Distributed Power systems
While countries such as Laos, Thailand and Vietnam in the Greater Mekong Region may share a valuable sub-regional infrastructure, the practicalities of a similar shared grid over a broader regional basis are challenged by physical and political issues (Global Business Report, October 2013). Distributed power however provides a viable answer to many of those challenges. On-site power production allows for access to electricity in rural areas with little or no power grid as well as provides flexibility to operate within stringent environmental regulations. Distributed power brings the added benefit of improving industrial and residential efficiency to ensure provision of emergency power in the event of natural disasters and other planned outages. There is, it seems, a local and secure solution to the region’s energy needs, and one that could form the basis for further regional co-operation in future.
Indeed there are already some fantastic regional examples of this system at work:
There is a successful partnership established with a national utility company to utilise woodchips powered by Jenbacher technology to power a biomass power plant which generates 1MW of electricity.
There is a collaboration with a Malaysian company to utilise biogas from palm oil mill effluents to generate electricity using the Jenbacher gas engine technology.
Rice husks are used to power the rural region of Kompong Thom, utilising Waukesha gas engine technology. There is even a surplus from the 1.5MW of electricity generated that is sold to the local grid, providing an economical power supply and contributing to the improvement of living standards for people in the area.
An hour south of Manila in the Philippines lies Cavite Pig Farm, housing 100,000 pigs and powered by a Waukesha gas compression engine. The engine makes use of unusual fuel sources, such as methane from pigs’ waste, to provide power to run farm operations at reduced costs.
The case for solar and wind as sources for energy
And any discussion about alternative power sources would not be complete without mention of solar and wind, both rapidly becoming more widespread in energy generation.
Vietnam’s successful implementation of 10 wind turbines in Bac Lieu, leading eventually to an additional 52 wind turbines, will add up to 99.2MW of wind energy in total when its starts commercial operation in October 2014. These 1.6 – 82.5MW, wind turbines are the industry’s most widely deployed megawatt-class machine with more than 19,000 units installed worldwide. Clearly there is growing confidence in the technology
Where do we go from here?
As policy makers, regulators and utilities endeavour to identify an optimum generation mix, they will have to weigh the available technology that can be brought to bear in terms of greater operational efficiency and cost savings. Responsible countries have an obligation to take advantage of the most efficient technology available. More efficient turbines can provide that operational efficiency; using less fuel and reducing the demand for shrinking resources. Done correctly, this translates into cost savings, lower rates to the end user and a reduced environmental footprint. It’s our future.