The technology group Wärtsilä has been the pioneer to promote flexibility in energy systems to enable greater use of solar and wind power. The company’s Smart Power Generation solution was launched ten years ago in recognition of growing environmental awareness within the industry, and in anticipation of increasing adoption of energy from renewable sources. As the energy industry transformation accelerates, with traditional baseload plants unable to efficiently cope with the new realities, Wärtsilä’s vision is being endorsed with an increasing market share in the < 500 MW market segment, growing from 13 percent in 2016 to 19 percent in 2017, according to the McCoy Power Report.
The cost competitiveness of wind and solar power is rapidly increasing. For example, the cost per kW of wind power plants has dropped by 40 percent during the past 20 years, while the cost per kW of solar plants has dropped by more than 90 percent during the same period. Consequently, renewables currently represent one of the cheapest ways to produce electricity in areas with good wind and solar conditions, making them viable without the need for government subsidies. Today, wind and solar power plants produce approximately 1100 GW of electricity globally and forecasts indicate that this will increase to 2000 GW by 2024.
That flexibility is essential in systems using energy produced by wind and solar is today an unchallenged fact. Wärtsilä’s approach, with its Smart Power Generation solution, provides the ability to go offline and restart quickly, multiple times per day, while its energy storage capabilities serve to smooth variations in supply and store excess power from renewables.
“Wärtsilä’s share of the global power plant market is growing because we have successfully established ourselves as a systems integrator and service provider in this changing world. We can offer not only power generation assets, but also storage and integration software solutions, as well as operations, maintenance and lifecycle optimisation of the assets,” says Javier Cavada, President, Wärtsilä Energy Solutions.
Recent examples of the role that Wärtsilä’s Smart Power Generation is playing in this energy transition include two power plants ordered by the Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corporation in the USA. They will accommodate a broad range of operating profiles for which flexibility is a prime requirement. In Arizona, Tucson Electric Power (TEP) is building a 200 MW Wärtsilä Smart Power Generation plant to provide the needed flexibility for integrating more wind and solar into its system. AGL Energy Ltd, one of Australia’s leading integrated energy companies, recently ordered a 211 MW Wärtsilä plant to provide the reliability and fast-starting capability required to enable increased levels of energy from renewable sources.
“Supported by new technology, utilities are better equipped to model the future and are changing their strategies to involve more renewables and flexible generation. The number of tenders and investments for renewable energy is a clear indication of this. Recent changes in the market share of gas power plants from inflexible to flexible solutions provide further evidence of this transition,” adds Matti Rautkivi, Sales & Marketing Director, Wärtsilä Energy Solutions.