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Smarter really is better when it comes to power generation

Wärtsilä Corporation
Smarter solutions are set to become increasingly important in bringing greater flexibility to electricity generation, optimising electricity usage, and integrating renewable energy sources more effectively. The multiple benefits of the Smart Power Generation concept means that it has a valuable role to play in making it easier to manage electricity supply and demand. Wärtsilä is the global leader in Smart Power Generation.

Although existing power systems have been designed to handle the variations in electricity demands that take place at different times of the day, week, and year, they are typically much less efficient when renewable sources, such as wind and solar power, form part of the generating base.

This is primarily because of the sometimes major variations that can take place in output from these sources over very short periods of time, which can rarely be forecast very accurately, and the fact that this has to be compensated for by other power plants. Much of today’s base generating capacity is simply too inflexible and not up to the challenge of continuously balancing rapid, large-scale variations like this. What is needed is sufficient dispatchable, dynamic capacity to overcome this shortcoming.

While things like reservoir hydropower and smart grid technology are clearly part of the solution, the fundamentals of the generating base also need to be addressed – which is where Smart Power generation based on Wärtsilä’s start-of-theart gas combustion engines comes in.

Smart Power Generation solutions offer the flexibility needed to meet a wide range of local conditions and needs, while still providing a highly optimised and secure source of energy. Photo: Timo Kauppila/INDAV.

Flexible, highly efficient power when and where it’s needed

Smart Power Generation offers a unique combination of features aimed at smoothing the way to a more sustainable, reliable, and affordable energy infrastructure. The flexibility, efficiency, and high standards of operational performance of Wärtsilä’s power plant solutions speak for themselves.

Wärstilä’s plants can begin generating megawatts of power for the grid in just 30 seconds from start-up and reach full load in two minutes, and can cope with being started up and stopped whenever needed with ease. With a typical plant availability of more than 97%, plant reliability of 99%, and a start-up reliability of more than 99%, one can’t make a smarter choice. Wärtsilä’s power plants can also be easily located close to where the power they generate is needed. This is primarily due to their low emission and ambient noise levels, modest infrastructure needs, and ability to dispatch power even in hot climates and at high altitudes.

Wärtsilä also offers the highest available simple cycle energy efficiency of any current technology, 49% or more in fact. Its Flexicycle™ technology delivers all the benefits of a flexible, simple cycle plant with the efficiency of a combined cycle plant, and enables the best fuel available to be used on a very flexible basis, including liquid and gaseous fuels, as well as renewables.

By enabling the maximum integration of wind and solar capacity and overcoming wind variability, the result is a reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy supply that protects base load plants from the challenges of cyclical loads that they were never designed to deal with in the first place. Smart Power Generation based on gas combustion engines also opens up a number of new opportunities for generators to sell base power to energy markets and fast-starting and ramping capabilities to the ancillary services and capacity market.

"Combining efficiency and flexibility 
with affordability, reliability, and sustainability."

The Kiisa 250 MW duel-fuel facility has been designed to act as an emergency reserve power plant for the Estonian transmission system operator.

A range of benefits

Smart Power Generation based on gas combustion engines offers multiple benefits, including:

  • Rapid load following in the morning
  • Starting and loading units on a phased basis as loads increase or vary
  • Peaking during periods of high consumption
  • ‘Wind chasing’
  • System balancing
  • An ultra-fast, zero-emission, non-spinning grid reserve
  • Capability to start up and begin generating power in just 30 seconds and reach full power in just two minutes
  • Fast grid black starts during system black-outs.

Elering chooses Wärtsilä

Estonian transmission system operator, Elering, recently chose Wärtsilä when it wanted to build the country’s first emergency reserve power plant and provide it with the in-house dynamic generation capacity needed to meet sudden drops in supply and secure uninterrupted availability of electricity throughout the country. Up until now, Elering has purchased emergency reserve power from neighbouring Latvia, and the new facility will reduce costs in this area and provide additional security of supply.

The solution they chose was a turnkey 250 MW dual-fuel facility based on two completely autonomous plants and featuring a total of 27 Wärtsilä 20V34DF engines and generator sets, located at Kiisa, 25 kilometres south of the Estonian capital, Tallinn.

The first stage of the facility (110 MW) was commissioned in spring 2013 and the second (140 MW) will follow in autumn 2014. Kiisa will run completely automatically, and the only people occasionally needed on site will be maintenance personnel. The main fuel will be natural gas, with the option to switch to light fuel oil as a back-up fuel – and the site’s engines are expected to operate for an average of 200 hours a year, with an expected service life of at least 30 years.

By using flexible gas combustion engines rather than gas turbines, which are costly to ramp up and down, it will be possible to achieve significant savings nationally. It will also enable other power generation facilities connected to the grid to be be run at their optimum efficiency for longer.

With a capacity equal to one-sixth of Estonia’s peak demand, the Kiisa facility will be capable of compensating for any failure in the Estonian grid within just 10 minutes. Connection to the country’s 110kV and 330kV grids is via the local sub-station and the site is integrated with Elering’s state-of-the-art grid management system commissioned a few years ago and based in nearby Tallinn.

> Kenneth Engblom
(Published in HighTech Finland 2013)