The rise of renewables requires the engines driving Europe’s future conventional power plants to be flexible in order to support increased use of wind and solar technologies, while also being low-cost and sustainable.
This was the consensus of Tuesday morning’s POWER-GEN Europe panel discussion in Cologne, Germany, sponsored by the CIMAC international council on combustion engines and titled “Powering the grid 24/7: transitioning the energy supply with reciprocating engines”. The discussion was enthusiastically moderated by energy consultant Jacob Klimstra and featured speakers from Wärtsilä, Caterpillar, MAN Diesel & Turbo, ABB Turbo Systems and MTU Onsite Energy.
As Wärtsilä’s product development director, Ulf Åstrand, put it, while it is difficult to predict the future, it’s a safe bet that tomorrow’s power plants will need to fulfil multiple functions. He said a plant that can supply flexible baseload power, flexible peaking and intermediate load, grid stability and ancillary services, and standby reserves is “a very safe investment” offering “many benefits for the future”.
The panel presented a number of ways reciprocating engines can adapt to Europe’s changing energy environment including increased efficiency and emissions control. They also outlined ways to cope with the technical challenges associated with changing grid connection rules. The impression left after a lively discussion was that Europe’s engine makers are on top of the changing energy situation, and we should expect further interesting developments.