The transferable CHC plant gives Kuopion Energia a flexible, environmentally-friendly opportunity to meet customer’s cooling needs.

Oilon has delivered a transferable CHC plant – built within a container – to Kuopion Energia, a major energy company in Eastern Finland. CHC (combined heating and cooling) means a heat pump plant that simultaneously produces heating and cooling. At Oilon this technology is tried and tested. However, the construction of a plant inside a 12-meter-long insulated container is a novel idea even worldwide. It can be conveniently and quickly moved by truck.

The ready-to-operate CHC container is convenient to move from one place to another with a standard truck.

Savilahti is Kuopio’s regional flagship project

By 2030 34,000 people will be living, studying and working in the centre of Kuopio, on the shores of Kallavesi. Already there are a large number of research centres and technology companies in the area, and Kuopio University Hospital and the University of Eastern Finland.

During the 2020s there will be a large increase in both the number of students and jobs, but above all in housing. Homes for 6,000 inhabitants will be built in the area in addition to the current few hundred. The entire project means construction of up to half a million square meters of new floor.

This major project involves the construction of huge infrastructure in which Kuopion Energia plays a significant role. The city of Kuopio is quite extensively covered by district heating and the new area naturally also needs an electricity and district heating network.

However, a newer utility is district cooling, which is becoming increasingly important. For this purpose Kuopion Energia has built a district cooling plant on the shores of Savilahti, which uses cold water pumped from the 32-meter-deep depression of Kallavesi Neulalahti for the cooling needs of properties and the hospital. The plant was completed in May 2020.

You can’t wait long for a cooling solution

“Our newly completed district cooling plant will initially serve the hospital, university and other nearby properties,” says Petri Turtiainen, project manager of Kuopion Energia’s Savilahti district cooling plant. “The design capacity of the plant is 30 megawatts and the investment, which includes the building, equipment and piping, is 15 million euros. 2.8 kilometres of DN1200 water pipe has been installed at the bottom of the lake to take cooling water. More cooling piping will be built in line with the rest of the construction work in the area.”

“On the other side of the motorway, less than a kilometre from the plant, a large KPY Novapolis office building is just nearing completion and needs cooling. Laying the piping there from a district cooling plant may take another year or two, and of course the customer can’t wait that long. The options were an old-fashioned water-cooling plant or a temporary – for a year or two – portable CHC plant.”

Environmental friendliness favoured the CHC solution because the water-cooling plant would have condensed heat to waste. The CHC plant now supplies the thermal energy from cooling to a nearby district heating network, which distributes the heat for use by district heating customers. When the cooling piping is completed, the container – or the equipment it contains – can be moved to the next destination.

A backup liquid cooler condensing the extra heat into the outside air was raised onto the roof of the container.

Good experiences and information from colleagues

“We already have our own good experiences with Oilon’s CHC technology, when Oilon delivered a property-specific CHC plant to us as a cooling solution for the Kuopio Museum and main library last year. In the case of the museum, the solution was supported not only by its environmental friendliness but also by the fact that it does not require condenser structures visible outside the building.”

According to Turtiainen, energy companies also have a lot of connections with each other, exchange of experiences and joint development work. Kuopion Energia staff visited Helsinki to learn about Helen Oy’s experiences with Oilon’s CHC technology and the Tampere Power Plant, whose lake water district cooling plant uses Oilon’s technology.

“Oilon is an excellent and easy partner for us,” Turtiainen continues. “They have strong know-how, tried and tested technology and a completed product. We don’t have to think about technical details when we have an expert partner who knows his stuff. To our knowledge, no one else offers a similar entity.”

“Interest in property-specific cooling solutions has also begun to rise elsewhere in the city. Investing in a district cooling network in a completed urban area is a slow and expensive solution, but a CHC plant can be built anywhere there is a district heating network nearby.”

Petri Turtiainen (left), project manager at Kuopio Energy, and Tuomas Toivonen, service manager at Oilon, find that lifting the container was successful and went according to plan.

Cooling with excellent efficiency

The transferable CHC plant delivered to Kuopio is based on two Oilon ChillHeat P300 industrial heat pumps. The plant has a total electrical capacity of 337 kilowatts (kW), a cooling capacity of 650 kW and a simultaneous district heating production of 970 kW. The overall efficiency is COPtot 4.8.

The temperature of the water going to the supply side of the district heating network is +80°C in Kuopio, and the temperature of the return side of the network is about +45°C. Water at +8°C is supplied to cool the property and the return is about +16°C. The heat pump is very flexible in terms of temperatures and, if necessary, the evaporator can feed even sub-zero liquid to the place to be cooled, and the condenser can at best provide heat above +120°C.

“In addition to the heat pumps, the delivery included a surge tank, circulating water pumps, an electrical and automation centre and a spare liquid cooler placed on top of the container,” says Jussi Alpua, Oilon’s sales manager for industrial heat pumps and water coolers. “The delivery took place on a turnkey basis and included the design, installation, commissioning, training and future maintenance of the completed plant.”

“We have mainly delivered CHC systems installed directly on a property. The container solution coming to Kuopio is the first of its kind. The size classes of the implemented projects have been from 30 kW to 1,000 kW by cooling capacity, and at the same time additional district heating is produced. For these systems we have a completely ready-made concept, from the bidding phase to design and operation control.”

“Sales of CHC systems is growing steadily. There are many factors influencing growth, but perhaps the most important argument is environmental issues. Renewable heat is recovered in district heating, where it can be used for several customers. So this is where the energy circular economy works really well.”

“Energy companies are really interested in new services and solutions. Cooling is one good example of them and many want to include it as a new service in their business. The CHC solution, installed directly on the property or delivered in a container, lowers this threshold and makes it easy for energy companies to provide a safe additional service to their customers.”

The CHC container contains heat pumps and all other necessary technology to cool the property and transfer heat to the district heating network

Towards a carbon neutral future

“Demand for Oilon ChillHeat machines has grown strongly both in Finland and internationally, and CHC solutions integrated into district heating and/or cooling networks are a good example of application potential in industry and real estate,” says Martti Kukkola, chief business officer for industrial heat pumps and chillers at Oilon. “During the last few years, we have already delivered more than twenty CHC solutions for district heating networks to energy companies alone, with one to four Oilon ChillHeat high-temperature heat pumps at each site.”

With the Paris Climate Agreement, the EU is committed to carbon neutrality by 2050. In Finland, the goal of Sanna Marin’s government program (2019) is to make Finland carbon-neutral by 2035 and the first fossil-free welfare society. According to Kukkola, these goals are strongly in Oilon’s strategy.

“Oilon is a traditional Finnish family company offering energy solutions,” Kukkola continues. “Of course, we are better known for burners, but industrial heat pumps have been part of our operations for much more than ten years and they are our fastest growing sector. Oilon offers future energy solutions related to low-emission burning technology, as well as highly efficient heat pump solutions.”