The development of a more sustainable energy infrastructure is being driven by climate policies, energy security, and economics. Carbon-intensive energy sources are being replaced by low carbon fuels, such as natural gas and renewable source solutions. Energy savings and efficiency improvements are encouraged, and even legally enforced, at every level. This development is evident on a global scale, even though short-term actions can vary in different regions.
In line with its commitment to sustainability and responsible business conduct, Wärtsilä has taken an active role in the development of markets and solutions. This includes advising national decision makers on changes in the power markets and on relevant technical and commercial norms. In this way, Wärtsilä helps and enables the transition to more sustainable power systems. Wärtsilä strives to maintain a deep understanding of market requirements and drivers, and to develop its solutions in a way that enables them to contribute effectively to improved energy system performance in the various regions of the world.
Wärtsilä's solutions for the energy sector offer a unique combination of flexibility, high efficiency, and low emissions. Many different fuels, including bio-fuels, can be used efficiently, which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Wärtsilä's Smart Power Generation technology enables the development of a reliable energy infrastructure, wherein most of the sustainable characteristics are already known. Moreover, integrating more wind and solar energy with flexible back-up capacity has great potential for reducing carbon emissions.
Towards sustainable power systems
The effects of climate change require a dramatic decrease in coal based power generation and a major increase in low carbon power generation, including wind, solar, and natural gas fired plants. In modern power systems, the majority of the electricity generated will be from wind and solar power, while thermal power generation will be increasingly used for system balancing and back-up. The inherent variability of renewable energy generation requires the balancing and back-up power to be flexible and dynamic. Current and earlier power systems were not designed for this purpose, and in order to meet the required capacity, new flexible power generation assets need to be added to the system. Such flexible capacity is based on three elements: operational flexibility, energy efficiency, and fuel flexibility.
Operational flexibility is needed for reacting to the rapid changes in wind and solar output and for sudden power system disturbances. Power plant requirements include the following features:
- Frequent and fast starts and stops without negative wear and tear consequences
- Cyclic operation with high up and down ramp rates
- High full and part load efficiency
- A broad load range
- Minimal CO2 emissions.
Energy efficiency means that less fuel is needed to generate electricity. In combined heat and power generation, energy efficiency can be significantly improved. Lower fuel consumption results in lower CO2 levels in power generation.
Fuel flexibility enables the transition to more sustainable fuels whenever they become available. This feature becomes increasingly important when investing in new power capacity, because the plant is not fixed to any particular fuel where more sustainable fuels may be available in the future.
These three elements form the cornerstones of the Smart Power Generation technology. It enables maximised utilisation of valuable renewable power, the smooth operation of non-flexible base load thermal power plants and, according to the results from future power system modelling, also enables dramatic reductions in system level CO2 emissions.
- Wärtsilä's Smart Power Generation power plants allow true operational optimisation of the entire energy system in an affordable, reliable, and sustainable way, and offer benefits that include:
- The achievement of extremely low carbon emissions from the entire power system
- Enabling of the highest penetration of wind and solar power capacity without related balancing problems
- Enabling baseload plants to operate at high output and efficiency, thereby lowering CO2 levels
- Enabling wind curtailment to be minimised while helping to avoid negative price developments
- Reducing the amount of spinning reserve required
- Enabling the efficient use of bio gas- and liquid bio-fuel resources.
- By allowing the entire system to operate in the most cost effective way they:
- Remove the abusive cyclic load from plants that are not designed for it, thereby enabling them to operate in their most cost-effective way
- Provide high efficiency over a wide load range, thus enabling flexible power plants to operate in the most cost effective way.
- They ensure system reliability, even during extreme conditions, such as wind variations and contingency situations.
- They enable decentralisation of the intermediate and peak load capacity with:
- Flexible plant sizing that facilitates later expansions to match local needs
- The installation of generating capacity in load pockets to reduce grid losses while helping to avoid investments in new high voltage grid expansions
- Fast track delivery that enables local capacity deficits to be rapidly overcome.