Flexible control of mine pumps allows to save 7% per year on energy costs
Business, Renewable energy, Savings
The Estonia Mine in Ida-Virumaa is the largest underground mine in Estonia – it would be as large as the city of Tallinn when raised to the ground. The mine can function thanks to powerful pumps, the largest of which (560 kW) are connected to Eesti Energia's Virtual Power Plant. Each cubic metre pumped means electricity consumption that can be reduced by up to 7% per year with this solution.
An underground reservoir with a capacity of about 1.3 million cubic metres has been built in the depleted units of the world's largest underground oil shale mine launched in 1972. The large-scale reservoir and powerful pumps leave enough flexibility to change the operating time of the pumps for a short period (up to an hour). This flexibility is used by Eesti Energia's Virtual Power Plant in the energy market to earn revenue which we share with our partner who owns the equipment.
Pumps can be invisibly made to earn money
Elering is ready to pay for consumers to change their electricity consumption at certain times. To put it simply: pumps are switched off when higher than the Nord Pool exchange price is paid on the balancing market, and additional pumps are switched on when cheaper electricity than the stock market price can be bought on the balancing market. The volume of electricity consumption remains the same, but the cost is decreased by the earned income. Depending on the market prices, these pumps earn 20-30 thousand euros per year with the Virtual Power Plant, making 5-7% of the annual electricity cost of two pumps.
According to Andres Vainola, Chairman of the Management Board of Enefit Power, connecting the pumps to the Virtual Power Plant is an easy way to reduce fixed costs and keep up with innovation.
“Connecting the pumps of the mine to the Virtual Power Plant enables existing equipment to be operated in a smarter and more efficient way, thereby reducing the fixed costs related to production. The entire process is automated and does not require daily intervention by our employees, i.e. it is a good example of innovation where the use of a high-tech service is made 100% effortless for the customer,” Vainola said.
100% automated, 100% risk-free
The pump or some other large consumer (cold storage plant, generator) is connected to the Virtual Power Plant via a secure VPN channel. The customer indicates in the control system when and which pumps can be controlled by the Virtual Power Plant, after which there is automatic communication between the devices for switching on and off according to market orders. The pumps have a maximum number of switches per day in the system to avoid excessive wear of equipment.
According to Robert Targijainen, Senior Mechanic at the mines, small changes were made to the pump control system during the implementation phase of the service, so that the entire process could run as automatically as possible. “The communication between our pumps and the Virtual Power Plant runs smoothly and as we expected. The criteria set have been met and manual intervention has not once been necessary,” Targijainen added.
A similar solution can be used in all companies that use pumps that do not have to operate at full capacity around the clock. We develop the best solution in close cooperation with the customer to achieve maximum efficiency and convenience.
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