience with solar energy,” Rynning-Toennesen said. “Test projects are also being evaluated in other countries.”

Experiments in solar power are a shift for Oslo-based Statkraft, which operates in 20 nations and is Europe’s top producer of hydro power. Overall, it generates about 56 terawatt-hours (TWh) annually.

The company is a also part of a consortium developing Dogger Bank, the world’s biggest offshore wind power park in the British sector of the North Sea.

For the time being, the company is focusing investments solely on renewable energies, he said. The company now has several gas fired power plants in Germany.

“We are maintaining the gas-fired plants we are operating but we not constructing any new (plants). We put all our capital into renewable energy projects – hydro, wind, biomass and some solar,” he said.

Even so, he said that the company foresaw a long-term need for some fossil fuels as backup for wind and solar power, for instance on calm days or after dark.

“Even though Statkraft is focusing only on renewable energy today, maybe in the long term we will be 90 percent renewable, 10 percent other technologies. We need some backup,” he said.

“In Norway we will be 100 percent renewable. Elsewhere we will have from 0 to 10 percent because we need backup,” he said.

Business leaders are meeting in Paris in an effort to prepare a summit in December where they seek to agree upon actions that would slow climate change beyond 2020.

Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Ahmed Aboulenein

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