Finnish telecommunications and digital services company, Elisa, has been granted €3.9 million from the Finnish government to accelerate the roll-out of its Distributed Energy Storage (DES) solution, with an expected capacity of 150 megawatt hours (MWh) making it the largest such project in Europe.
Elisa’s unique DES system helps to solve the challenge that renewable energy sources present to electricity grids. Unlike fossil fuels they can be intermittent and unpredictable requiring a storage system to optimise their usage. Elisa has developed its solution, an AI/ML powered engine that allows it to transform its radio access networks into a distributed virtual power plant that optimises energy management through the efficient charging and discharging of storage batteries.
The solution enables the telecom network infrastructure to provide part of its flexible capacity from base station batteries to Transmission System Operators (TSO) for grid balancing purposes. This helps 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.
“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.”
Elisa has already run successful trials of its unique 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 electricity market. The trials proved that the solution can cut Elisa’s electricity costs, by buying and storing electricity when it is inexpensive, and also provide ‘electricity grid balancing services’ to Fingrid by adjusting consumption towards grid corresponding to control signal sent by the TSO.
DES provides operational, financial and environmental benefits. For Elisa, it improves network resilience by providing an expanded source of backup electricity when the primary source is disrupted. And by buying electricity from the grid when it is inexpensive, for discharge at more expensive peak hours, it reduces operating expenditure.
“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,” added Salmenkaita.