Energy Group Utilitas opened Estonia’s biggest biomass cogeneration plant

The Estonian energy group Utilitas opened their new cogeneration plant in Tallinn, the construction of which cost a total of 65 million euros. Estonia’s biggest plant using domestic renewable fuel for heat and electricity production covers about 20 per cent of the heat demand of Tallinn’s district heat consumers and provides electricity to about 50,000 households that use district heating.

Jüri Ratas, Prime Minister of Estonia, Taavi Aas, acting mayor of Tallinn, and Priit Koit, CEO of Utilitas, spoke at the opening of the first heating season of the new plant.

The construction of the cogeneration plant was financed by Utilitas from their own resources and with loans from Swedbank and SEB Pank. The main contractor for the construction works was Lithuanian company Axis Technologies. The modern technology of the plant was supplied by MAN from Germany and Renewa from Finland.

‘The new cogeneration plant is the most extensive of Utilitas’ recent investment projects. It allows producing most of Tallinn’s heat from non-fossil fuels; 40 per cent of the consumed heat will be provided from Utilitas’s cogeneration plants. District heating is without a doubt the most environmentally friendly and efficient heating option in cities, as local renewable fuels ensure the independence of energy production and a stable heating price for customers,’ said Priit Koit, CEO of Utilitas Group.

Utilitas’ cogeneration plants are connected to Tallinn’s district heating network, which allows utilising the heat from electricity production for heating buildings and water. ‘This allows plants connected to the district heating network to produce energy at an efficiency of almost 100 per cent. This is almost three times higher than in power plants located further away from cities,’ explained Koit. Cogeneration ensures the maximum utilisation of primary energy and reduces emissions substantially. ‘By using biofuels at the Väo energy complex, we annually prevent the release of about 480,000 tons of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere – this is the extra quantity of carbon dioxide that would be generated in the case of producing the same amount of energy from gas and oil shale,’ Koit added.

The plant uses wood chips from the leftovers of local forestry and timber industries as fuel. The heat capacity of the cogeneration plant located in the Väo area in Tallinn is 76.6 MW and the electricity generation capacity is 21.4 MW. In addition to Tallinn, the plant supplies heat to the city of Maardu and the produced electricity is sold to the open market. According to Koit, the production of renewable fuel is not dependent on external factors and it is additionally the safest and most secure energy source for densely populated areas.

One wall of the new cogeneration plant is decorated with an installation by artist Kaido Ole titled Independent Freak.

‘The aim was to create a piece that would be as resilient and outstanding as possible, so it would speak to the audience and inspire. The piece is emblematic to the core, as such art normally is. It is probably a power source operating on relatively independent energy; an independent organism whose actions are only limited by the limitless space,’ said the author Ole about his nearly 15-metre piece.

Utilitas is Estonia’s leading energy production company that supplies district heating in eight cities across Estonia: Tallinn, Rapla, Haapsalu, Kärdla, Valga, Jõgeva, Keila, and Maardu. The group includes district heating companies AS Utilitas Tallinn, AS Utilitas Eesti, and OÜ Utilitas Tallinna Elektrijaam, which produces heat and electricity for Tallinn.

Utilitas annually produces 1,200,000 MWh of green energy, which covers the electricity demand of 130,000 apartments with district heating and the heat demand of 85,000 apartments. Heat is mainly produced from local non-fossil fuels in all district heating areas of Utilitas.