In July 2012, as part of a government infrastructure programme to improve the availability and efficiency of electricity in the thriving region of Baku, state-owned utility Azerenerji JSC placed an order for a power plant of 21 Wärtsilä 50SG gas engines with a total output of 384 MW.
Interest in the new gas engine – which combines high efficiency and low emissions – and the customer's long-standing relationship with Wärtsilä were the critical factors prompting Azerenerji to request an offer. Up to this point, Wärtsilä has sold and delivered decentralised plants to the country with a combined output of approximately 1,255 MW.
At the beginning it was not clear whether a gas turbine or a gas engine would be implemented. One of the main reasons for selecting an engine-based solution was the operating profile. Azerenerji already has combined cycle plants, which are good for baseload operation but not well suited for grid balancing. The customer knew that gas engines could offer the required flexibility.
When complete the project will be one of Wärtsilä's most important, and not merely because of its size and flexibility.
"On a scale of one to ten, this project is a ten from our company's point of view," Christer Strandvall, Regional Director for Europe West at Wärtsilä Power Plants, explains. The project held the record for largest power plant order ever for a few months during 2012, before Wärtsilä broke it once again in.
"It serves as a great reference for our future utility customers. It shows that building a 300-400 MW flexible gas engine power plant is feasible depending on the operational profile."
A number of potential customers, from Australia to the US, have expressed an interest in this enlarged capability. "We have already had delegations visiting Azerenerji's Sangashal plant," Strandvall enthuses, "and many now say they also want to visit this new plant powered by Wärtsilä 50SG engines."
Besides the record-breaking Azerbaijan and Jordan projects, other recent large power plant orders from Wärtsilä include another large order from Jordan; the biggest gas power plant ever installed in Mozambique; a 175 MW power plant in South Africa (the largest power plant running exclusively on gas engines to be installed on the African continent); a major power plant to be built in Nouakchott, Mauritania in West Africa; and a twin plant with a total output of 430 MW in the Dominican Republic.