Finnish telecommunications company Elisa has won a €3.9m ($4.16m) grant from the government of Finland to roll out a ‘Distributed Energy Storage’ (DES) solution across its network. With an expected capacity of 150 megawatt-hours, this will become Europe’s largest distributed virtual power plant and one of the largest European battery storage systems, even when compared with centralised grid-scale battery installations.

The DES system helps solve the challenge that renewable energy sources present to electricity grids. Renewables are variable, requiring storage systems to optimise their use. An AI-powered tool, DES transforms radio access networks into a distributed virtual power plant that optimises energy management via the efficient charging and discharging of batteries. 

Transmission system operators increasingly rely on energy storage systems to balance grids with high shares of renewable energy. (Photo by kRie via Shutterstock)

The solution allows the telecom network infrastructure to provide part of its flexible capacity from base station batteries to transmission system operators (TSOs) for grid balancing purposes. This enables the deployment of more renewable energy 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, in a statement.

“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. We believe that telecommunications industry can make a gigawatt hour-scale contribution with solutions like DES for accelerating the transition.”

Elisa has already run successful trials of its DES 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) market, which helps to keep the grid frequency stable.

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