Finnish telecommunications and digital services provider Elisa has been granted €3,9 million ($4.1 million) from the Finnish Government to roll out their Distributed Energy Storage (DES) solution with an extended capacity of 150MWh, claimed to be the largest Virtual Power Plant (VPP) in Europe.
Elisa’s solution aims to optimise the energy procurement of the company’s base stations while offering electricity grid balancing services to the local Transmission Service Operator.
The VPP operates via smart management of backup power from batteries to provide flexibility in electricity supply across thousands of base stations in the radio access network throughout the day.
Unlike fossil fuels, renewables can be intermittent and unpredictable requiring a storage system to optimise their usage.
Elisa has developed its DES solution as an AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning) powered engine that allows it to transform its radio access networks into a distributed VPP.
The VPP in turn will optimise energy management through the smart charging and discharging of storage batteries.
The solution aims to enable telecom network infrastructure to provide part of its flexible capacity from base station batteries to Transmission System Operators (TSO) for grid balancing purposes.
This will help to facilitate the deployment of more renewable energy, and the transition to zero carbon, by taking wind energy when available and using it at times when the wind is not blowing.
Elisa was awarded the grant by Finland’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment to supplement Elisa’s investment.
This enables Elisa to target 150MWh storage capacity which makes it Europe’s largest distributed VPP project.
The funding is part of Finland’s Recovery and Resilience Plan directed at clean energy projects, pending approval of the European Commission.
“It is critical for society that we have an energy supply that is affordable, secure and sustainable, and the potential for distributed energy storage of telecom networks to contribute to this is huge,” said Jukka-Pekka Salmenkaita, vice president of AI and special projects at Elisa.
“By building out storage capacity in our network and managing it in a smart way, Elisa has not only improved network resilience but also saved energy costs and contributed to the zero-carbon energy transition by facilitating storage from renewable sources. It’s good for the network, good for business and good for the planet.”
Mobile network testing
Elisa has run successful trials of its solution across 200 base stations in its Finnish mobile network during 2022 and got the technical pre-qualification acceptance from Fingrid, Finland’s TSO for participation in the automatic frequency restoration reserve (aFRR) electricity market.
According to Elisa, the trials proved that the solution can cut electricity costs by buying and storing electricity when inexpensive and provides electricity grid balancing services to Fingrid.
By buying electricity from the grid when it is inexpensive, for discharge at more expensive peak hours, it reduces operating expenditure.
Said Salmenkaita: “Achieving a fully carbon neutral economy in Europe is a tremendous challenge. DES helps to facilitate the further deployment of intermittent renewable sources of energy, such as wind power.
“Exponential growth is expected in renewable deployment in the coming years, but the intermittent and unpredictable nature of the source requires intelligent storage and management solutions such as DES to support and maximise their impact. We believe that telecommunications industry can make a gigawatt hour-scale contribution with solutions like DES for accelerating the transition.”