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GE wins South Australia tender for back-up generators

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US energy giant GE has won a South Australia tender for more than 250MW of back-up generation, and says the trailer-mounted diesel-gas turbines will be in place in time for the demand peaks expected in the summer heatwave.

GE is combining with US mobile energy specialist APR, which will install the technology and associated infrastructure,  to deliver 9 of its aero-derivative TM2500 units, which it says are quick to install, can ramp up within minutes and together will provide 275MW of power.

It means that the South Australian government appears to have killed two birds with one stone – as it will no longer need to install other emergency back-up generators to help the state manage peak demand and any other crises this summer.

“This solution will deliver more generation capacity than originally planned, while emitting less carbon pollution than Torrens Island Power Station,” premier Jay Weatherill said.

The tender for back-up generators was announced earlier this year after tens of thousands of households were left without power while the state’s biggest unit stood idle because there was no market signal.

The tender – which attracted 31 submissions was part of a $550 million response that included the tender for the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery installation, which will be built by Tesla and Neoen, and an energy security target, which has since been put on the back-burner.

South Australia treasurer and energy minister Tom Koutsantonis said in a statement that the units would be initially installed at the Adelaide desalination plant and at the General Motors Holden site in Elizabeth, and wold operate on diesel fuel over the next two summers.

They would then be relocated to a permanent location as a state-owned power plant operating on gas, delivering 275MW of capacity, more than the 250MW originally outlined.

Koutsantonis said while the plants would operate on diesel, they would emit 25 per cent less emissions than the now closed Northern power station, and once operating on gas would be more efficient than the ageing Torrens Island power station.

The units mean that South Australia will have added 275MW of diesel capacity, 100MW/129MWh of battery storage and an as yet undetermined amount of demand management to help the market operator cope with issues this summer.

The gas units will only be switched on when needed. The government says it will not be a new player in the market, apart from when potential shortfalls emerge.

power chart.

“South Australia is already a world-leader in renewable energy generation and our technology will complement these efforts,” Geoff Culbert, the president and CEO of GE Australia, said in a statement.

“GE’s TM2500 units are a power plant on wheels. They are a proven technology that will provide secure and reliable power to South Australian businesses and households.”

GE said the TM2500 units offered significant flexibility compared with other base-load generation options currently available. Each TM2500 unit can generate more than 30MW of electricity and can be started progressively as demand increases, ensuring generation capacity can be efficiently delivered when required.

(RenewEconomy had predicted a GE win back in March, although we went for the wrong units, suggesting the TM6000 aero derivative engines, possibly in combination with some sort of storage).

Being trailer-mounted, TM2500 units can be transported via land, sea or air and redeployed to other sites within an electricity grid. The mobility offered by TM2500 units allows them to be redeployed to support future needs for grid stability and electricity demand.

TM2500 units also have the capability of generating electricity using gas and/or distillate liquid fuel, thereby maximising fuel availability and supply options.  

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  • BushAxe

    I wouldn’t back down on your original call Giles, this maybe a temporary solution for this year with the larger battery hybrid units to be installed at a later date.

    • Rod

      I hope you are right
      I was rooting for the hybrid units x 2
      As someone pointed out to me, more units means more groundworks, grid connection points and gas connections.
      I think time was the decider as we are staring down a barrel at the moment.

      • BushAxe

        It’s fair to say the SA Govt is keeping it’s cards close to it’s chest and options open. The two year lease for mobile units gives them time to see if the market responds with more generation/storage and/or look at the permanent option of five LM6000 hybrids spread across the state.

        • George Darroch

          And these are much easier to move or sell on if they do decide to keep them.

  • solarguy

    The smart money would be to use biogas in the future, then these generators will be using renewable energy. No if’s or but’s.

    • Tom

      Bio-diesel?

      • solarguy

        That would work, but look at all the sewage that will provide the feed stock, not to mention green waste.

