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SA flicks a switch for back-up generation

Natalie Filatoff
August 02, 2017
As part of a plan that calls on a modern, flexible mix of energy sources to reliably power the State, the South Australian Government has announced it will purchase nine new dual-fuel GE aeroderivative TM2500 turbine gen-sets through GE’s fast power alliance partner APR Energy to provide crucial back-up to its grid in time for summer.
“This solution will provide more generation than originally planned,” says South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, referring to an earlier 250MW proposal, “while emitting less carbon pollution than Torrens Island Power Station.”

The State’s Our Energy Plan to secure self-sufficiency in its power needs will first deploy the portable, scalable generator units across two temporary locations: the South Australian Power Networks (SAPN) substations at the Adelaide Desalination Plant at Lonsdale and the General Motors Holden Site at Elizabeth.

Connected and cooling their heels by December 1, the TM2500s’ super-fast start-up capacity will initially be used in diesel-fuel mode to balance the grid supply as needed over high-use high-temperature months. When called on and fuelled by diesel, the generators will emit 25% less CO2 per megawatt hour than the former Northern Power Station, which was closed in May 2016.

The turbines’ collective capacity of up to 276 megawatts of generation can power the equivalent of more than 100,000 homes, and intervene to prevent a recurrence of the rolling blackouts the State was forced to implement in February 8 this year.

Having fulfilled their back-up role over the summers of 2017 and 2018, the generator sets will then be regrouped into a gas-fired-generation plant, that can collectively provide efficient power for the remainder of their forecast 25-year lifespan.

 TM2500 generator sets can be transported via land, sea and air to some of the most remote places in the world.

“GE’s TM2500 units are power plants on wheels. They are a proven technology that will provide secure and reliable power to South Australian businesses and households,” says Geoff Culbert, President and CEO of GE Australia, New Zealand & Papua New Guinea. “GE is proud to be bringing its state-of-the-art technology to support South Australia.”

The generator sets will be provided to SAPN through GE’s international fast-power-alliance partner, APR Energy, in a total turnkey solution that provides installation of the plant, operations, maintenance and transformation from 11kV to 66kV.

This is APR Energy’s third project in Australia. In April 2016 it brought GE trailer-mounted generators to provide temporary power relief to Tasmania when it was beset by the twin de-energisers of drought that stalled hydro resources, and a fault in the Basslink cable that connects Tasmania to the eastern-states’ Australian Energy Market. It also provides four TM2500s to Horizon Power in the Pilbara.

GE and APR’s record of successful collaborations led the companies to renew their strategic alliance in January 2017, in order to continue to deliver fast power to regions in urgent need.

In this instance, says Culbert, “The TM2500 units provide unrivalled flexibility to support the immediate needs of the South Australian electricity grid and then seamlessly transition to deliver capacity over the long term.”

Adds Sam Maresh, GE’s senior director of Government Affairs and Policy in the region, who was among the team to take the TM2500 proposal to South Australia in March, “In a place like South Australia where there’s a high penetration of renewables that have the challenges of intermittency, this is the perfect solution. These units start really fast, compared to conventional generation.”

It takes a GE Store of talent to deliver on the needs of a complex energy contract and fully specify its implications for electricity delivery. Adam Bacon, services director of GE ANZ/PNG, says he drew together the forces of GE’s Global Growth Organisation, Government Affairs, Communications, Gas Power Systems, Power Services and Energy Connections to present every facet of integrating the TM2500s into SA’s power-delivery needs. In addition, the TM2500’s core technology, the LM2500 aeroderivative gas turbine, is derived from GE’s highly efficient and reliable CF6 jet engine—enabling GE Energy to benefit from the experience of GE Aviation.

One consideration for a government designing energy solutions for changing times, says Bacon is that, “There’s residual value in these reliable, portable generator sets. So if the market does change and there’s no longer the need for government to participate in the energy space, it can always sell these units.”

The latest generation of TM2500s making their mobile way to South Australia is also cleaner and quieter than competing generators in the market, including reciprocating engines. In the August 1 announcement of its power purchase, the South Australian Government quoted “up to 94% lower nitrous oxide emissions, significantly less particulate matter and up to 20% less noise” as among the factors influencing its choice.

Overall, says Maresh of the South Australian Our Energy Pan, “It’s a reflection to me of a more modern grid which is focused on securing energy, but also nimble in taking energy from different sources at different times, where it’s most efficient to do so.”