Unique Distributed Energy Storage (DES) solution enables Elisa to optimise the energy procurement of its base stations and offer electricity grid balancing services to the local Transmission Service Operator. It is achieved by the smart management of backup power from batteries to provide flexibility in electricity supply in thousands of base stations in the radio access network throughout the day. Elisa has now been granted EUR3.9 million from the Finnish Government enabling accelerated roll-out of the service across its network with expected capacity of 150MWh, 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 unique DES solution, an AI/ML powered engine that allows it to transform its radio access networks into a distributed virtual power plant. This 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.
Elisa has now been awarded a grant of EUR 3.9 million 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 virtual power plant project. The capacity is among the largest European battery storage systems, even when compared to centralised grid-scale battery installations. The funding is part of Finland’s Recovery and Resilience Plan directed for 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, VP 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 (aFRR) 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 the telecommunications industry can make a gigawatt hour-scale contribution with solutions like DES for accelerating the transition,” said Salmenkaita.
The Distributed Energy Storage (DES) solution powered by AI/ML uses the flexibility of backup power batteries to control electricity supply in thousands of base stations in the radio access network throughout the day. The DES system optimises the timing of electricity purchases by scheduling charging and discharging periods for the batteries. Furthermore, part of this flexibility capacity is offered to the local electricity Transmission Service Operator (TSO) for grid balancing purposes. When balancing the grid, the TSO sends a request of their needs every few seconds, and the DES system decides which of the thousands of base station power units should be adjusted in real time.