Companies in Sub-Saharan Africa looking to benefit from the independence and cost savings of renewable energy can be left in the dark when the weather is uncooperative. However, a solution combining intermittent wind, solar and hydropower with supplemental fuel-flexible turbines can ensure these companies have the environmentally friendly and reliable power generation they require.
This is according to Colm Quinn, regional sales director at APR Energy – the world’s leading provider of fast-track mobile turbine power. Quinn says that as electric utilities and energy-intensive industries throughout the developing world invest in power infrastructure, they are under increasing pressure to consider the environmental costs associated with the use of higher-polluting fuels such as diesel, coal and heavy fuel oil (HFO).
He says power generation using advanced fuel-flexible turbines can switch seamlessly between natural gas and other cleaner-burning fuels such as LPG (liquid petroleum gas). “As a result, these modules produce 38-94% less nitrogen oxide (depending upon use of water injection) and 20% less noise than diesel power modules, offering a great fit for environmentally conscious operations with stringent regulatory controls.”
The ability of the turbines to switch seamlessly between LPG, natural gas and other fuels provides electric utilities and energy-intensive operations with unprecedented flexibility to manage costs by optimising fuel pricing and availability, he adds.
Besides being able to use more environmentally friendly fuels, fuel-flexible turbines also take up far less land space than renewable energy power plants. “The significant amount of land required is often an important consideration for companies weighing the emissions advantages of renewable energy. A 50MW solar farm would cover approximately 430-500 acres, while 50MW of wind turbines start off at around 100 acres if installed on a ridgeline in hilly terrain and range to 2,500 acres if installed across open, flat terrain,” Quinn says.
“By comparison, a modular 50MW plant using compact, power-dense turbines is an ideal solution for operations with space constraints, only requiring a footprint of around 1.4-acres – approximately one-third of the space needed for the same electricity output produced by reciprocating generators, depending on whether on-site LPG fuel storage is required,” he adds.
Perhaps the biggest benefit is that a fuel-flexible turbine solution is not subject to the intermittent nature of sunshine, wind and rain as it can generate reliable power, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
There are a multitude of other advantages of mobile fast-track power solutions in addition to the environmental benefits and flexibility of fuel type, he says. “Due to minimal construction and setup requirements, mobile turbine solutions can be installed within 30 to 90 days and are easily transportable via land, sea or air. They are also entirely scalable to the requirements of the company and can be scaled up or down at any given time depending on the power generation needs.”
He says these solutions can also be installed close to the demand, reducing the need for transmission and distribution infrastructure, while also cutting the power loss that occurs as electricity travels long distances.