Skip to main content

The World Sailing Capital’s New Power Source Will Blow You Away

August 04, 2015
The large German port of Kiel sits at the end of a deep Baltic fjord that cuts into the flat coastal landscape like a bad case of chapped lips. The fjord has long protected the area’s sea merchants, the German Navy’s Baltic Fleet, and helped make the city the sailing capital of the world during the annual Kiel Week.
But Kiel has more ambitions than just being known for boats. In 2008, the port was one of 15 cities behind the European Green Capital Award – an initiative designed to push cities towards healthier, sustainable and more environmentally friendly living. The port is now moving closer to claiming the title.

The local city utility just ordered 20 highly efficient Jenbacher gas engines capable of producing a combined 190 megawatts of electricity and another 192 megawatts of heat. The engines will allow Kiel to shut down a coal-fired heat and electricity plant and reduce its C02 emissions by more than 1.25 million tons.



Above: Inside and outside renditions of the new plant. Image credit: GE Distributed Power Top: Every summer, Kiel becomes the sailing capital of the world during Kiel Week. Image credit: Shutterstock

This is the largest Jenbacher gas engine order since the company opened in the Austrian Alpine town of Jenbach in 1959. GE acquired the business in 2003. Since then, the gas engine manufacturer’s revenues have quadrupled. More than 15,500 Jenbacher gas engines have been supplied to over 170 countries.

Kiel bought the largest and most advanced version of the Jenbacher gas engine, the J920 FleXtra. The engine’s combined efficiency in converting gas into heat and power tops 90 percent. Its electrical efficiency alone is 45 percent. “This is the first clean-sheet new engine design that GE’s Jenbacher gas engines product line has done in a long time,” says Patrick Frigge, a product line leader for power generating gas engines at GE Power & Water. “This is not a scaled up engine. This is not an improvement on an engine. This is the most efficient simple cycle engine in GE’s portfolio.”

But the high efficiency is just one part of the story. The other main aspect is the new plant’s “flexibility,” which will make it easier for the utility to feed renewable energy into the grid.

Here’s how it works: Like much of Germany, the landscape around Kiel is studded with wind turbines spinning in the Baltic breeze and supplying locals with wind power. The new engines will be a key complement to these wind farms and help the utility to increase the share of renewable power in the grid.


The new plant will help Kiel incorporate wind power into the grid. Here, a ship carrying wind turbine blades on a canal near the port. Image credit: Shutterstock.

That’s because they are designed to kick up into high gear in just minutes when the wind stops blowing and replace the lost power. Frigge says that with these engines, Kiel will have the flexibility to be able to start up, meet the demand and then shut down quickly without wasting fuel when the wind picks up.

In fact, the power station in Kiel will be the most flexible large-scale power plant in Germany and a flagship project for Energiewende, an unprecedented energy turnaround the country is currently going through. The turnaround will allow Germany to phase out nuclear power and generate 80 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2050.

A “flexible” Jenbacher J920 FleXtra gas engine is already helping the Bavarian town of Rosenheim amp up its renewable energy usage, and six of the engines are also heading to Texas. Another J920 FleXtra engine will go into operation in Hamburg later this year.

Kiel plans to start building the heat and power plant in May 2016.