STORY Power Generation

Helping the energy transition succeed

Posted on December 07, 2022 by Lucie Maluck

Renewable energies are the basis for a successful energy transition. Nevertheless, mtu gensets remain indispensable, as this project in Chile shows.
Pajonales, Chile
Chile wants to become climate-neutral by 2050, and more besides: it's seeking 100% emissions-free energy self-sufficiency and a top ranking as the world's largest hydrogen exporter. Ambitious, but doable, because as it transitions, Chile has the help of 265 mtu electrical generator sets delivering a total of 475 MW of power.  

Pick out the countries that have the best conditions for achieving an energy turnaround and Chile will be amongst them. The Atacama desert in the north, for example, is one of the places with the most intense solar radiation in the world, making it an ideal location for harnessing solar energy. And a wind-swept 4000-km stretch of Chilean coastline provides the perfect setting for wind farms. On top of that, Chile is home to hundreds of volcanos and the vast geothermal reservoirs lying dormant beneath them. According to a study carried out by the Chilean Energy Ministry in collaboration with the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), Chile has the potential to generate over 5,000 terawatt hours of electricity per year using renewables. That exceeds the country's national power requirement, currently around 75 terawatt hours per year, by a long way.  

In recent years, Chile has massively increased the amount of electrical power it produces from renewables. In 2014, solar, small-scale hydro power, biomass and wind accounted for just 6% of the energy mix. Seven years on, that share had grown to 25%. By 2035, over half of electrical power in Chile is to be produced from renewable sources.  

265 mtu electrical generator sets keep Chile's power supply stable  

The problem is that although climate-neutral energy can be produced from renewable sources, the amount generated never remains constant. On days that are less sunny or wind-still, the energy yield decreases. Yet electrical power continues to be needed. Moreover, not just the weather conditions, but the changing load profiles of electricity consumers lead to fluctuations in demand and supply. The solution lies in fossil fuel systems that can be absolutely relied upon to deliver electrical power immediately on demand – just as Chile's five mtu diesel generator sets do. Acting as part of a consortium with general contractor TSK, Rolls-Royce built the systems in the last few years for Chilean company Prime Energia Quickstart. The five plants comprise a total of 265 16V 4000 DS 2500 generator sets with a total power output of 475 MW.  

More and more electricity - not only in Chile - is generated with renewable sources. If these are not available, mtu gensets step in and keep the power supply stable.

mtu generator sets deliver power when it matters  

The generator sets need just two minutes to ramp up to full capacity, but that capability is not actually required in Chile, where they have a window of fifteen to thirty minutes for reaching full load. They do so at all times at the command of the CEN (Choordinator Electrico Nacional), but then have to perform 100%, otherwise Prima Energia faces weighty penalties.  

Exporting energy in hydrogen form  

Chileans are not to be the only beneficiaries of the country's green electrical power because Chile is looking to increase its green energy exports, be they in the form of electricity or hydrogen. In its national strategy for green hydrogen, the Chilean government has set out to use the country's vast solar and wind resources to produce the gas which is so essential to the energy transition. Its ambition is to set up electrolyzer capacity of five gigawatts by 2025 and use it to produce at least 200 tons of green hydrogen per year. By the year 2030, Chile is to become the world's biggest exporter of hydrogen with a total of 25 gigawatts of electrolyzer capacity at its disposal. This hydrogen will play a key role in supporting the transition to climate-neutrality worldwide. In fuel cells, for example, it can produce electrical power CO2-neutrally; ships and vehicles it can power in a climate-neutral way and in industry, it can replace what is referred to as 'grey hydrogen' – the hydrogen made using natural gas. Electrical power from renewables forms the bedrock of these developments, and Chile is producing more and more of it.  

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