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Hybrid Energy Systems Will Unlock Baseload Solution Opportunities for Renewables

Pritil Gunjan
Jul 03, 2018

At the Intersolar Europe exhibition in Munich during June, Wärtsilä announced the launch of its integrated solar PV and storage hybrid renewable energy system (HRES). The company believes this solution could offer greater resilience to grid infrastructures and become a baseload energy generator, as well as provide easier integration with the grid. The Greensmith Energy Management System (GEMS) technology needed to optimize the performance of these systems is being developed by Greensmith Energy, which was recently acquired by Wärtsilä. GEMS is essentially an operations and monitoring application that optimizes storage and generation assets to ensure they are best suited to perform to market conditions.

Wärtsilä’s HRES require a robust application management solution at their core. The need for an integrated technology architecture has created exciting opportunities for two new types of market participants: technology providers and renewables aggregators. An HRES with solar PV or wind power backed up by a battery electric storage system enables the synchronization of renewable energy technologies with conventional generators. Due to their modularity, integrated hybrid systems offer greater flexibility to adapt to growth in energy demand because they can be easily scaled up.

Not a New Concept, but New Opportunity

The hybridization of energy systems is not a new concept. It likely originates from traditional combined heat and power (CHP) systems, where power can be generated more efficiently with minimum loss by simultaneously generating electricity and heat. While CHP (or cogeneration) refers to a more efficient use of fuels and recovery of waste heat, hybridization explores the issue of reliability and the integration of renewables on the grid. In its latest report, the International Energy Agency forecasts renewable energy will contribute to more than 45% of global electricity generation by 2040. As the costs of renewable energy technologies spiral downwards, uptake across the globe will increase.

According to International Finance Corp., about 1.3 billion people do not have access to reliable, affordable, and clean energy. Integrated HRES could be an opportunity to offer respite to customer segments with poor and unreliable grid access. A large proportion of diesel-based isolated grids could be retrofitted with renewable energy technologies, especially across remote rural villages and isolated islands in energy access markets in Africa and South Asia.

Earlier this year, the Indian government announced that approval had been granted for a 2.5 GW auction for wind and solar hybrid projects to be implemented by Solar Energy Corp. of India (SECI). This project will provide a framework for the promotion of large grid-connected wind-solar PV hybrid systems for optimal and efficient utilization of transmission infrastructure. Such systems will reduce the variability in renewable power generation and assist in achieving better grid stability. The program also aims to encourage new technologies, methods, and hybridization involving the combined operation of wind and solar PV projects.

Exciting Prospects

The resilience of renewables has been an interesting topic of discussion across many energy forums, and the solar industry is a front-runner in these debates. Hybrid systems could play a crucial role in unlocking opportunity through new business models in the energy access market segments via mini/microgrids. Wärtsilä’s hybrid renewable solution can therefore offer a fully integrated solution in a cost-effective model. It offers easier deployment in energy access markets and unlocks exciting prospects for grid integration and island electrification.