  • Peter G

    That may be 3 birds Giles, as this has the potential to morph into an excellent demonstration of the use of new fossil fuel technology as flexible ‘fill’ generation around a base of renewable generation.
    As a government ‘command and control’ intervention this initiative makes an interesting contrast to the capacity market mechanism in WA that resulted in the unused and expensive Merredin Diesel turbine plant.

  • Peter F

    You were not really wrong, the TM2500 is the temporary backup units which as the system matures, can be driven off to NSW or Victoria. If the TM 6000 is used it will be in the permanent 250MW power plant.

    My guess is that over the next few years if SA govt and AGL both build their proposed new gas plants that SA’s power supply will be more secure than either NSW or Victoria

    I am surprised that they selected gas turbines rather than more efficient reciprocating plants, however I suppose the gas turbines are lighter and more easily deployed and if they are only used as emergency backup, utilisation may only be 50-200 hours per year so fuel efficiency is not a big issue. They certainly seem to be fast starting, 30 minutes to full power used to be the norm

    • solarguy

      And because gas turbines can be multi fuelled.

      • David Mitchell

        So can reciprocating engines.

        • solarguy

          Try running a diesel on gas only.

          • David Mitchell

            Try googling “wartsila dual fuel” 🙂

          • Interested 1

            A friend helped convert some large diesels to dual fuel back in the early 80’s at Alice Springs. Back then you needed ~10% diesel to run, which was still a great saving over 100% diesel trucked from Darwin.

            These days you can run recip engines on either pure gas, or in another mode with a miniscule amount of diesel in lieu of a spark plug.

            Now when we talk ramp rates what are we talking?

            Stationary, cold to full power?
            No load to full power?

            At synchronous speed, no load the GT uses approaching 70% of the full load fuel flow just to run the compressor. (depends a little on whether 1 or 2 shafts used).

            Smart “modern Recip” engines, think Wartsila, like the ones AGL announced for Torrens Island A Station partial replacement, are able to start from cold stationary to full load in under 5 minutes. Aeroderivatives may be able to do that, but at a shocking cost to maintenance. At least half the cost of a gas turbine is maintenance/spares over it’s life. You can change out the core, with a crane, but don’t expect any Australian workshops to be doing the rebuild of the core for a LM2500. That is a pure export job. (Client pays, the more fast starts, the much more you pay.)

            Reciprocating engines can be maintained using Australian-based labour, right in South Australia. The turbochargers are able to be rebuilt in many places.

            And in open cycle mode they are still more efficient than gas turbines, and over a much wider range of outputs.

            Did someone say >270MW? Turbines are rated at ISO conditions 15C, sea-level. Check the derating for a 40 DegC day and you see how much you will struggle to make 250MW and I hope someone has calculated this into the cost which the user always ends up paying, one way or the other.

            https://powergen.gepower.com/content/dam/gepower-pgdp/global/en_US/documents/technical/ger/ger-3695e-ge-aero-gas-turbine-design-op-features.pdf

            There are many white papers discussing the pros and cons of different types of generators for high renewables markets.

            https://www.wartsila.com/energy/learning-center/downloads

          • David Mitchell

            Awesome commentary – couldn’t agree more. Turbines are exactly what we don’t need for flexible matching to renewables.

          • solarguy

            Gas turbines can be overhauled in OZ. Plus can be up to speed in under 5 mins. these turbines can operate for 2 thousand hours no problem.

          • Interested 1

            Solarguy

            The only the only place in Oceania that overhauls LM2500 hot section is in Auckland AFAIK. Involves exchanging the core, which sounds easier than it is, and certainly co$tly. (To those in the business that is a good thing I suppose, but invariably the cost gets passed through to the user, in this case the SA and Federal taxpayer)

            2000 h may sound a long time to some, but not myself.

            Heavy duty turbines can be overhauled on site, but these are not that.

            I have no knowledge of Solar’s or other aero-derivative turbines hot section maintenance capabilities, or location thereof.

          • solarguy

            Amazing what a water spray mist can do to lower temps in an ICE, turbines included. In addition a gas turbine doesn’t need even a poof teenth of diesel to run any fuel.

