Future grid could require new gas power plant in Estonia

Kiisa emergency power plant near Tallinn, Estonia.
Kiisa emergency power plant near Tallinn, Estonia. Source: Elering

Generating electricity mainly from renewable sources means that managed production capacity must be quick to react, which is why it may be sensible to build a gas power plant in Estonia.

Estonia hopes it can rely mostly on renewable energy by 2030. But weather is fickle and backup capacity is needed for quiet and overcast days. While outside power links, managed capacity, energy storage and existing power plants help, Estonia may be short on managed production capacity that can be fired up in minutes. Raine Pajo, member of the board of national energy giant Eesti Energia, told ERR that Estonia should consider building a gas power plant.

"A gas plant with an output of 100 megawatts would cost at least €150 million. We are talking about major investments. The question is that of optimization, how often the plant would be in use to make the investment worthwhile."

Estonian TSO Elering has two gas plants at Kiisa that can provide 250 MW of power in an emergency. Gas power plants are perfect for this function as, unlike oil shale firing plants, they do not take a long time to warm up.

"Oil shale plant – to spin the turbine, water needs to be vaporized and the vapor heated. It is a lot of metal and heat expansion takes time. The boilers of older devices are heated for 12-14 hours, while newer ones can be up and running in 6-8 hours," Elering board member Kalle Kilk said.

They can also keep running for a long time without needing a break.

"The kind of piston-engine gas plants that Elering runs [in Kiisa] are used as core generation capacity in many places. There are plants in Africa and California that were initially meant to work a few hundred or thousand hours annually but are now working for most of the year. And there's no problem."

In Estonia, gas plants are strictly for backup as natural gas is much more expensive than oil shale as fuel. But if LNG can sort out the recent gas shortage and with the price of CO2 quota going up, the difference might not be that great a few years from now as gas plants emit less carbon dioxide.

While Raine Pajo said that Eesti Energia has no set plan for a gas power plant today, constructing another gas plant to mirror the one in Kiisa in terms of output will likely prove sensible in the future.

"We would need plans, environmental impact assessments, tenders and construction. Building such a plant in 6-7 years would be well, while it could easily end up taking 7-8 years," Pajo said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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