Sustainable energy production solutions and the utilization of waste and side streams following the principles of the circular economy increase resource wisdom in Lapland. Napapiirin Energia ja Vesi Oy is a diversified group of the Arctic circular economy that serves both the residents of Lapland and those traveling in Lapland.
Circular economy as a guiding principle
Napapiirin Energia ja Vesi Oy (Neve) wants to contribute to preserving the fragile Arctic nature of Lapland. The circular economy is taken into account in all of Neve’s operations, and instead of producing waste, the company fastidiously utilizes the material side streams of the production process. Managing Director Kristian Gullsten explains that the group’s vision is an Arctic circular economy with a smart ecosystem, where side streams from production are utilized as products and services.
“The ash from energy production is processed into fertilizers and for other uses. The circulation of harmful substances is stopped and the heat generated from the incineration is transferred to the district heating network. Renewable fuels are used as much as possible. The sludge from wastewater treatment is incinerated and clean water leaks are minimized. Neve is also developing an electronic traffic charging network in Lapland and provides both solar electricity systems and reliable fiber optic connections for fast and secure communication.”
Naturally clean water
The world’s cleanest domestic water provided by Neve is taken from groundwater. The water is pumped from deep underground and supplied to households in the Rovaniemi area. Thus, the tap water is fresh groundwater filtered through the soil and bedrock. Gullsten states that the quality of the water is so good that the tap water is treated very little or not at all.
“For example, in central Rovaniemi, no chemicals are added to the water, unlike in many other cities where the domestic water is taken from surface water.”
At Neve, the circular economy thinking also extends to wastewater treatment. At the Alakorkalo sludge incineration plant, the wastewater sludge incineration process stops the circulation of various harmful substances, such as microplastics or drugs, in the ecosystem. The incineration generates heat which is fed into the district heating network, and the ash is used as a phosphorus fertilizer.
Neve has four wastewater treatment plants in the Rovaniemi area. These environmentally authorized treatment plants treat over 99% of the wastewater in the Rovaniemi area.
Modern Suosiola power plant
Neve’s most important energy production plant is the Suosiola power plant in Rovaniemi. It is a so-called CHP power plant (Combined Heat and Power), which produces both heat and electricity. The Suosiola power plant uses local fuels such as wood chips and peat.
The ash from their incineration is utilized by granulating it into organic ash fertilizer which returns the nutrients to the forests. Some of the ash is also used in earthworks. For years, determined efforts have been made to improve the efficiency of the Suosiola power plant.
According to Gullsten, the efficiency of cogeneration has been raised to almost 100% and it saves several million euros annually.
“The modernization of the power plant is a joint result of several reforms at Neve. Previously, the thermal energy of the flue gases was wasted. Now, this energy is recovered in a flue gas scrubber, which also significantly reduces emissions. Since the introduction of the flue gas scrubber, its efficiency has been further improved by increasing its power, thus year by year increasing the amount of waste heat recovered.”
As a result of the investments made, the heat production capacity of Finnish fuel at Suosiola has increased and oil now generates less than one percent of the heat and electricity.
Neve has also improved its energy efficiency regarding its internal electricity consumption. Lighting at the Suosiola power plant has been switched to computer-controlled LED lighting.
“This alone saves 13,000 kWh of electricity per month,” Gullsten adds.
In addition to Suosiola, Neve has three other power plants in continuous use in Rovaniemi and district heating operations also in Savukoski, Kolari, and Ylläsjärvi. In 2017, the group’s heat production was 553,000 MWh, and their annual electricity sales are approximately 125,000 MWh. The amount corresponds with the annual electricity consumption of approximately 6,500 detached houses.
Cooperative ash fertilizer production
In January 2019, Napapiirin Energia ja Vesi Oy and Ecolan Oy signed a cooperation agreement on the sales and marketing of ash fertilizer. The organic Ecolan ash fertilizer made from the ash of Suosiola power plant is the main product and the companies cooperate in its product development.
“Neve’s goal is to promote the circular economy in line with our strategy. Ecolan is an experienced operator in the field of organic and forest fertilizers. This will provide the region with supply and expertise that will help increase the number of fertilizations in forests and the demand for fertilizer,” says Jukka Partanen, Production Director at Neve.
The aim is to make the circular economy a profitable form of business while minimizing waste at the same time. The commercialization of the ash created at Suosiola as fertilizer is one example of a successful circular economy product. Previously, the ash from incineration was waste, the treatment of which was an expensive item. Now the fertilizer production brings income to Neve.
“The ash fertilizer returns nutrients to the forests and enhances forest growth. The forest owner gets a better return, and the well-growing forest acts as an efficient carbon sink,” Partanen sums up.
Napapiirin Energia ja Vesi (NEVE) is a diversified group owned by the City of Rovaniemi. The company’s services include electricity transmission, water services, production of district heating and its services, infrastructure services, fiber optic network construction and services, digital services and circular economy products. The turnover of the group is over EUR 80 million and the personnel includes approximately 170 employees.