Wärtsilä to provide 156 MW of thermal balancing power to enable fast increase in renewables in Nebraska

Source: press release, 6 July 2021

Power plant using Wärtsilä 50 series generating sets
Power plant using Wärtsilä 50 series generating sets (photo: Wärtsilä)

The technology group Wärtsilä will supply equipment for a 156 MW multi-fuel engine power plant to Omaha Public Power District, a public electric utility in the state of Nebraska in the United States. The power plant will be part of the utility’s Power with Purpose project, which will add 400 to 600 MW of utility-scale solar generation along with additional dispatchable balancing power. Since the production of renewable energy varies over the day and is dependent on the weather situation, Wärtsilä’s technology with fast-starting internal combustion engines will be used to balance the power generation to the grid and ensure system stability.

The contract is included in Wärtsilä’s order intake for the second quarter of 2021. The equipment will be delivered during the second half of 2022, and the plant is scheduled to begin commercial operations in May 2023.

Omaha Public Power District’s goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 includes the addition of variable, renewable energy resources balanced by the use of Wärtsilä technology to provide reliability and resiliency. The project is well connected to Wärtsilä’s shift to 100% renewables strategy, whereby the growing share of variable renewable energy is enabled by thermal balancing power.

“We are excited to work together with Omaha Public Power District and support the continued journey towards net-zero carbon emissions and an increased share of renewables in their system. This is yet another example of how we are enabling decarbonisation and supporting our customers on their way to a renewable energy future. Wärtsilä technology is very well suited to providing balancing power through high operational flexibility, reliability and uptime. In fact, this is the second important order of a thermal balancing power plant we announce within the week, the first being the order to Italy.

With our holistic approach to power systems and expertise in different power generating assets, we can support our customers in defining paths to future sustainable power generation,” says Håkan Agnevall, President and CEO, Wärtsilä Corporation.

The new Standing Bear Lake Station plant will be located in Douglas County, Nebraska, and will include nine 18-cylinder Wärtsilä 50DF engines operating on natural gas and light fuel oil as needed. Wärtsilä’s multi-fuel engine technology provides fuel resiliency with engines capable of burning natural gas, light fuel oil, and even hydrogen blends. Wärtsilä engines can later be converted to carbon neutral fuels to further enhance decarbonisation.

Wärtsilä has researched hydrogen as a fuel for 20 years and can currently use 15%-25% hydrogen blended with natural gas. Going forward Wärtsilä is developing the combustion process in its gas engines to enable their use with up to 100% hydrogen.

The installed capacity of Wärtsilä power plants in the United States is close to 3.6 GW. Examples of major Wärtsilä balancing power plants in the country include deliveries to Plains end, Goodman Energy, Denton Energy Center, and New Orleans Power Station.