A fine Finnish collaboration with energy company Fortum, and DSO Caruna


" It was also important for us to understand how we could work together because we know that a solid collaboration can save costs "

Fortum and Caruna selected Alfen to supply 1MW battery storage systems in Inkoo. 
Can you tell us about it?

IA: Caruna and Fortum have strong relationships
because of our history so have been discussing these types of projects for some time. For our application and market usage, the exact placement of the battery doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s connected to the Finnish
power grid we can operate it in various markets. For
local usage though, the placement of the battery is critical and, for that reason, we have co-operated closely with Caruna to identify the parts of their grid that are susceptible to storms and tree damage, where batteries could be deployed to provide better security of supply
for their customers.

We have been investigating different ways to deploy battery systems since 2016 when we commissioned our first system at one of our power plants. With this project we are gaining valuable experience of operating a medium-sized battery system to provide security of supply for a relatively large medium voltage supply branch.

MT: We decided to do this pilot with Fortum because we appreciated their knowledge of electricity storage and new grid reliability services. Our own aim for the pilot project was to understand the technologies related to storage systems; how to install and operate them and any operational challenges they might present. 

It was also important for us to understand how we could work together with partners Fortum and Alfen because we know that a solid collaboration can save costs. We have gained lots of knowledge during the first year of the project - much more than we could have imagined – which is invaluable when considering potential future storage opportunities and co-operation. 

Alfen has been a great, reliable technology provider.
The project team has shown strong expertise and communication capabilities and co-operation has been consistently very good. Everyone has been lovely to work with.

Caruna’s mission is to guarantee reliable electricity supply to your customers under all circumstances. 
Can you tell us how you are anticipating a future in which digital services increase, transport is electrified and the consumer becomes a producer of energy?

MT: Of primary importance is ensuring that our core business is in good shape and that means a very reliable grid that provides electricity to all our customers when they need it. About 5 years ago, we began an improvement process to strengthen the grid by re-cabling the medium-voltage overhead lines underground to improve reliability in bad weather, particularly snow and ice, and manage the demand for new technologies. Investment began in areas which would have the largest customer impact and will continue for at least another 5 years – and also extend to the low-voltage network.

By the end of 2019, there were also 6,600 small scale solar generators connected to our network. The volume of solar PV’s continues to grow quite rapidly, mostly in the south, much of it as a result of the ever-decreasing price of solar panels and installations.

Last year, we introduced new services to make our customers’ everyday lives easier. They can now compare solar panels and electric vehicle charging solutions online and manage their customer relationship on Caruna+, a digital self-service channel.

We are constantly evaluating new solutions, particular circular ones, and are assessing opportunities for second-life batteries, as well as battery recycling services for li-ion batteries. We see lots of opportunity in general product lifecycles. When a battery is deemed to be at end-of-life, we break it down, retrieve all the valuables and maximise the recycling rate - currently more than half of the battery - and we are working hard to increase that by investing in processes to further optimise the retrieval of parts.

IA: Sustainability is at the heart of our strategy. Our vision for a cleaner world dictates our ambition to drive energy transformation towards a low-emission energy system and optimise resource efficiency. We want to engage our customers and society in joining the change for a cleaner world. 

We are growing our CO2-free power generation in solar, wind and combined heat and power plants and are developing value-add offerings and solutions for customers; for example, through provision of digital solutions.

Fortum’s website says you are responding to global challenges and arising business opportunities with the aim of being the forerunner in clean energy. Can you explain more about that?

"Our focus is to understand how demand-side management can best be used to stabilise / optimise the grid because we believe that this
is becoming increasingly important "

Alfen has been selected by Finnish state-owned energy company, Fortum, and Finnish DSO, Caruna, to supply 1MW battery energy storage systems in Inkoo, about 50 km away from the Helsinki metropolitan area. It is part of a new framework to accelerate demand response to help stabilise the grid and increase local grid services reliability.

We spoke to Ilari Alaperä, acting interim CEO for Fortum Spring, Fortum’s demand response business unit, and Markus Talka, Innovation Program Manager at Caruna, about the drivers of the project for each company and their future aspirations.

IA: Fortum is a European energy company with activities in more than 40 countries. We provide our customers with electricity, gas, heating and cooling and also smart solutions to improve resource efficiency. Combined with our subsidiary Uniper, we are the third largest producer of CO2-free electricity in Europe.

I started working for Fortum in August 2016. I am currently interim CEO of Fortum Spring and I also have business development responsibility for battery storage. Before that, I worked for ABB for 6 years. I have a PhD in energy systems and a masters in electrical engineering.

The focus at Fortum Spring is to understand how demand-side management can best be used to
stabilise / optimise the grid because we believe that
this is becoming increasingly important.

Battery storage is an important part of a smart grid solution; for example, to provide frequency control. We have been working with industry partners including DSO’s and data centres on implementing solutions

which use existing energy storage (for example, the uninterruptible power supply batteries in data centres) to provide grid services and identifying synergic cases where battery systems could provide multiple services, such as the project with Caruna.

MT: Caruna manages electricity distribution and is building, maintaining and overhauling a weatherproof electricity network for over 692,000 customers in South, Southwest and West Finland, the city of Joensuu and in the regions of Koillismaa and Satakunta. A network that is both weatherproof and smart is the basis for the energy system of the future which will incorporate more digital services and electric transport, and where consumers will also become energy producers. 

I have worked for Caruna for about 5 years and, for the last 1.5 years, I have worked in the field of innovations and development. Before that, I was a Project Manager, responsible for connecting industrial wind farms to our network and a Key Account Manager, working with industrial power producers and facilities.

Can you introduce your respective companies and explain your roles within them?

Evert Vlaswinkel

Managing Director at Solarcentury

An interview with Ilari Alaperä (left), Interim CEO at Fortum & Markus Talka (right), Innovation Program Manager
at Caruna