Finnish energy group Wärtsilä recently announced its entry into the solar energy industry with an emphasis on delivery of turnkey utility-scale solar PV and unique hybrid power plant solutions. The company will engage in delivery of its first hybrid power plant late this year, with a retrofitting project in Jordan.
Wärtsilä spokesperson Jussi Laitinen told Renewable Energy World that there are three key drivers to Wärtsilä’s new direction: “First, the timing is very good; we consider the price of solar modules to be appropriate to enter the business. Second, the growth prospects for utility scale solar are tempting — this is where the growth is going to happen in the near future. And third, we are already very much present in areas where utility-scale PV growth will happen.”
With facilities in 176 countries that are powered by liquid fuels, including oil, biofuel and natural gas, Wärtsilä has a total of 60 GW of installed generation capacity. The company plans on leveraging its experience and customer base to promote both pure solar PV plants of 10 MW and above, and hybrid plant solutions. These systems, Laitinen said, are expected to be especially promising in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and South East Asia, where target customers include utilities, independent power producers and industrial customers.
“We have a very broad, existing customer base around these areas interested in the hybrid solution; meaning, existing customers can now buy a solar PV power plant and connect it to an engine power plant to reduce CO2 emissions and fuel costs,” Laitinen said.
Wärtsilä’s hybrid solution couples solar PV generation with its so-called Smart Power Generation power plant — an internal combustion engine-based system, designed for providing fast-response baseload, peaking and backup power.
The two generating units will operate in synchrony, with PV providing energy whenever available — offsetting fuel use during the day — and engines rapidly able to ramp up whenever necessary to compensate for variation in solar generation. The engines may be run off of natural gas, heavy or light fuel oil, or biofuels.
Wärtsilä views the hybrid solution as “key to the transition to renewables and a natural continuation of our Smart Power Generation concept.”
“We see an opportunity to help customers reduce their CO2 footprint — it saves fuels costs and CO2 emissions. And it seems the latter can be as interesting as the fuel costs to many companies,” Laitinen said.
Wärtsilä is anticipating rapid growth in its venture into solar — expecting annual sales of €300 million ($346 million) by 2020, based off 300 MW in annual installations.
The company’s first hybrid project is planned for Jordan and will see 46 MW of solar modules connected to an existing 250 MW Smart Power Generation plant featuring sixteen Wärtsilä 50DF engines.
Wärtsilä will be providing the Jordanian project complete engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services, including inverters, switchgear, control systems and overhead transmission lines.
Regarding the timeline for the project, Laitinen said construction will start at the end of the year, and the solar PV unit is scheduled to come online next year.
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