Elisa to turn network into Europe’s largest virtual power plant

The Finnish government has allocated Elisa €3.9 million to roll out the operator’s Distributed Energy Storage (DES) solution across its network
One of the major challenges associated with renewable energy sources like wind and solar is their intermittent nature. The sun is not always shining (especially in Finland) and the wind is not always blowing, potentially putting strain on the energy grid at times of high demand.

As such, the growing (and undeniably vital) use of renewable energy worldwide can represent an enormous management challenge for transmission system operators (TSOs), those companies entrusted with balancing the electrical grid and ensuring that supply meets demand.

Now, Finnish operator Elisa thinks it can be part of this solution using their newly developed DES solution.

The DES technology leverages AI and machine learning to intelligently charge and discharge the energy storage batteries located at mobile sites across the country. The system optimises the timing of electricity purchases to coincide with times when renewable energy is available, ensuring that the mobile network runs on as green energy as possible and reducing procurement costs.

But beyond delivering more cost-effective renewable energy for the mobile network itself, this solution can also provide significant support to the local TSO.

When balancing the electricity grid, TSOs send requests for power every few seconds. In response, the DES can dynamically adjusting the power consumption of Elisa’s base station across the country in real time.

Trials of the technology have already been completed at 200 base stations on Elisa’s network last year, with the technology already receiving the approval of Fingrid, the national TSO.

Once DES tech is completely rolled out across its network, Elisa says its network will have an expected capacity of around 150MWh, making it the largest virtual power plant in Europe.

“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,” 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,” he added.

The Finnish government is helping to fund the rollout with a contribution of €3.9 million as part of the country’s Recovery and Resilience Plan, which is focussed on promoting the use of renewable energy.

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