Elisa and Ålcom to power base station batteries with solar energy

Ålcom, a telco from the Åland Islands, will deploy Elisa’s Distributed Energy Storage (DES) solution to utilise energy from solar panels in mobile network operations for the first time, following a successful trial earlier this year between Elisa, Ålcom and solar panel provider Solel Åland.

The solution allows Ålcom to store and use solar energy in its mobile network backup batteries to cut costs and reduce its carbon emissions. Using the AI/ML-powered Elisa DES further increases the resilience of Alcom’s mobile network and reduces dependency on the grid, which is highly beneficial in Åland, a cluster of islands off the south-west coast of Finland.

The solution combines solar panels and batteries in a battery energy storage system that captures and stores solar energy when conditions are good. This stored energy powers the network and can be supplemented from the grid, if needed. Elisa DES optimises the timing of electricity purchases from the grid by scheduling charging and discharging periods for the batteries to take advantage of low prices.

This is the first time that solar energy production has been added to an Elisa DES deployment. Until now, mobile network backup batteries have only been powered by electricity from the grid. This new feature makes the batteries in the mobile network more efficient and highlights the continued development of the features and functionality of DES, offering network operators new opportunities for generating and utilising renewable energy.

“This is a great milestone for us and Ålcom, and a concrete example of optimising solar energy utilisation with DES. This advance proves how we can harness AI/ML-powered technology and renewable power generation in mobile network operations to fight climate change and reduce carbon emissions. With the added benefits of cost savings and improved network resilience, we are creating many winners,” says Jukka-Pekka Salmenkaita, VP for AI and Special Projects at Elisa.

“We are delighted to add solar energy to our operations with Elisa DES. This investment is part of Ålcom’s continued commitment to sustainability. Including solar production in the energy mix helps us reduce costs and gain flexibility and means to cope with variability and uncertainty in energy generation, demand, and grid availability. DES, in combination with the larger Li-Ion batteries used in the solution, will also be critical should we ever be cut off from the grid for a longer period of time,” says Peter Löfman, Head of Network from Ålcom.

The benefits of Elisa DES are not limited to allowing network operators to access cost savings in the unavoidable expense of mandatory backup energy storage, it also unlocks a new revenue stream from providing balancing services for the electricity grid by turning the backup batteries into a virtual power plant (VPP).

The load-shifting ability of Elisa DES optimises consumption and use of energy, buying energy when prices are low and using that stored energy at peak times, reducing operating costs.

“This type of democratisation and real-time participation in the energy market has not been accessible to telecom operators before,” says Henri Korpi, EVP for International Digital Services at Elisa. “Selling excess capacity back to the grid to help balance supply and demand can be a source of additional revenue for operators.”

Adding renewables to the capabilities of Elisa DES allows telecom operators to contribute in a tangible and cost-effective way to accelerating the energy transition towards carbon neutrality, as well as providing them with enhanced cost savings.

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