ABB helped build innovative and secure power back-up in Estonia with key partner Wärtsilä

2015-04-17 - ABB, a long-time partner of Wärtsilä, delivered key elements to complete a unique power plant solution, delivering 250 megawatts of emergency power to Estonia and protecting it from blackouts.

The 27 independently controlled dual fuel gen-sets offer redundancy and fast start up times for virtually instant emergency back-up
For Estonia, having a self-sufficient and reliable electricity supply is important, particularly during deep winter when temperatures drop and power use increases. Residents want to know that they are protected from blackouts, as do other countries in the region with grids connected to Estonia’s.

To help accomplish this, ABB was commissioned by Finland-based power solutions provider Wärtsilä to design and supply key elements of a new emergency power plant operated by Elering, the Estonian Transmission System Operator.

With the system from Wärtsilä and ABB fully operating since last July, 250 megawatts of emergency power can be up and running within minutes, supplying sufficient power to light Tallinn, the Baltic country’s capital city. Not only does this make generation capacity more reliable, but it also provides a critical layer of security for Estonia’s direct-current EstLink2 connection with Finland via a cable beneath the Baltic Sea.

“The advantage of this type of diesel or gas-driven engine power plant is that it can be started really fast, so within 10 minutes from request it will supply full power to the network,” says Niklas Wägar, general manager at Power Plant Technology at Wärtsilä.

Niklas Wägar, general manager at Power Plant Technology at Wärtsilä.
Scope of supply

The 250 megawatts of emergency power from the facility located in Kiisa, just inland from the Baltic Sea in northern Estonia, is equivalent to about one-sixth of the nation’s peak power consumption.

ABB provided Wärtsilä with generators, automatic voltage regulators that maintain a constant voltage level within the plant, control systems with protection relays, substations, and special SCADA process control systems. Wärtsilä was responsible for supplying all of the power plant equipment.

Elering’s emergency power station was a unique project, involving requirements that necessitated the two partners come up with innovative solutions. The station requires no permanent on-site personnel, for example, and the generator sets can work on dual-fuel, utilizing natural gas under normal conditions but switching to diesel if necessary.

Close cooperation on R&D

The equipment also had to fulfil new grid code requirements designed to ensure the integrity of the system in instances of low grid voltage. To achieve the required 250 milliseconds fault ride-through time, Wärtsilä and R&D engineers at ABB Generators conducted a large number of simulations and made mechanical changes to the generators in order to achieve the higher inertia required to meet this challenge.

“By combining the expertise of the engine and voltage regulator manufacturers, we were able to reliably calculate and simulate the performance of the genset system,” says John Shibutani, research and development manager for generators at ABB.

John Shibutani, research and development manager for generators at ABB
“And ABB’s unique modular generator design allowed us to adapt to the plant’s demanding requirements while keeping the efficiency and reliability that our platform has been providing for decades," he added.

Even though the station is only designed to operate for about 200 hours per year, it must remain on standby in case there is a supply interruption somewhere in Estonia’s electricity network.

Even so, it is incredibly efficient, consuming only about 200 kW of power while waiting for a start command.

Technical and commercial challenges

“This project was full of both technical and commercial challenges,” says Rajiv Arora, senior program manager at Wärtsilä. “A majority of the equipment has been tailor-made for the power plant. We knew it would take a high level of innovation and collaboration with ABB and other partners to make this vision become reality.”

Kiisa, Estonia's new, state-of-the-art 250 MW emergency power plant, was completed in 2014 to provide power for when it's needed most.
The project also had a tight deadline, leaving no time for delays. The first phase of the dual emergency reserve power plant - a 110-megawatt unit - was completed in 2013, while the second phase was finished three months ahead of schedule in July 2014.

“To be successful in such demanding and innovative projects, the parties involved need to be committed to working outside their comfort zones,” says Arora.

The total capacity of Elering’s Kiisa plant is 250 megawatts. As an emergency reserve plant, Kiisa does not run on a daily basis, but must still be maintained in a state of readiness should an emergency occur. It will most likely be required for about 200 hours per year. Prior to building the Kiisa plant, Estonia bought its emergency reserve from the Latvian electricity producer Latvenergo.

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