Sunny side up

Sunny side up

Solar energy has led the growing popularity of sustainable renewable energy sources for some time. Wärtsilä has tracked the trend to develop solar and hybrid solutions complemented by a new operation and maintenance services offering - and is now poised to become a global energy systems integrator.

Text: Denise Wall Photo: istock

In 2016, the renewables sector saw new investments in solar energy rise to USD 113.7 billion globally, reflecting a record 75 GW increase in capacity from 2015 – for the first time outstripping year-on-year growth in all other renewable technologies*.

Riding the wave of the renewable energy surge, Wärtsilä began delivering turnkey utility-scale solar photovoltaic power plants as well as hybrid engine-solar PV power plants in 2016 as part of its Energy Solutions’ renewable strategy. It followed up with the launch of a Wärtsilä Operation and maintenance (O&M) solution in 2017. 

The O&M solution helps guarantee performance of customers’ solar power plants, maximize the productive lifetime and ROI of their assets, and enhance the predictability of plants’ lifecycle costs.

“The customer has the chance to focus on their core business – to produce and sell energy - while Wärtsilä can support with operations and maintenance of the power assets, such as guaranteeing performance and covering scheduled maintenance or the risk of unplanned maintenance,” says Kim Lindqvist, Wärtsilä’s Manager for Solutions Development, Services.

Signing the dotted line

In April 2017, Wärtsilä concluded its first agreement for a Wärtsilä O&M solution with solar power operator Essakane Solar SAS, the local subsidiary of Paris-based EREN Renewable Energy. The agreement covers a 15 MW DC (~12 MW AC) solar PV plant used to power the Essakane gold mine in Burkina Faso.

The Essakane solar farm complements the existing thermal facility that powers the mine with engines also supplied by Wärtsilä, creating a hybrid power plant that will cut fuel costs, decrease overall energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to moderate the facility’s social and environmental footprint.

“In this case, the solar PV plant is close to the mine, where environmental plus logistical conditions are harsh and there may also be a great deal of dust and this kind of solution is the key maximizing power production,” explains Francesco Fonda, Wärtsilä’s Area Sales Manager, Power Plants Agreements for Southern Europe and Africa.

The Essakane solar PV plant will deploy upwards of 100,000 solar panels. These solar panels must be kept clean and the equipment must be checked regularly and maintained to operate at peak efficiency. Additionally, the overall performance of the equipment can naturally fall if it is not constantly cared for, making maintenance a high priority for plant owners.

Wärtsilä’s O&M solution is therefore a timely service for operators, eager to recoup installation and maintenance costs and maximize the utilization, reliability and production of their solar PV plants.

Continued strong service as energy systems integrator

As part of this solution, Wärtsilä will deliver a host of services including mobilization, daily operation activities, preventive maintenance, coordination and support for the thermal plant crew, as well as scheduled and corrective maintenance for the equipment covered by the scope of the solution.

“In general, a solar O&M solution offering can be quite differentiated from region to region, and from customer type to type. In that respect, it is important to understand the customer’s needs and be very flexible in tailoring the offering. Strong remote support is crucial and our Expertise centres  ensure that we are always on top of plant performance. Then, having qualified people on site will complete the solution, ensuring we are always ready to act. This solution will assure the top-quality service that our customers expect from Wärtsilä,” Fonda adds.

Wärtsilä already has a strong presence in the African market and is looking to leverage growth potential to sell more solar PV plants with Wärtsilä Operation and management solutions. It is also keen to take on a new role as a systems integrator supplying energy management systems that include solar and engine power as well as energy storage systems, both as retrofits and as new assets.

“You have the flexibility with a focus on providing green energy, but with the hybrids you still get stability in case of low sunshine levels when you still need to maintain energy production. Storage is a solution for short-term peaks, but if you want to sustain capacity then other sources are needed. So having these hybrids with all three systems provides a lot of flexibility,” concludes Lindqvist.

* Frankfurt School – UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance, Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2017, April 2017. Web. 12 May 2017.


Press release 7 July 2017: Wärtsilä to ensure reliable operations of solar power plant in Burkina Faso

Press release 22 March 2017: Wärtsilä to supply a solar PV plant to Burkina Faso – creating Africa’s largest engine-solar PV hybrid power plant

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