The new solutions offered by Wärtsilä include solar PV power plants of 10 MW and above, as well as hybrid power plants that are a combination of solar PV plants and internal combustion engines.
Entering solar energy business is a historical step for Wärtsilä. Up until now, the company has been only indirectly involved in renewable energy: it offers components to hydro plants, while its fast-reacting, gas-powered Smart Power Generation power plants based on ultra-flexible internal combustion engines are used to balance intermittent renewable energy such as wind power.
This time, however, Wärtsilä is going for something much bigger in the field of renewable energy.
But why choose solar energy now? According to Mr Javier Cavada, President of Wärtsilä Energy Solutions, there are two principal reasons.
“First of all, we noticed that in spite of the global economic recession, the future of solar and other forms of renewable energy looks extremely bright,” he points out. “The growth is especially fast in utility-scale solar projects. This development, in turn, has brought down the price of solar panels and other technology. That is why we felt the time was ripe.”
In terms of sales, Wärtsilä’s goals are nothing short of ambitious. The company expects its solar business to grow rapidly and reach annual sales of €300 million by 2020.
Such a goal, it turns out, is everything but unfeasible. The global installed solar base is expected to grow four-fold to 450 GW by 2025, meaning there is certainly not going to be any lack of potential anytime soon. And when it comes to Wärtsilä itself, its ambitions are supported by three competitive advantages.
“To begin with, we have a global turnkey capability, having delivered EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) power plant projects around the world for decades,” Mr Cavada states. “To support that, our sales and service network is as wide as one could possibly hope for, and we can offer maintenance practically anywhere in the world. Thirdly, we have an existing power plant customer base spanning 176 countries across the globe.”
Wärtsilä’s first solar delivery in Jordan will cover an area of 81 hectares. The scope of the delivery includes 46 MW of solar modules as well as the inverters, switchgear, control systems, and overhead transmission lines. (Image: Wärtsilä)
The third point above is a particularly interesting part of Wärtsilä’s future solar success. Great potential lies in the retrofitting of existing customers’ power plants to make their power production more efficient, reliable, and sustainable.
This is the case with Wärtsilä’s first solar delivery, a retrofit project in Jordan that serves as a perfect example of Wärtsilä’s unique offering: a 46 MW solar PV farm is going to be coupled with IPP4, an existing 250 MW Smart Power Generation plant comprising sixteen Wärtsilä 50DF engines and delivered by Wärtsilä to AES Jordan in 2014.
The two units of the hybrid plant will operate in synchronisation, so that the electricity produced by the solar PV unit will reduce the use of the engines during daytime. As a result, the engines’ fuel consumption is reduced, as are the operating costs and the carbon footprint of the power plant itself.
It sounds like an amazing concept, and to our surprise, Wärtsilä is the first company in the world to offer such utility-scale solar hybrid plants as a permanent part of its product portfolio.
The target customers for Wärtsilä’s solar solutions will be utilities, independent power producers, as well as industrial customers. The main focus markets, in turn, include Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Southeast Asia – all areas characterized by significant solar energy potential.
“Each of these regions have shown great interest towards our new solutions, and several new projects are currently under negotiation,” says Mr Cavada. “We have had a strong presence in these regions for decades, and our existing power plant customer base is large. Furthermore, the competition in these areas consists mostly of smaller local and regional players.”
All of Wärtsilä’s solar solutions will be offered with full engineering, procurement and construction delivery. To make the investment even more appealing, Wärtsilä will acquire the solar PV modules used in the plants from leading module suppliers only.
In short: Wärtsilä has a global EPC capability and a total installed base of 60 GW of engine power plants in as many as 176 countries across the world. Add to the mix cutting-edge solar PV modules and the forecast predicting continuing growth for the solar energy industry. The future looks bright, so better start looking for those sunglasses.
Text by Industrial PRIME
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