Finland sees growing role for energy storage

Energy storage in Finland set to grow, as Landis+Gyr installs the largest battery system in the Nordics, which will help stabilise the electricity supply in Helsinki. Pic: Pixabay.

Energy storage in Finland set to grow, as Landis+Gyr installs the largest battery system in the Nordics, which will help stabilise the electricity supply in Helsinki. Pic: Pixabay.

By Jason Deign

Finland’s nascent grid-scale battery market is set to expand rapidly in the coming years, according to Landis+Gyr’s Northern Europe CEO Ari Tolonen.

He told Energy Storage Report his company was pursuing four other energy storage projects in Finland after completing the largest battery plant in the Nordic countries earlier this year.

Up to 4MW of battery storage could be installed across the country “very soon,” he said. “I believe we will see three or four cases a year. I expect to see this kind of system everywhere.”

In August, Landis+Gyr commissioned a 1.2MW, 600kWh battery system for Helen Electricity, a distribution system operator covering the Helsinki area of Finland.

The €2m Helen storage facility was built alongside Finland’s largest solar plant, a 340kW array in Suvilahti, and will also serve an 850kW PV project being built at nearby Kivikko.   

Made in Italy by Toshiba

The battery system is being used for frequency response and other ancillary services, and contains 560 SCiB lithium titanium oxide modules made in Italy by the Japanese technology giant Toshiba, which owns 60% of Landis+Gyr.

Tolonen said the battery technology was compact, capable of 12,000 cycles and “operates in low temperatures, which is important in Finland.”

He did not provide details of upcoming projects, although it is understood Finland is likely to need increasing levels of storage to deal with renewable energy build-outs.

Finland has a strong industrial base, which is leading to increasing demand for energy, said Tolonen. “It’s double the amount of energy consumed per person in Denmark, and we have roughly the same population,” he said

At the same time, Finland is planning to become the first country in the world to completely phase out coal, by 2030. 

Electricity from non-carbon sources

That should not be a problem, in theory, since the country already gets much of its electricity from non-carbon sources. In 2015, Finland’s nuclear fleet, which comprises four reactors, supplied around 27% of total electricity demand.

A further 25% came from combined heat and power plants, and 20% each came from hydro and energy imports, the latter mostly via the Nord Pool Nordic electricity market.

In 2005, Finland placed a big bet on nuclear to take care of its future energy needs. The power company Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) ordered a 1.6GW reactor from Areva and Siemens, with operation slated to commence in 2009.

The deal has since turned into one of the biggest commercial botches in nuclear energy history, with sole remaining contractor Areva locked in arbitration with TVO and commissioning not likely until 2018 at the earliest.

With Areva planning to sell its nuclear engineering arm to EDF, and problems emerging with similar reactor models elsewhere, Finnish policymakers are likely shifting their gaze to alternative energy sources for Finland’s future needs. 

Wind offers the best hope

Currently wind, which receives government support, offers the best hope to increase carbon-free generation capacity cost effectively.

According to the Global Wind Energy Council, in 2015 Finland added 380MW of wind capacity to its system, bringing its total to just over a gigawatt, or around 3% of total electricity needs.

But by May 2014, 11GW of wind projects had already been announced in Finland, along with 2.2GW of offshore plants.

Solar power currently makes an almost negligible contribution to the energy system, but its use is also expected to grow, particularly at community level.

This increasing level of intermittent generation is expected to increase Finnish interest in energy storage for tasks such as frequency regulation and load shifting. 

An entirely new energy system

In 2014, Finland launched an initiative called Neo-Carbon Energy to create “an entirely new energy system based on solar and wind alongside other renewables such as hydro power, geothermal and sustainable biomass.”

The project was vaunted as targeting storage although it is unclear what specific measures have so far been achieved on this front.

Meanwhile the Finnish energy company Fortum earlier this year announced a storage project that would trump the Helen Electricity plant as the biggest battery system in the Nordics.

“For the project, Saft’s Li-ion containerised battery system with a nominal output of 2MW and 1MWh of energy capacity will be installed at Fortum’s Suomenoja power plant in Finland,” said the company in a press release in April.

The battery system was due to enter operation in September although no further news has been issued on the project. Even so, it seems further word of Finnish energy storage projects will not be long in coming.

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