It all started with the traditional Swedish “fika” – the coffee break. Alessandro Ferraris from the Hydropower & Flexibility team and Erik Tutzauer from the Innovation and Venturing team got to discussing ways in which batteries could be used to support hydropower production. Alessandro had an ongoing project with brand new batteries to support a hydro power plant, while Erik had on ongoing innovation project looking into how to scale up and scale down used car batteries to fit other business services. The two identified the opportunity to co-create and the result was the idea to build second life batteries to lower costs and reuse existing assets in hydro power.
Finding the best partners
At this point, it was time to look for suitable partners. “When we started to look for suitable partners, we wanted to find those who both have the right skills but also could have a strategic interest in collaborating further with us,” says Catarina Naucler, the project owner in Fortum Innovation team.
First, we needed someone to provide the used batteries in sufficient numbers. We entered top management level discussions with Volvo Cars and found common ground to start the project with them. But having the batteries was not enough. Fortum is not a battery manufacturing company, so we also needed a partner with experience and expertise for building the larger battery out of the smaller ones.
Comsys was a natural choice for this role, as the company has extensive international reach and relevant capabilities. They were also willing to invest time and resources in the project. Comsys’s proprietary products served as a basis for developing the solution for integrating the batteries. We expected very good quality from their work and were not disappointed.
An innovation is born
So, what did we accomplish with these second life batteries? We were able to modernise the Swedish Landafors hydropower plant’s turbines and extend their life. Hydropower is used to regulate the electricity system, and the battery solution allows for faster, more flexible regulation. This is more and more important as the share of weather-dependent renewables in the energy system increases.
Used batteries that no longer have sufficient capacity to work in electric vehicles can still have up to ten years of useful life as part of a solution such as this one. After that, the materials can be recycled. Giving batteries a second life in the service of hydropower is an excellent example of circular economy in action. At the same time, the batteries extend the lifetime of the hydropower plant’s mechanical parts because the turbines don’t wear out at the same pace.
All this was made possible by partnerships with Volvo Cars and Comsys. There were challenges and obstacles along the way, to be sure, but there was also a shared will to solve them. All three companies were treading on uncharted ground, but each team had a can-do attitude, as well as the curiosity and ambition to keep going. As Erik Tutzauer from the team says: you fall down 100 times and you get up 101 – and that is how you achieve success.
As for the future, there is an interest in investing in more similar systems. There is also potential within Fortum for other applications of second life batteries. We will evaluate this project carefully, learn from it but also look into new possibilities with our partners. We will continue to explore opportunities to reuse existing assets as much as possible, setting an example of responsible resource use – together with our partners.