Wärtsilä a key partner in evolution of the Maldives

Wärtsilä: a key partner in the development of the Maldives

From remote support to personal interaction, Wärtsilä’s people have left an indelible mark on one of the world’s leading holiday destinations.

From remote support to personal interaction, Wärtsilä’s people have left an indelible mark on one of the world’s leading holiday destinations.

The early 1990s was a pivotal period in the history of the Maldives as the government recognised the need for rapid economic development and modernisation. At that time the Maldives’ State Electric Company (STELCO) serviced just a handful of properties around the island’s capital Malé.

Realising that a reliable power supply was key to the islands’ development, STELCO commissioned its first two Wärtsilä engines in 1991.

Over the following 31 years STELCO has added a further six Wärtsilä engines at its main power plant in Malé and six engines have been installed on the adjacent island of Hulhumalé. Of the 16 large bore or medium speed engines in operation across the Maldives, 14 have been supplied by Wärtsilä.

Power station pride

STELCO Chief Mechanical Engineer, Abdul Gafoor, who joined the company 28 years ago as an engineering supervisor is responsible for maintenance of the engines at the Malé power plant. He has since been working with Wärtsilä since 1994 and refers to reliability and confidence in the product as some of the factors that have encouraged the company to continue to use Wärtsilä generating sets for securing energy availability on the islands.

“We appreciate the quick response we receive to queries as well as lifecycle services that are well planned and executed with extreme professionalism.”

Roshan de Saram, Wärtsilä Energy’s General Manager responsible for services and country operations in Maldives and Sri Lanka, says he and Business Development Manager, Jonas Fröberg, have developed a close relationship with the STELCO management team and engineers over the last decade.

The population of the Maldives has more than doubled since that first Wärtsilä engine went into operation. “As the population has increased and more people have moved to the capital island, STELCO, with the support of Wärtsilä, have done their best so that people have reliable electricity and that businesses can prosper,” he adds.

“STELCO appreciates the performance of our engines over the last 30-plus years and the lifecycle services we have delivered, which in addition to supply of spare parts also include plant audits, electrical and automation upgrades, maintenance and monitoring products, and efficiency improvements,” says de Saram.

“To fully support any customer, you need to understand how they operate and what they need. In many cases the solutions might not be a product, but something as simple as changing a setting or modifying existing equipment.”

Wärtsilä’s engines generate significant savings

The conversion of Wärtsilä 12V32D diesel engine to low nitrogen oxides (NOx) is perhaps the best example of a recent efficiency improvement.

“This modification has led to reduced fuel consumption,” explains Gafoor. “In addition, the recent upgrade of the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system improved operational efficiency.”

These services have created a user friendly and modern system for operators with better features to diagnose and monitor engine performance, enabling uninterrupted power supply to the grid.

“Working with STELCO has reinforced the importance of understanding the customer and how relationships are the key for success,” adds de Saram.

Wärtsilä - Power house outside

As with any successful partnership, STELCO has benefited from Wärtsilä’s willingness to ‘go the extra mile’ for its customer. So when an engine from a different supplier was deemed beyond repair in 2015, Wärtsilä’s engineers rose to the challenge and fixed it in just two weeks.

“We benefited greatly from this reduced down time - otherwise we would probably have had to shed load during peak hours,” says Gafoor. “The cost of repair was about one-tenth of the cost of replacement, which represented a saving of almost €1.5 million.”

Balancing the grid to reach net zero

Wärtsilä also supported and trained STELCO engineers in the operation and maintenance of the power plants and provided remote support during the restrictions imposed due to the Covid pandemic.

These engineers spent a lot of time at the power stations to ensure they remained fully operational, explains Fröberg. “Their professionalism - combined with the constant support of Wärtsilä - enabled STELCO to keep the lights on during this difficult period,” he says.

Looking ahead, as an energy solution provider Wärtsilä will play a key role in helping the Maldives reach its net zero emission by 2030 target.

“Reaching net zero will require clear planning and cooperation among all stakeholders,” concludes Fröberg. “Our grid balancing engines will play a key role in reaching this target as they enable the integration of intermittent renewables. In the long-term, the engines can be converted to run on sustainable fuels. Our vision for a 100% renewable energy future and a strong commitment to R&D  in sustainable fuels ensures that whatever path the Maldives takes, Wärtsilä will have solutions to help the Maldives decarbonise.” 

Written by
Paul Golden