ForTheDoers Blog

District or local – there’s a cool solution for every property need

Tuomas Hytönen 06 July 2021, 14:11 EEST

In the Nordic countries, the warmth of summer is something people look forward to. Hot and sunny days on the beach are great, but sweating it out at home or in an office with poor air conditioning is anything but fun. Fortunately, there are cooling solutions for different needs and premises. District or local cooling solutions can considerably improve indoor conditions in offices, homes and industrial buildings.

At home

The interest towards cooling solutions is clearly growing. In some cases, cooling is a necessity – for instance, in data centres, servers create plenty of heat and cooling is needed to achieve pleasant temperature and moisture levels indoors. Office and factory workers are certainly not at their most efficient if the indoor temperature soars near 30 degrees Celsius, and motivation may be hard to maintain. Cooling solutions for homes are increasingly sought after, as well.

Our district cooling service is an excellent centralised solution for many kinds of premises. It uses a grid that runs parallel to the district heating network. We provide district heating and cooling solutions in Espoo, Kauniainen and Kirkkonummi in Finland, Oslo in Norway and in Poland. In Finland, cooling is mostly produced by a heat pump facility in Espoo, which currently has three 20 to 25-megawatt heat pumps.

Cooling is produced in summer by using seawater and throughout the year, purified wastewater from the local water utility owned by HSY. During the process, wastewater is first purified once more and heat is recovered from it. This means that when the wastewater is finally pumped into the sea, it has undergone an extra filtering round and cooled down, reducing environmental impacts. The recovered heat is then directed to the heat pumps, which generate both heating and cooling. The heat pumps use CO2 neutral electricity, rendering the solution emission-free.

Building-specific solution keeps off-grid buildings cool

We provide district cooling within a specified district cooling grid area. Where there is no cooling grid, a local solution “Fortum Lähikylmä” is available. A heat pump of a somewhat smaller scale can produce efficient cooling for an office, factory or apartment building. These pumps also operate on CO2-free electricity. For example, we have a local cooling solution in place in the Espoo hospital, where heat pumps produce cooling and the excess heat is fed into the district heating network. Several new building-specific cooling projects are underway.

Cooling can also be provided as a centralised solution for an area comprising several premises, for example an industrial complex or a housing area with several apartment buildings. Such projects often include a comprehensive heating and cooling solution of a larger scale. We have created such a solution for Aalto Works city block in the Otaniemi area. This local solution can recycle excess heat, produced in cooling the premises, to be used in other buildings. It is basically a circular economy system for energy, with additional renewable heat provided by the district heating network during the very coldest winter days.

The large heat pumps in Otaniemi are connected to a local grid that transfers heat and cool to buildings as needed. In the summer, mainly cooling is used, but for the rest of the year, temperatures vary more and one building may need heating while another requires cooling. The local heating grid works like a heating battery, storing heat when there is an excess and releasing it for use when it is needed. The system is automated, with target temperatures set for each premises through building automation.

Construction phase planning for better cost-efficiency

Taking cooling needs into account already in the planning phase of a construction project is the best and most cost-efficient way to tackle heat issues. We often get inquiries about cooling solutions within few years of the completion of a building construction project. While there are possibilities to improve indoor comfort at that stage too, it is easier and cheaper to include cooling already during construction than later as a retrofit project. Users of buildings are prepared to invest in the comfort created by cooling, but unfortunately it is often one of the options that are cut when construction budgets are tight. Making a provision in the construction plans for a later installation is one alternative that will facilitate retrofitting.

As the interest towards property cooling is on the increase, we are constantly developing our solutions to best meet the needs of different users. One step forward is our air-to-water heat pump project in Vermo, Espoo. The industrial scale facility produces heating and cooling from heat energy recovered from air. It is the first grid-connected installation of its kind in this scale and is already serving the first customers in the area. Once the facility is fully operational, it will replace 92 GWh of coal-based energy per year.

Espoo Clean Heat: carbon-neutral comfort

Finding and perfecting ways to produce carbon-free heating and cooling, such as described above, is in fact what Fortum’s Espoo Clean Heat programme is all about. The programme aims to give up coal in energy production in Espoo during 2025 at the latest. By using emission-free electricity to produce district or local heating and cooling, we can ensure comfortable living and working conditions in an environmentally friendly way.

With centralised solutions, we also take into account the carbon footprint in the manufacturing phase: it makes more sense to make one larger heat pump facility to serve an entire city or city block than to install a separate machine for each building. And if each building has its own electricity contract, chances are only some of them will choose fully emission-free electricity, whereas our cooling solutions are always CO2 neutral. It’s just like comparing the efficiency of cars and buses: why use a number of cars with few passengers and individual energy sources, when you can share an environmentally friendlier ride on one bigger bus?

Centralised solutions also make sense from the point of view of grid capacity and stability. Cooling each household and office with its own device would increase electricity consumption considerably and cause peaks when every user wants to cool down their spaces simultaneously – which is a likely scenario in hot summer days. Centralised production is easier to keep stable and maintenance needs are more simple to manage. Property end users can simply lay back and enjoy the fresh, comfortably cool air without worries.

Tuomas Hytonen

Sales Manager
Energy solutions, incl. district cooling: construction companies, large businesses and industry
Tel: 040 356 8064
tuomas [dot] hytonen [at] fortum [dot] com

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