Spain and Portugal needs over 40 GW of flexibility to reach 100% renewables at lowest cost

España y Portugal necesitan más de 40 GW de flexibilidad para alcanzar el 100% de energías renovables al menor coste

The report Atlas of 100% Renewable Energy, recently launched by Wärtsilä, modelling over 145 countries and regions, shows that power systems with high levels of renewables need a significant amount of flexibility, through energy storage and gas balancing technology, to achieve the transition to 100% renewable energy future. In particular, Wärtsilä highlights a striking need to scale up flexibility in Spain and Portugal.

41 GW of flexible assets are needed for Spain and Portugal’s energy systems to run on 100% renewable energy at the lowest cost. The capacity needed to balance Spain and Portugal’s switch to grids powered by intermittent renewables must come from two key technologies: over 33.3 GW of energy storage and over 8 GW of flexible gas power capacity, capable of running on future fuels. Future fuels can be produced during periods when renewables produce more electricity than is needed.

Wärtsilä found that Spain and Portugal have a significant need for agile flexible solutions. This reflects the region’s exceptionally high potential to meet its demand with solar energy, which should make up 56% of the regional generation in a 100% renewable system, and the requirement to store that power when solar energy is no longer generating.

To meet Spain and Portugal’s clear need for grid flexibility, Wärtsilä has today launched grid balancing technology – capable of ramping up to 10+ MW in two minutes – to bridge utilities to a 100% renewable energy future at the lowest cost.

Wärtsilä’s grid balancing technology is part of a portfolio of products designed to cost effectively accelerate the energy transition. The portfolio consists of power plants, energy storage and energy management systems. The first power plant solution in the portfolio is powered by the upgraded Wärtsilä 34SG Balancer engine, optimised for renewable baseload markets; an agile, fast-starting gas engine capable of ramping up to 10.8 MW in two minutes to seamlessly integrate with renewables. The power plant solution is based on lean design, and it can be equipped with features such as unmanned standby, remote control capabilities, 24/7 data streaming and dynamic power management. Optimised performance and reliability is supported by Wärtsilä Lifecycle solutions.

Wärtsilä’s power plant gas engines can currently run on natural gas, biogas, synthetic methane or hydrogen blends. The company is actively developing the combustion process to allow the burning of 100% hydrogen and other future fuels.

A significant degree of overcapacity is needed to account for the variability of wind and solar generation. Excess electricity is then utilised to produce future fuels with Power-to-X technology. The modelling finds that balancing the intermittency of the renewable production with a combination of flexible gas and energy storage would be 38% cheaper for the G20, in comparison to relying on energy storage alone.

Alongside the power plant solution, Wärtsilä offers its fully integrated GridSolv energy storage technology, designed for ease of deployment and sustainable energy optimisation, and its GEMS Digital Energy Platform. GEMS dynamically optimises energy systems through a broad range of applications, like frequency regulation, to create revenue streams and enhance grid/system resilience.

Key insights

  • Utilities must hedge balancing assets: Balancing intermittent renewables with a combination of flexible gas and energy storage would be 38% cheaper for the G20, in comparison to relying on energy storage alone.
  • Flexibility is key to decarbonisation in Spain and Portugal: The modelling shows that the region needs 41 GW of flexible balancing, comprising 33.3 GW battery storage and 8 GW of flexible gas, to cost optimally operate a system running on 100% renewables.
  • Prepare now for Future Fuels: The modelling encompasses the transformational impact of the coming Hydrogen Economy, as the 933 GW of flexible gas power capacity modelled across the G20 factors in an inevitable switch to carbon neutral Future Fuels in coming decades.
  • Closed loop 100% renewable energy systems. A significant degree of overcapacity is needed to account for the variability of wind and solar generation. Excess electricity can then be utilised to produce future fuels with Power-to-X technology.
  • Designing engines for the Hydrogen Economy: Wärtsilä has launched an upgraded “Balancer” fast-starting engine capable of ramping up to 10.8 MW in two minutes – seamlessly integrating with renewables – and currently running on natural gas, or hydrogen blends.

Source: Wärtsilä