Tamanrasset, an Algerian city of nearly 100,000 inhabitants in the heart of the immense Sahara Desert, seems like it’s far from everything when observed on a map. Located around 2,000 kilometers (some 1,200 miles) from the capital, Algiers, Tamanrasset is connected to the rest of the world mainly by the trans-Saharan road that crosses the largest desert in the world, from northern Algeria to Niger and beyond to the south. Food is transported mainly by road and sometimes by plane. But what about another resource that is indispensable: electricity?
Constructing and maintaining power lines over thousands of kilometers isn’t always a viable approach. So residents have constantly relied on locally supplied power. Today this includes dozens of GE TM2500 aeroderivative gas turbines. Their extensive use in Algeria underscores the significant advantages that these truck-mounted, mobile power plants, derived from jet-engine technology, bring to countries that are focusing on energy security or emergency power — there are more than 300 installed worldwide. And they also play a crucial role in the energy transition as Algeria works toward relying more on renewable solar power.
More than a decade ago, Algeria was facing severe electricity shortages, reaching more than 1,000 megawatts (MW) at the time, especially during the summer period. Temperatures there can reach peaks of 45° Celsius, or 113° Fahrenheit. The government decided to take firm action to address the problem. GE Gas Power supported these efforts by installing high-capacity gas turbines in northern Algeria and TM2500s to deliver power to the rest of the country. While the construction of a large-scale power plant could take years, transporting and installing TM2500s are relatively quick. In 2013, it took only a few months to install the first turbines.
Today there is a fleet of 38 TM2500 turbines at 18 sites in the region, with a combined production capacity of up to 1.17 gigawatts (GW). They can operate reliably in the harsh, sandstorm-whipped environment of the Sahara. The nimble TM2500 can also be moved to different locations to help meet changing needs. A recent example was the transfer of a turbine from a site in the north of the country to Tindouf, a town in southwestern Algeria on the border with Mauritania.
The TM2500 also boasts advantages over diesel generators. Not only can it deliver more power — up to 36 MW each — but it can also operate efficiently at partial load. This means that two TM2500s can be operated at partial load without losing efficiency and while retaining the possibility of rapidly increasing power to help meet any increase in demand or to compensate for the downtime of another turbine.
Beyond energy security, the TM2500s are important in Algeria’s energy transition and efforts toward net-zero targets. Algeria is working on building 15 GW of solar energy by 2035 with several announced projects to install solar power plants across the country. The TM2500s help balance the grid during the transition, meaning they can be turned on or off depending on weather and demand conditions. In addition, the aeroderivative turbines are capable of operating with more sustainable fuels such as hydrogen, which, when blended with other fuels, fits with Algeria’s ambitions to produce, use, and export low-carbon hydrogen.
GE’s TM2500 is just one part of its industrial family of aeroderivative gas turbines. Its LM6000 aeroderivative is a leader for customers who need more than 40 MW of power. With over 40 million operating hours and more than 1,300 units shipped, the LM6000 offers greater than 99% start and operational reliability and over 98% availability. The LM2500 family of aeroderivative gas turbines, including the LM2500XPRESS, boasts more than 120 million operating hours, several times the operating experience of its competitors combined, and flexibility and reliability.
The TM2500 provides a baseload bridge to permanent power installations or for generating backup power in the wake of natural disasters, or in the case of plant shutdowns, grid instability, or isolated locations. For Algeria, the TM2500 will “help them achieve their strategic objectives including energy security for several regions in Algeria and increased solar power penetration,” said Lotfi Skandrani, GE Gas Power’s general manager of aeroderivative gas turbines for the Middle East and Africa. “In addition to providing quick and mobile power to remote or inaccessible areas such as Tamanrasset, our TM2500 aeroderivative gas turbines can be used to stabilize the grid as more solar power projects come online,” he concluded.
Top: The Hoggar Mountains in Tamanrasset Province, southern Algeria. Credit: Shutterstock