Sustainable urban living

In the Kalasatama area of Helsinki, a smart, flexible municipal power grid is ensuring that renewable energy is better integrated and emissions are cut. It is thus helping to realise the vision of sustainable urban living.

Helsinki is already regarded as one of the world’s smartest cities – and in Kalasatama, that is especially true. Visitors to the neighbourhood in the central district discover new Smart City solutions on virtual every street corner: household waste is disposed of through an underground pipeline system; a self-service library is being tested in a smart container; and locals can reserve electric cars using their smartphones as part of a car-sharing scheme. And smart solutions are also installed in the locals’ apartments for them to monitor their water and electricity consumption. Kalasatama borders downtown Helsinki, right on the shoreline. The plan is for the neighbourhood to be providing 8,000 jobs and homes for almost 20,000 people in around 15 years’ time. The first residents moved into their homes in Spring 2015. They are fitted out with home automation solutions from ABB and Helen, the public utility corporation in Helsinki. Features include the facility to check consumption data online in real time. This facility alone is expected to deliver energy savings of 15 per cent. “Through the home automation system, the occupants are aware of where and when energy and water are consumed. With this information, they are able to better understand where savings can be made,” explains Helen’s Development Manager Minna Näsman. Moreover, the system enables electrical appliances to be switched on when grid supply levels are high, meaning electricity tariffs are low.

A smart, efficient overall solution

“The entire energy solution used in Helsinki is based on integrating highly energy-efficient production methods, such as co-producing power, heat and renewable forms of energy into a smart and effective whole,” says Pekka Manninen, CEO of public utility Helen. What is created is a Smart Grid – a power supply network combining smart meters and a range of automation, data and communication solutions with traditional power and heat grids. This incorporates solutions which ensure that surplus power from renewable sources in the neighbourhood itself (such as solar modules and wind turbines) can be fed into the grid. Electric vehicles can also draw power from the grid and feed it back in. The solutions should make the services user-friendly and the distribution network more flexible and transparent. All these measures are targeted at cutting energy consumption and emissions.

Energy store ensures stability

If the Suvilahti photovoltaic plant’s 1,188 solar panels – incidentally making it the largest solar power plant in Finland – produce lots of power on a sunny day, it can be sold at cheap-rate tariffs. So at times of overproduction, more is consumed, or electric vehicles are charged. When supplies are low, power is drawn back from the e-mobility batteries connected to the grid. Such an area is difficult to control using traditional solutions. Kalasatama is controlled through new automation solutions in the network and properties and, above all, energy storage which is the heart of the smart electric grid,” says Matti Vaattovaara, Vice President Sales, at ABB. The store consists of 10,000 lithium-ion batteries, and is capable of storing one megawatt of energy. The discharge capacity is equivalent to that of approximately 4,000 solar panels. The store will stabilise the frequency of the primary grid, balance out production and consumption spikes, make the local grid more secure and provide power reserves for critical situations. The example of Kalasatama demonstrates that efficient energy supply will play a key role on the way to the Smart City. Microgrids – self-contained regional or urban energy systems, as in Helsinki – enable a balance to be found between production and consumption. They are autonomous, and offer the advantage that the energy is generated near to where it is consumed, thus reaching the consumers more readily. Microgrids are core components of Smart Cities.

(picture credits: Voima Graphics)

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