On the night of the first day of April, Finnish wind farms generated only 22 megawatts of electricity. On May 7, the same power plants generated 3,169 megawatts, more than all nuclear power plants combined. How does the electrical system cope with such a throw?
Wind turbines is now rising at a breakneck pace. At the end of last year, the combined rated power of Finnish wind farms was 3,257 megawatts. According to the Wind Power Association, an additional 1,900 megawatts will be completed this year.
At the end of the year, there is already 5,157 megawatts of wind power in Finland. It is clearly more than nuclear power. After the completion of the third Olkiluoto, there will be approximately 4,400 megawatts of nuclear power in Finland.
However, it is not worth comparing the power of nuclear and wind power directly. The nuclear power plant is operating at full capacity night and day, except for the annual maintenance outage.
Wind turbines production, on the other hand, depends on the wind. On average, wind farms are estimated to generate about 40 percent of their rated power.
“In parks built in the best locations, the capacity factor may have been higher, but I would say it’s safe to drop by about 40 percent,” says the CEO of the Wind Power Association. Anni Mikkonen.
In any case, the share of wind power in total electricity production is starting to be significant. Already last year, almost 12 percent of all electricity generated in Finland was generated by wind, although the year was exceptionally calm.
Last year, a total of 69 terawatt hours of electricity was generated in Finland. Eight terawatt hours of wind power was generated.
At the end of this year, with power and a capacity factor of 40 percent, annual output would rise to about 19 terawatt hours.
Of the year By the end of 2023, at least 1,300 megawatts of wind power plants will be completed, bringing the total rated output to about 6,500 megawatts.
At the end of 2025, the transmission system operator Fingrid forecasts a capacity of at least 9,000 megawatts.
The power plants would then already generate an amazing 32 terawatt hours of electricity a year, almost half of last year’s total electricity production.
That however, production is very unevenly distributed. In calm weather, wind farm production can drop very close to zero, no matter how many. For example, on the first day of April at 12 noon, all wind farms in Finland generated a total of only 22 megawatts of electricity.
In a strong wind, power plants have generated more electricity than current nuclear power plants, at almost 3,200 megawatts. In four years’ time, that maximum power will be 9,000 megawatts.
Such a large power variation poses a number of challenges to the electrical system already now. Electricity consumption is not flexible at all at the same speed.
How ensuring that there is enough electricity, for example on the coldest winter days, when there is a lot of use and there may be calm all over the country?
How is the price of electricity fluctuating very sharply?
What kind of electricity contracts should be sold to people and companies, when it would be important that electricity consumption is also flexible according to production and price?
“Then, when it seemed that 2,000 megawatts of wind power was coming, it was already discussed how to deal with it, ”says the vice president Asta Sihvonen-Punkka grid company Fingrid.
According to Sihvonen-Punkka, we did very well and we will still succeed as the amount of wind power increases. Finland is the same electricity market area as the Nordic countries and Central Europe, so regional fluctuations in production can be offset by transferring electricity between the regions.
Sweden and Norway have a lot of stored hydropower that can balance the fluctuations in wind power. However, the transmission of electricity between regions requires a lot of transmission connections. Fingrid has been building them all the time and more are coming.
From Sweden It is possible to bring 2,700 megawatts of electricity to Finland along existing lines. A total of two thousand megawatt transmission lines run to Estonia.
“A new Aurora Line transmission connection is being built between Finland and Sweden to the north, in addition to the two previous transmission connections. The fourth connection is already coming to the planning table. A new connection is also needed to Estonia and more transmission capacity between Northern and Southern Finland, ”says Sihvonen-Punkka.
The cessation of Russian electricity imports in mid-May reduced one 1,300-megawatt import opportunity, further increasing the importance of other pipelines.
Read more: The cessation of Russia’s electricity imports could have dire consequences
Although sufficient electricity could be transmitted, an increase in wind power will inevitably mean strong fluctuations in the price of electricity. At least before the storage of energy produced by wind farms in one way or another increases.
Even during the past May, the price of electricity has fluctuated between less than a cent and 50 cents per kilowatt hour. Authorities are currently considering how variations should be treated.
Last winter, electricity became more expensive, so that electric heaters received heating bills of up to a thousand euros. The price volatility caused by Russia in the past six months has also been behind the instability in the gas market, but there is no guarantee that conditions will remain more stable in the future.
Read more: Electricity is unprecedentedly expensive right now
“There’s an important question about how to make enough electricity on cold and windless days and weeks. Consumption should be made more flexible according to price up to the end user level, but flexible production is also needed, ”says Sihvonen-Punkka.
The market is also considering what kind of contracts should be used to sell electricity to ordinary consumers. If prices are fixed and protected, there will be no incentive for consumption flexibility.
“Consumption should be made more price-flexible up to the end-user level, but flexible production is also needed.”
Unexpected In the event of a situation, it would be important to find sufficient self-regulated power generation in Finland. Carbon dioxide emissions trading and the impact of wind power on the electricity market have already virtually shut down fossil fuel power plants.
Professor of Energy Technology at Lappeenranta University of Technology Esa Vakkilainen according to him, this threatens to visit gas turbine plants as well, and even district heating boilers are converted to electric heating. When electricity is affordable, you should use it.
“On the other hand, new biomass-fired boilers have also been built,” he says.
Fingrid to buy emergency power capacity at auction in case of sudden disruptions, but according to Vakkilainen, it would be good to have more power to be adjusted as needed. In many countries, it is purchased through capacity charges.
“Central Europe operates in so many countries. It should be considered whether the same should be done in Finland, ”says Vakkilainen.
In his opinion, the sharp variation in wind power should also be mitigated by allowing the construction of wind farms in Eastern Finland. Production would then be more even, as winds vary from region to region.
Until now, the Defense Forces has put a brake on projects.
“That’s why almost all production is built on the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia, a small area.”
On the other hand not all wind power will be used for traditional purposes in the future, ie for heating homes, industrial processes and to power various appliances.
“I see that electricity and hydrogen are the same set of energy, and it no longer makes sense to look at them separately. When thinking about how to get rid of CO2 emissions, a lot of cheap electricity is needed to replace emitting energy sources. Onshore wind power is currently the cheapest way to generate electricity in Finland, ”says Fingrid’s Sihvonen-Punkka.
When electricity is generated beyond immediate demand and the price drops to near zero, it is worth using electricity, for example, to produce hydrogen from water by electrolysis.
It is one way to store the energy produced by the wind. Hydrogen produced with zero-emission electricity is called green hydrogen.
The efficiency and size of electrolysis equipment are also being developed at a rapid pace in Europe and Finland.
Hydrogen is used in large quantities as such in industrial processes, but hydrogen can also be used to produce methane (which is equivalent to natural gas) and, if necessary, fuels, ie petrol and diesel.
Hydrogen can also be used as such in fuel cells.
Wärtsilä is developing the use of ammonia from green hydrogen in marine engines.
Hydrogen economy is no longer a distant utopia, but quite a real future. The timetable is accelerated by the rapid increase in wind and solar power, but also by the energy crisis caused by Russia.
So far, the hydrogen used by industry has been produced from natural gas. The rise in the price of natural gas, which has quadrupled due to Russia’s warfare, has already made the production of green hydrogen quite attractive.
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