In horticulture, hybridization is to blend the properties of two plants into one, hopefully retaining the most useful properties of both. Meanwhile, hybrid-electric cars blend internal combustion engines and electric motors to get the most from a combination of both propulsion systems. And we are increasingly seeing distributed energy generators using two or more technologies to maximize output and flexibility of operation.

Finland’s Wärtsilä has delivered equipment for what it reckons is the largest solar hybrid plant in the world, blending a new solar PV installation with the on-site (and off-grid) diesel generation plant at a gold mine in Burkino Faso, Africa. Engineered by independent power producer, Total Eren, the new 15 MW PV plant has enhanced the performance of the existing 57 MW diesel plant, reducing both fuel burn and carbon emissions. Total Eren says it intends to replicate the hybrid concept elsewhere in Africa.

Meanwhile, two French companies – Engie and Suez – are planning to mix energy-from-waste with solar photovoltaic generation by installing PV plants at 100 waste recycling and treatment plants in France that already produce considerable volumes of biogas. Combined, the PV plants will add up to the size of a nuclear power plant, says Engie, with a total generating capacity of 1 GW.

But hybrid plants don’t have to include two generation technologies – on-site electricity storage adds a second dimension. The pairing of solar with battery storage has become almost mainstream in the last couple of years – here the use of energy storage helps to maximize the on-site use of solar-generated power.

UK-based Clarke Energy has written for Decentralized Energy previously about its increasing involvement with hybrid power generation solutions. A recent example is an industrial installation in Nigeria where the on-site (and again off-grid) gas-fired generation plant now incorporates an ultra-capacitor system to help it deal with large frequency swings caused by manufacturing machines switching in and out. The ultra-capacitor system deploys rapid new power to support operation of the on-site microgrid.

As plant breeders have learned how to blend the useful properties of two organisms to produce a hybrid combining the most useful attributes of each, so have developers of decentralized energy projects.