The technology group Wärtsilä has completed the delivery of an island grid energy solution on Graciosa in the Azores.

The order for Graciólica, announced in January 2018, is a project by HowardScott. It was placed by Portuguese project company Graciolica Lda and supported by its majority shareholder, Denmark based Recharge A/S.

The inauguration of the Graciosa Hybrid Renewable Power Plant took place on Graciosa on 20 February 2020. The purpose of the island grid is to reduce diesel fuel consumption and maximise renewable energy for the over 4,000 island inhabitants. The use of renewables will be increased from 15 per cent to 65 per cent with Wärtsilä’s new technology solution.

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Energy storage is needed to overcome the intermittency of renewable sources, manage the frequency and quality of the supplied power, and provide backup energy to meet spikes in demand. The power plant includes an energy storage system that enables a more resilient and sustainable power system as critical grid asset.

The entire island’s energy management is monitored, integrated and optimised by Wärtsilä’s GEMS, an advanced energy management software system.

GEMS software uses artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to optimise multiple energy generation assets based on load patterns and weather forecasting. GEMS’s computing technology and logic also accommodates the island’s renewable intermittent sources such as solar and wind.

Unique to the project is that GEMS does both individual asset control, as well as system balancing to maximise renewable energy penetration, something traditionally carried out by system operators.

The potential of energy storage on islands

Island grids present a unique set of challenges, particularly the heavy dependence on liquid fuel imports, coupled with a growing concern for climate change and need for reliable energy to provide critical power needs.

“As a nation of islands, climate change is a matter of urgent priority,” said Scott Macaw, director of HowardScott. “The Graciólica project is one example of the ways in which we are working to mitigate the effects of the environmental crisis. The island grid integrated and optimised by Wärtsilä will provide Graciosa with an environmental benefit as well as many economic benefits to our local communities.”

“The Graciosa project demonstrates the enormous potential of energy storage in maximising renewable generation in our power systems,” said Risto Paldanius, director, business development, energy storage and optimisation, Wärtsilä.

“Today, about 17 per cent of global energy generation comes from renewables, but as we move towards higher renewable energy penetration levels, energy storage becomes a critical asset. Utilities and independent power producers are increasingly turning to energy storage systems to integrate renewable sources into their baseload generation to build more efficient, reliable and environmentally sound hybrid power systems.”