The Port of Helsinki now has over 500 solar panels on its roofs – emissions reduced by 20 tonnes in a year
Last year, the West Terminal gained 200 new solar panels on its roof. Currently, LED lights are being installed on the masts of Vuosaari Harbour. In addition to these extensive projects, the Port of Helsinki is also working to improve energy efficiency daily.
Property Manager of the Port of Helsinki Joni Nyholm states that energy efficiency is not a complicated matter. Everything is based on the same words of wisdom that have been said to children for generations.
“Let’s close the doors and windows to keep the heat in and turn off the lights when we don’t need them. No wasting resources, no conspicuous consumption,” Nyholm summarises the goals.
Even though the Port consumes energy more extensively and in more ways than private households, the same principles can be applied.
Everything starts with seeing where energy is consumed and what can be done to conserve it.
“When you increase energy efficiency with multiple small steps, it becomes something much larger. Following this principle, we managed to halve the electricity consumption of Vuosaari Harbour in three years,” says the Harbour’s Electricity Manager Tarmo Purho.
LED lights under a heavy burden in Vuosaari
In Vuosaari, the single largest area of energy consumption is lighting. Sufficient lighting is a prerequisite for safety in harbour areas.
“Then again, why would we keep all lights on at night when there’s no traffic. We gained a lot of savings through lighting control: night-time lighting now amounts to only a third of the full lighting power,” Purho says.
The type of lights used in the harbour masts is also relevant to electricity consumption.
About five years ago, Purho started testing various LED lights in Vuosaari. The project required both determination and patience.
“Some of the LEDs were darn bright on the mast, but the light didn’t reach the ground. Many of the fixtures couldn’t withstand the conditions at the height of 40 metres on a coast where the weather is almost always bad,” Purho says.
Last year, the team finally found Italian LED lights that have both lighting power and weather resistance. They will replace the old fixtures during spring 2021.
Turn off unnecessary heating
In Vuosaari, energy consumption was also reduced by changing the management of the transformer network and adjusting the heating of waterlines. The control system of electrically heated facilities was renewed so that the radiators are turned off when the facility has been heated sufficiently.
Another area that was inspected was the system in the port basin that uses compressed air to keep the water unfrozen.
“Traditionally, we turned the system on in autumn and turned it off in spring. Now, the system only starts to run when the temperature drops below -2.5 degrees Celsius,” Purho says.
A pioneer in solar panels in the City of Helsinki
About five years ago, solar panels were installed in Vuosaari to produce electricity.
Purho was the first to take an interest in solar panels and pushed the idea through in his workplace.
“And so the Port became the first enterprise of the City of Helsinki to have solar panels,” Purho reminisces.
In Vuosaari Harbour, there are over 300 solar panels in total on the roofs of two buildings. In autumn 2020, West Terminal also received its own panels when 200 of them were installed.
“The panels are now covered in snow, but once they start operating, they’ll produce a total of 145 megawatt hours of electricity per year. That is equal to the annual consumption of almost a hundred flats or a dozen detached houses. The calculated reduction in carbon dioxide emissions is about 20 tonnes a year,” says the Port’s Construction Manager Pekka Haikonen.
“Currently, we’re studying where we could install the next solar panels. We already have a few locations in mind.”
The water needs of terminals are often overlooked
In addition to developing a solar electricity system, the Port is also working on improving the heat recovery of the ventilation machines and optimising building automation.
In practice, this means that ventilation in the terminals can be boosted during peak hours and slowed down between the peaks.
“We’ve also introduced various technical solutions in the terminals to prevent water being wasted. It’s often overlooked how much water the toilet facilities and restaurants of the terminals need,” says Property Manager Joni Nyholm.
Development ideas from passengers and neighbours
According to Joni Nyholm, the COVID-19 pandemic has also had positive effects on the Port’s properties.
“Since passenger traffic slowed down, we’ve been able to think about various ways of saving energy in the terminals’ routines. We’ve had time to think about proactive maintenance and repairs more analytically than usual.”
Once passengers return to the terminals, their feedback will be heard carefully.
“We’ve gained great ideas regarding energy conservation from passengers’ suggestions and dialogue with the Port’s neighbours. It’s great that we’re all collectively concerned about what kind of a world we are living in and leaving behind for future generations.”
Help from artificial intelligence and algorithms
The Development Manager of the Port’s Cargo Traffic Unit Jani Lindroos summarises the development by saying that emissions reduction is a megatrend that cannot be ignored by any operators.
The Port of Helsinki aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. Energy efficiency is a part of this entity, and it is also promoted through new technological solutions.
“Many new technologies are being tested in the field of harbour operations. There are also ongoing AI and algorithm projects with the goal of increasing the efficiency of devices. You can save energy when you work more on relevant things and less on the irrelevant,” Lindroos says.
New technologies to be used by everyone in the harbours
Lindroos is interested in studying how to reduce the emissions from machinery and vehicles in the harbour areas.
A project is underway to survey which harbour machinery could be electrified. The majority of this machinery belongs to the Port’s partners, shipping companies and port operators.
“The Port of Helsinki itself produces a fairly small proportion of the emissions from the harbours.
Because of this, our job is to support and facilitate the adoption of new technologies among our partners while also watching our own carbon footprint,” Lindroos states.