Keeping the lights on in extreme conditions: Three power plants put to the test


In addition to the basic function of providing grid capacity and energy to their customers, some utilities have additional motivation behind their desire to build a new power plant, particularly as extreme weather, natural disasters, and geopolitical conflicts continue to threaten our power systems. For more, read Keeping the lights on in extreme conditions: Three power plants put to the test.

Key Takeaways

  • In Palmer, Alaska, Mantanuska Electric Association (MEA) built a 170 MW self-generation power plant with ten Wartsila 18V50DF engines. The plant is dual-fuel capable, with the primary fuel being natural gas, and is designed and built to withstand high seismic forces.
  • This foresight proved well-founded when the area experienced a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in November 2018. The facility experienced only minor damage and MEA restored power to most of their territory in less than 24 hours.
  • On Oahu, Hawaiian Electric (HECO) built the highly efficient, flexible 50 MW Schofield Generating Station to provide energy security and resiliency for the Schofield Barracks Army Base. The plant has six Wartsila 20V34DF engines that run on biofuel.
  • In May 2021, HECO performed a demonstration full-system test in which the microgrid serving the Base as an islanded load was successfully established and operated for 36 hours without any interruptions.
  • In New Orleans, Louisiana, Entergy replaced a 1960’s era steam generation plant with the New Orleans Power Station (NOPS), a highly efficient plant that includes seven Wartsila 18V50SG sets producing 128 MW. The plant was designed to withstand high winds and extreme rainfall present during hurricanes.
  • When Hurricane Ida struck South Louisiana in August 2021, Entergy reported that within 48 hours, NOPS was restarted and connected to the local grid.

Path to 100% Perspective

Extreme weather, natural disasters, and the variability of renewable power sources like wind and solar demand greater resiliency in our power systems. Flexible engine power plants offer not just resiliency but also the flexibility and high efficiency that are needed to balance the intermittency of renewable energy and variable weather conditions, proving it’s possible to keep the lights on while meeting decarbonization goals. Dispatchability, dual- and multi-fuel capabilities, low minimum operating levels, zero minimum down times and run times, and fast ramp speeds are all characteristics that utilities and power providers should keep in mind when designing and building resilient energy systems of the future.