Bright prospects for Wartsila’s solar energy strategy

Bright prospects for Wärtsilä’s solar energy strategy

The power industry is undergoing a global transformation. Wärtsilä is leading this change with its growing focus on solar photo-voltaic (PV) power solutions.

Text: Denise Wall Photo: 123RF, Wärtsilä

In a review of the renewables market in 2016, the International Energy Agency, Bloomberg and many others declared that solar will lead the charge of power generation capacity expansion in the next decades, far surpassing wind, hydro and any form of thermal power generation. The bullish forecasts were attributed to buoyed competitiveness in the sector driven by falling technology costs and lower prices.

The very same year, Wärtsilä launched its solar power strategy by introducing utility-scale solar photo-voltaic (PV) solutions. The offering comprises utility scale solar PV plants with a capacity of 10 MW and more, as well as hybrid power plants featuring solar PV systems coupled with internal combustion engines or energy storage.

The new solar hybrid plant configuration maximises the utilisation of renewable energy at the Essakane mine.
The new solar hybrid plant configuration maximises
the utilisation of renewable energy at the Essakane mine.

 
   

Solar project in Burkina Faso harnesses advantages of hybrid logic

Wärtsilä moved quickly to implement the strategy, announcing its first solar power project in Jordan that year. The venture involved modifying an existing 250 MW engine power plant with 16 Wärtsilä 50DF engines delivered in 2014, and complementing it with a solar power plant of 52 MW peak capacity.

This was only the beginning. In March 2017, Wärtsilä announced that it had secured a turnkey delivery of 15 MW solar PV plant in Burkina Faso. This also is a hybrid facility featuring a solar power plant constructed alongside an existing 57 MW engine power plant powered by fuel oil. Both operate in a synchronised fashion to create the largest hybrid (engine-solar) of its kind in the world.

The project was undertaken for Essakane Solar SAS, a company with majority ownership by global independent power producer EREN Renewable Energy (EREN, 90%) and by development partner African Energy Management Platform (AEMP, 10%).

As the operator of the plant, Essakane Solar sells the energy generated to IAMGOLD’s Essakane mine. The off-grid gold mine lies 350 kilometres northeast of the Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou, and produces approximately 400,000 ounces of gold annually.

Wärtsilä’s hybrid plant offers many advantages, particularly for off-grid facilities such as the Essakane mine. Cloudy skies can obscure the sun and reduce the output of a solar unit by up to 80% within a minute. When skies go dark, engines can immediately kick in and compensate for the loss of energy-producing sunlight by automatically boosting by dozens of megawatts per minute if needed. Internal combustion engines are still the only technology capable of providing such a high level of flexibility and responsiveness to power generation.

Moreover, the ability to synchronise and optimise the use of engines and solar power could see a reduction in fuel consumption at the mine by roughly six million litres per annum as well as an annual decrease in CO2 emissions of some 18,500 tons.

The inauguration of the world’s largest Solar Hybrid power plant was attended by representatives from Iamgold and Wärtsilä, as well as the President of Burkina Faso, Mr. Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.
The inauguration of the world’s largest Solar Hybrid
power plant was attended by representatives from
Iamgold and Wärtsilä, as well as the President of
Burkina Faso, Mr. Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. 

  
  

Utility-scale solar PV plants in pipeline

Solar PV represented one third of all the power generation capacity increase globally in 2017, with close to 100 GW added in 2017 out of total of around 300 GW. This was more than any other power generation technology.

This development is expected to strengthen in the next decades, thanks to solar becoming a cheaper way of producing energy than any coal or gas-fired technologies.

Many emerging economies are now prioritising access to clean and reliable power as the bedrock for sustainable social and economic growth. At the same time, developed markets are also prospecting for alternative energy solutions and operational flexibility. These dual trends have opened up new opportunities for Wärtsilä to develop its expertise and footprint in the solar PV market.

The deals Wärtsilä has secured so far are just the tip of the iceberg in what it sees as a rich, renewable energy market. It is increasingly providing solutions for utilities, IPPs and industrial customers in Africa, the Middle-East, Latin America and South East Asia. Rapid growth in the solar sector spells a bright future for the power industry.

Inputs from: Pekka Tolonen, Director, Solar, Wärtsilä Energy Solutions, Tarik Sfendla, Project Manager, Wärtsilä Energy Solutions, mail: pekka.tolonen@wartsila.com, tarik.sfendla@wartsila.com

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