ABB Installs Battery Storage at Carbon-neutral Timber Building

February 16, 2023 by Shannon Cuthrell

Swedish-Swiss industrial giant ABB recently installed a battery energy storage system to power fire safety sprinklers inside one of the tallest timber buildings in the world. 

ABB recently installed a smart battery energy storage system (BESS) to power a fire sprinkler system in one of the world’s tallest wooden structures: The 20-story, timber-constructed Sara Kulturhus Center, a cultural hub and hotel comprising a theater, museum, gallery, and library in northern Sweden’s city of Skellefteå. 


The carbon-neutral Sara Kulturhus Center in northern Sweden. Image used courtesy of ABB


The 246-foot-tall building, completed in 2021, already draws 100% of its electricity from renewable sources such as hydropower (pulled from the local grid) and wind generation. ABB’s new BESS will provide on-site emergency power for the Sara Kulturhus Center’s fire protection system, which would otherwise run on diesel generators. 

The BESS was designed in partnership with Sweden-based Skellefteå Kraft, a power company that owns and operates about a dozen hydropower plants in the area near its headquarters in Skellefteå. 

While ABB provided the AC and DC switchgear, other suppliers also contributed technology to the project: Swedish lithium-ion battery cell manufacturer Northvolt provided six battery packs, and California-based power electronics firm EPC Power supplied the inverters. 


Solar panels on the facade and roof, a heat pump, and battery power the Sara Kulturhus Center. Image used courtesy of White Arkitekter


BESS Complements Building’s Existing Renewable Design

ABB built and tested the system off-site before installing it in the basement. It runs on ABB’s eStorage OS energy management platform, which provides energy monitoring, diagnostics, and other data functions. The autonomous artificial intelligence-based platform is paired with the building management system, allowing the Sara Kulturhus Center to route excess renewable energy to nearby buildings and other areas in the city. 

ABB’s new BESS adds to the Sara Kulturhus Center’s existing renewable energy features. Since it was constructed with glued laminated and cross-laminated timber, the 30,000-square-meter building stands as a thermal layer. It’s also equipped with four solar photovoltaic systems (lending 170 kilowatts of installed power), batteries (500 kilowatt-hours), and a heat pump, according to the Sara Kulturhus Center website. Its power usage is managed and optimized by its smart control system. 


Video used courtesy of Skellefteå Kraft


The architect, Gothenburg-based White Arkitekter, has said that the building’s timber structure and accompanying solar panels are designed to offset CO2 emissions produced through its operations and embodied carbon. This sequestration process is enough to capture 9,095 metric tons of CO2e emissions, according to a datasheet from White Arkitekter. The firm expects the building’s lifespan to extend for at least 100 years, reaching carbon-negative status within 50 years. 


Carbon-neutral Buildings Boost Sweden’s Climate Targets

Carbon-neutral buildings are a growing movement worldwide. Sweden, in particular, is home to a few notable projects, such as the world’s first carbon-neutral house (completed in July 2022), a timber-constructed Lidl supermarket (opened in 2020), and a 12-floor climate-neutral office building (expected to be completed in 2023). 

Such projects boost the renewable targets of Arctic-bordered Sweden, which aims to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 85% from 1990 levels by 2045. 

According to 2020 data from the International Energy Agency, the country has reduced its carbon emissions by about 38% since 1990. Most of its emissions stem from the transportation sector, where it’s eyeing a 70% reduction by 2030 (excluding domestic aviation) from 2010 levels. Most of its current energy supply is claimed by nuclear, hydroelectricity, biofuels, and waste.