Close

Solar flares

In April 2016, Wärtsilä announced its entry into the solar energy business, launching utility-scale solar photo-voltaic (PV) solutions. Javier Cavada, President of Energy Solutions, discusses this exciting turn of events and its implications for the industry.

“This is a natural evolution of our Smart Power Generation concept.”

When breaking new ground, it’s important to maintain perspective, counsels Javier Cavada. “These developments in solar sound like big news for the company, and that’s certainly the case, but it’s worth pointing out that this is a natural evolution of our Smart Power Generation concept,” he emphasises.

For some time now, Wärtsilä has been preaching the benefits of Smart Power Generation, an innovative system that makes use of the company’s fast-responding, efficient, and fuel-flexible power plants to support the integration of renewables and maximise customer returns. With this philosophy of transforming the unpredictability of the sun and wind as power sources, for example, into easily handled provisions, the company is very well placed indeed to deal with the various needs of its customers and help them access more energy-efficient, low-emission platforms.

“This concept has been the key ingredient we bring to the market to enable customers to integrate renewables into their supply,” Cavada continues. “So in Smart Power Generation we talk about flexibility, stability and very fast ramp-up and ramp-down, stabilising the erratic supply you get from wind and solar. Here, with these PV solutions, we have the next step: Wärtsilä goes solar.”

 

“The idea for this model came up in several conversations with customers.”

Estimated global market growth

2016

2021

According to Bloomberg (2015), the market for solar solutions will grow by four times by 2021.

The sun’s gravity

As the Smart Power Generation message has filtered down into the market consciousness, demand began to grow for Wärtsilä to play a more active role in renewable energy. Cavada is careful to characterise this first and foremost as a strong ‘pull’ from customers. “The idea for this model came up repeatedly in several conversations with customers. They understood that we have everything in place to create hybrid solutions including solar with complete power system integration. This means the turnkey capability, abundant local presence in the main solar markets, our workshops and global service network – in fact, the entire picture.”

The Energy Solutions leader confides that a wide spectrum of opportunities of this nature have been discussed internally, with this strategic development just one scenario of many. Why then solar technology, rather than say: wind turbines?

“After much discussion and deep analysis, finally we saw that as solar solutions are becoming more affordable, the market for these is growing tremendously today and is a place where Wärtsilä has to be positioned,” Cavada points out. “We are talking about four-times growth in the coming five years. That’s the biggest growth in any sector of power production globally, and it’s true in every region, with wind power normally the second.”

In solar, Cavada observes, the market is not as mature in terms of technology as wind power. In the latter area, there are very clear market players dominating the proceedings, whereas in solar, there is no one single agent who can bring the various supply strands together to deliver an integrated solution to any location around the world. That is, until now.

 

New horizons

As of April, Wärtsilä now offers utility-scale solar photo-voltaic (PV) solutions as a component of its Energy Solutions offering. These include solar PV power plants of 10 MW and above, and hybrid power plants comprising solar PV plants and internal combustion engines, together with complete systems integration.

To ensure success in a hugely dynamic technological environment, Cavada stresses the importance of flexibility. “Without one’s own solar technology, it’s best to remain agnostic, and that agnosticism has allowed us to select the best technology players in the market. We can proudly state that we have signed partnership agreements with the top global companies in this area.”

These partnerships effectively transform the current leaders in solar PV technology into the equivalent of departments within Wärtsilä, sharing their vast knowledge and manufacturing equipment, and guaranteeing availability, price, and delivery time on the company’s behalf.

By leveraging its delivery network and forging these connections, Wärtsilä has ensured that its customers will never be left behind. “In Wärtsilä, these technology companies see an ideal partner that has a global footprint, global relationships with its customers’ operative power plants, and is ready to deliver the latest evolution of their technology whenever it is ready for market. It’s an attractive proposition.”

 

“In Wärtsilä, these technology companies see an ideal partner.”

Engine-solar PV hybrid units operate in synchronisation, creating savings
in engine’s fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

21%

fuel saved*

100 MW ENGINES

50 MW SOLAR PV

83 497

CO2 saved (ton)*

*Annual savings for a 100 MW and 50 MW hybrid plant located in an equatorial region with a typical residential load.

The full package

Wärtsilä’s solar solutions are offered with full EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) delivery, which incorporates project management, civil work, site management and supervision, engineering, materials and the equipment itself, plus integration of the complete system. As with all of the company’s energy and marine deliveries, subject to a  long-term contract, Wärtsilä’s extensive service network is ready to take good care of the entire installation throughout its life cycle.

This all-encompassing approach puts the company in a wholly unique situation, says Cavada. “The main value we offer relative to the competition is that we take care of everything, wherever it is required. This differs from what other suppliers do. They need to buy the panels, they need to install them, buy the services – we do it all, including the integration. This is turnkey, and while you may find small attempts at EPC in some countries, globally speaking, we’re unique in this respect.”

“We have capabilities, for instance, in Nigeria, in Senegal, in Jordan…” he continues. “There we have the power plants we operate, we have people on the ground with a high level of expertise, and we have an active supply chain. Today, there’s no complete offering better than this one.”

Wärtsilä’s entry into the solar energy market stands as an evolutionary landmark – a tangible step forward for the Smart Power Generation concept and perhaps one of many more to come. Keen to put the credit where it belongs, Cavada ascribes the development of this new solar offering to entrepreneurial drive within the company. “All things considered, this could only emerge from within a working environment like Wärtsilä,” he concludes.

 

“The main value we offer relative to the competition is that we take care of everything.”

Close

For the best experience of our Annual Report, please update your browser to a newer version.