Modelling the feasibility of utility scale electrolysis in the Nordics
Written by:Team Energy Exemplar
Flexens - a project development organisation with a mission to transition an industry
Flexens is a project development company based in Finland. The company was founded in 2018 to capture the rapidly growing number of market opportunities linked to the renewable energy transition and the need to replace fossil fuels. The company’s mission is to create, develop, and implement scalable, integrated, and affordable self-sustained energy systems based on a 100% renewable energy mix.
The need for an accurate, granular, and advanced modelling solution
When Juhani Riikonen, Head of Energy Modelling, joined Flexens one of his first tasks was to select a modelling solution for the organisation. As a project development company, it is critical that Flexens has an accurate tool to analyse the economic feasibility of projects. Accurate, granular modelling is particularly important for energy storage modelling because much of the value of energy storage is revealed in sub-hourly accuracies. A solution that models only to an hourly level does not reveal the economic potential of a storage project.
The ability to model sector coupling was also imperative for Flexens. In many of Flexens’ projects, they need to model gas, electricity, and because they are in the Nordics, they need to be able to model heat alongside. Flexens required a modelling solution with the ability to model complex scenarios so that they can accurately assess the feasibility of projects supporting the energy transition.
PLEXOS – accurate modelling of evolving and complex energy systems
Riikonen evaluated a few modelling solutions. He found that free tools did not provide the accuracy or granularity the company required. Flexens also could have developed their own in-house modelling solution, however that would have taken significant time and resources, and Riikonen felt there were already solutions out there backed by experts in the field. Riikonen also evaluated other paid energy modelling solutions. He found however, that those solutions could model for electricity and gas, but did not support heat modelling, which is an essential component to Flexens as many of their projects are in the Nordics.
After Riikonen evaluated Energy Exemplar’s PLEXOS, he selected it because it had the capability to accurately model sub-hourly, and had the best sector coupling capabilities. Additionally, PLEXOS allowed for the inclusion of many different parameters for simulated objects, whereas the alternatives were not able to include as many parameters. For instance, many could model a simple solution, like wind or solar as individual units, but combining those units with battery storage or Power-to-X proved to be problematic for the alternatives. PLEXOS was able to deliver on all Riikonen’s requirements for Flexens’ modelling solution.
The Electrolyser – Flexens performs accurate analysis of an extremely complex, cutting-edge project
Once Flexens had an energy modelling solution on hand, they were able to accurately assess the economic feasibility of a variety of projects. Recently, they worked on a particularly interesting project/case. A Flexens partner is currently looking to develop a large electrolyser in the Nordics and needed to evaluate how to optimise procurement of electricity from different sources for the project, and the economic feasibility of the project. To perform the work, Flexens utilised PLEXOS.
The project consists of an electrolyser, a battery, hydrogen storage, and a heat pump, and hydrogen is supplied to different uses. The core component of the project is the electrolyser. However, it is quite complex and it’s very important that every aspect of the project is accounted for. Using PLEXOS, the team at Flexens began by analysing the cost structure of different energy procurement options. For instance, would it make the most sense to have x number of power purchase agreements (PPAs) and rely on the Day-Ahead markets for the rest? And what would the benefits be of operating in the reserve markets and providing ancillary services alongside normal operation?
Subsequently, they ran different sensitivity analyses to investigate the importance of a variety of parameters. For example, what role would hydrogen storage play, and what benefit does it have in comparison to the cost? Or what is the benefit of the battery, and how much can they earn from the heat consumer? In addition to analysing these sensitivities, Riikonen and his team looked at how different events in the electricity market would affect the projects procurement costs, for instance, if day-ahead prices were to increase by 50%.
Another very interesting element of this project was an analysis of the economic advantages of the forecasting capabilities of the electrolyser operator, and how increasing the capabilities could affect the project's operation and revenue streams. This is especially relevant, for example, when sourcing variable renewable electricity.
With PLEXOS as their modelling solution of choice, Flexens was able to deliver critical information to the project in order to move the development of this electrolyser forward. Flexens was able to provide the partner with information on the different parameters of the operation of the system, and the total costs. The partner received different scenarios, different sensitivity analyses, and different parameters, alongside information on how all those variables would affect the total procurement costs.
With the work that Flexens has done, the partner will be able to make their own internal decisions about the feasibility of the project but can also take the report compiled by Flexens to investors in order to make this project a reality. Flexens will support the partner and the project in later stages as the development of this electrolyser project continues.
Accurate modelling complex project aiding the energy transition
With the help of PLEXOS, Flexens has proven that they can model and simulate unique, and extremely complex projects very accurately - aiding in the energy transition and the deployment cutting-edge technologies for the future.