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Island of Bonaire improves energy security and use of wind power

As part of a project to fully modernise the energy grid of the Caribbean island of Bonaire, Wärtsilä delivered an energy management and storage system that nearly doubles the island’s renewable energy penetration.

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Completed in only a few months, Wärtsilä deployed a 6 MW / 6 MWh energy management and storage system in June 2019 for its customer ContourGlobal on Bonaire, a Caribbean island of 19,000 inhabitants.

After concluding this first phase, the island no longer curtails excess energy losses from its wind resources, increasing wind penetration from an average of 20 percent to 33 percent. The system is now prepared for additional capacity to accommodate peak demand during tourist season.

ContourGlobal’s entire island grid is overseen and operated by the Greensmith Energy Management System (GEMS) advanced software platform.

“A big hurdle for utilities today is figuring out where to begin when it comes to modernising traditional thermal-based systems to allow the integration of more renewable generation assets without compromising reliability. Bonaire provides a real-time case study for how it can be done in a phased approach,” says Sampo Suvisaari, Regional Director, Latin America North and the Caribbean at Wärtsilä Energy Business.

This is the beginning of a longer-term plan to fully modernise the island’s energy system and add additional capacity and renewable energy generation to the grid, while setting Bonaire on the path to achieving its 100% renewable target.

Wärtsilä’s energy management and storage system eliminates the island’s previous dependency on heavy fuel oil (HFO) and delivers environmental benefits, decreasing fuel consumption by five percent and CO2 emissions by eight percent.

GEMS software enables optimisation

The phased approach on Bonaire allows time for system operators to add new hybrid solutions and spread out costs, and leaves room for new technologies to come online. The GEMS energy management software offers Bonaire access to the full potential of renewable energy resources, enabling intelligent applications that increase resilience and efficiencies. The software can be supported by a power producer’s existing grid infrastructure. It is able to synchronize every kind of power asset within a hybrid system, and new resources can easily be integrated.

To optimise the system, GEMS now factors in real-time asset performance, as well as load and renewable energy forecasts. With phase one complete, GEMS can balance Bonaire’s resources and seamlessly optimise thermal, wind, and energy storage assets.

“During our commissioning tests, several load rejections were tested, including loss of wind, loss of engines and loss of demand, and in every circumstance, GEMS instantaneously tracked and maintained the quality of the generation, avoiding the load shedding of the grid,” says Giorgio Narminio, Caribbean assets COO of ContourGlobal.

“This is just one example of how this project will improve operations through automation, while helping the island avoid blackouts, achieve greater efficiencies, and use more wind power,” Narminio adds.

“This project will improve operations through automation, while helping the island avoid blackouts, achieve greater efficiencies, and use more wind power.”

Towards a 100% renewable future

The existing ContourGlobal power plant runs on five HFO engines and three back-up diesel engines. In the next phase of the Bonaire project, the outdated thermal technology will be replaced with five new engines, and additional wind and solar energy will be added to the power generation mix.

According to Suvisaari, as the island grid increases in size, the GEMS software will enable further renewable penetration and lower the cost of energy.

“GEMS machine learning and AI capability will incorporate weather, electricity demand, and other variables and data into its forecasting models. Automated decisions related to managing ContourGlobal’s entire fleet will be based on this data,” he concludes.

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