          • Interested 1

            Water spray works well unless humidity is high, less common in SA. Of course I am sure you are aware a modern ICE can run in pure gas.

    • Interested 1

      Hmm, 5 minutes start to full load looks v e r y surprising when GE and APR data for TM2500 says 10 minutes.

      Also seems a pity not to be set up for combined cycle. Still, I don’t hear of people being fired for recommending GE.

      As someone said, “it’s not quite as good but it will cost you more”.

  • Peter F

    It looks as if I did not read the post properly. Are you saying these plants will be used as short term diesel backup initially and then form the base of the proposed permanent gas plant. i.e. instead of putting in diesel backup and a new 250MW gas power plant they are getting a twofer and halving their budget

    • Tom

      I think that’s correct.

      I’ve been reading the GE site about their “aeroderivative” generators. It is not compulsory for them to run on gas – they can run on liquid fuels that enter the turbine as a fuel-air mix. Much like petrol entering a car’s cylinder as a fuel-air mix, except no valves or pistons of course, and on a bigger scale.

      I don’t know if there is a venturi system or not – probably partly venturi because it mists well, but relying on a computer-controlled pump and sensors to get the mixture right.

      The venturi/ injector system would probably easily be swapped with a variable pressure valve when the generators are converted from diesel to gas.

      This is all speculation of course – I might be wrong about the mechanics.

  • Ray Miller

    Not bad the TM2500 is only 65% inefficient! So the base plant requires 97.14 MW from imported diesel to give 34MW of electrical energy, cool.
    The good news is they can pack it up when not required and send it elsewhere, just need 11+ days, but at least it is possible.

    • nor_he

      So it’s less efficient than the coal it’s replacing?

  • MG

    No discussion of the costs though?

    $60m of taxpayer money spent this financial year to get these gens in, divided by 275 MW = $218k/MW/Yr. This will be many multiples the cost per MW of demand response that ARENA will procure, to provide the exact same benefit to the grid this summer, at many multiples the GHG emissions.

    https://amp.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/under-treasurer-david-reynolds-confirms-backup-generators-as-part-of-state-governments-energy-plan-will-cost-110m/news-story/873fa29923a6b15c0ac0a26bb21ed245

    • Tom

      $3.2 million in SA taxpayer money is wasted EVERY WINDY DAY on high wholesale prices due to the incumbent gas generators setting the price.

      Remember who the taxpayers are – they are the residents – and whether they pay in the form of taxation or in the form of higher power bills it is still their money.

      How do I get $3.2 million? Approx 40GWh per day at approx $120/MWh when on windy days the SA wholesale price really should average around $40/MWh. (120-40)X40X1000=3.2million

  • Brunel

    Does this mean someone will be hired to monitor the market so that the turbines know when to fire up?

    • Rod

      According to the Government, AEMO will notify them when things are getting tight.
      I am a bit disappointed they have back pedalled on the idea of starting up if spot prices are getting high.

      • Brunel

        If spot prices soar, would it not be profitable to turn the GE turbines on?

        • Rod

          It would be, but they have come to an agreement nudge, wink, with the other generators that they won’t enter the market unless the generation is low.
          AGL could mothball TIPS A at short notice if they felt inclined. But with spot over $100 most days they are raking it in at the moment.

  • David Hurburgh

    You have got to laugh.

    The announcement that 200MW of diesel generation will soon be installed to provide voltage and frequency support to the South Australian Grid … which has its world leading 40% penetration by wind and solar.

    This makes a mockery of Weatherill’s claim that it wasn’t renewables that caused the disastrous blackouts in recent times.

    It’s a delicious irony that we have fossil-fuel power generation coming to the rescue of South Australia.

    • brucelee

      That’s some quality spin right there!

    • Be

      It was a downed grid wire. get over it. This generator will not prevent blackouts caused by wire breaks.

  • Phil

    The 5 minute ramp up time is brilliant.
    I think the S.A model could be defined as a Multi Modal one.

    Energy generation,like many technologies, is becoming more distributed rather than centralised

    It’s all about best options , not old technology systems that are “gamed”