Wärtsilä supplies more flexible generation to the real-time electricity market of USA

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Wärtsilä has been contracted to supply a 56 MW Smart Power Generation power plant to Coffeyville Municipal Light and Power (CMLP) in Kansas, USA. The power plant will consist of three gas-fired Wärtsilä 50SG engines and is scheduled to start commercial operation in January 2017. The new power plant will improve CMLP’s position in the electricity market. “Our current units take 6-8 hours to full load. We need much more flexibility in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) market. We like the fact that Wärtsilä engines can go to full power in less than 10 minutes. That makes us much more competitive,” CMLP’s Director Gene Ratzlaff said.

The SPP, a regional transmission organization operating in nine Southwestern states, launched a real-time electricity spot market in March 2014. In the real-time market, electricity prices are very volatile. Fast-starting engines can be used to capture unexpected price spikes, realizing profits in the dynamic dispatch market. During the first year of the real-time market, some of the existing Smart Power Generation plants in the SPP region have seen 10-fold increases in running hours.

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According to a new white paper by Wärtsilä and Ascend Analytics, an engine-based power plant can make 740 percent more profit in the SPP market than a competing solution, open cycle gas turbine. This is due to the fact that engines can follow electricity prices more rapidly and efficiently than gas turbines. The comparison was made against real market prices from March to September 2014.

In Coffeyville, the new power station will provide peaking power and support for wind energy. “We have so much wind power that if the wind stops blowing, you can lose hundreds of megawatts of power. Fast capacity is needed to compensate the loss,” Ratzlaff said.

For CMLP, an additional benefit of the Wärtsilä engines is reliability. “In 2012 we spent three hours in the dark after losing two transmission lines. With these engines we will be back online in 10 minutes. This is very important to industrial customers.”