Eesti Energia receives state support for a pumped storage hydropower plant

The joint agency of Enterprise Estonia and KredEx has allocated €584,950 to Eesti Energia to prepare the construction of Estonia’s first hydroelectric energy storage facility at the Estonia mine site in Ida-Virumaa, which, once completed, will significantly contribute to ensuring the flexibility and stability of the Estonian electricity system.

The pumped storage hydropower (PSH) plant planned for the Estonia Mine industrial zone in Ida-Virumaa for 2026 with a capacity of up to 225 MW is a large-scale circular economy project, the construction of which takes advantage of limestone rubble and closed mining tunnels created during the extraction of oil shale. The plant acts as a powerful storage unit, helping to ensure energy security and stability of the power grid at start-up.

According to Veljo Aleksandrov, project manager at Eesti Energia, the development is progressing at a good pace: the analysis of the technical solution as well as the preliminary assessment of the environmental effects will be completed at the beginning of next year, followed by the preliminary design. with the necessary studies. According to the plan, the preliminary design should be completed by the end of 2023 and the investment decision made in 1H24.

“Ensuring Estonia’s energy security and energy independence with our own assets is more important than ever. In view of the connection to the continental European electricity system expected no later than 2026, it is extremely important that the energy markets and the necessary production or storage assets are created in the Baltic States to ensure security supply in the most environmentally friendly and cheapest way possible,” said Aleksandrov. “International interest in Estonian hydroelectric storage is great because it is a unique project. Over the next year, we will carry out comprehensive and versatile studies with our partners, supported by Enterprise Estonia’s applied research program, which should provide certainty that our solution will work.

Eesti Energia will be ready to enter the market with its PSH plant in 2025-2026 in accordance with Elering’s synchronization plans, if the necessary system service markets are created. The pumped storage hydropower plant will provide solutions to several challenges at once, since in addition to ensuring security of supply, it promotes the introduction of renewable energies, contributes to waste-free production and reuses industrial areas towards a carbon-neutral chemical industry based on the circular economy.

The aim of the applied research program is to support the development of knowledge-intensive products and technologies in Estonian companies. “Estonia’s economic and strategic goal is higher value-added production. This requires the development of smarter and more expensive products and services, which involves conducting applied research. At the same time, the applied research stage is risky, since the investments are large and there is no certainty of the success of the development, so the state supports ambitious technological projects similar to those of Eesti Energia,” said Kaupo Reede, Program Development Manager of Enterprise Estonias Applied Research Program.

The up to 225 MW plant acts as a large-scale storage unit. Its upper reservoir will be built on a waste rock structure and the closed mine will serve as the lower reservoir. When there is a lack of electricity in the energy system, the water passes from the upper reservoir through pipes to an electric turbine which converts the energy of the flowing water into electrical energy, after which the water enters in the lower tank. When electricity is cheap, water is pumped out so the process is repeated when needed. The plant will start operating in 2026.

The size and profitability of the investment will be specified during the preliminary design, and the pre-assessment of environmental effects will determine what environmental requirements and conditions must be taken into account during construction. The investment decision is scheduled for early 2024.

Eesti Energia’s solution is unique because the pressure head of the PSH plant, i.e. the head between the upper and lower water reservoirs, is increased by reusing waste rock from the enrichment process. of the rock mass resulting from the extraction of bituminous shale. Using a mine as a water reservoir for a hydroelectric plant also makes the project special.

The concept of the future pumped storage hydropower plant can be exported to other countries. The target group includes countries whose land relief is not suitable for a conventional pumped storage hydropower plant (or the environmental effects of a power plant under natural conditions are too great) and where there are closed or closing course.

For more news and technical articles on the global renewable energy industry, read the latest issue of Energy Global magazine.

Energy Global Fall 2022 issue

The Fall 2022 issue of Energy Global features a series of technical articles focusing on waves and tides, waste-to-energy, energy storage, solar technology, and more. This issue also features a regional report outlining how green hydrogen is playing a key role in the transition to renewable energy across Europe.

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