Cooperative Energy today dedicated a new gas-fired engine power plant at its Benndale Station, marking the first electric utility globally to own and place Wärtsilä 31SG engines into commercial operation.
The 22.7 MW plant, located in rural George County, features two gas-fired, energy-efficient 20-cyclinder units. The engine power plant will provide valuable grid support for renewable integration for the Cooperative Energy system as well as reliability during potential transmission outages caused by hurricanes or other severe weather conditions.
Cooperative Energy and Wärtsilä held a ribbon-cutting at Benndale Station and provided tours of the leading- edge power facility. The engines were built at Wärtsilä manufacturing facilities in Finland and shipped to the United States through the port of Pascagoula.
The new Wärtsilä 31SG engine solution will provide the required flexibility for renewable integration. The company’s blackstart units will enable Benndale Station to start and begin generating electricity without being connected to an external power source.
“As a not-for-profit electric cooperative, our mission is to provide our members with electricity that is both reliable and economical,” said Jim Compton, Cooperative Energy CEO. “The Wärtsilä engine power plant, which is a great complement to our current generation sources, enables us to achieve this mission. Additionally, these units are twice as efficient as the unit we had at Benndale and more efficient than any of our current simple cycle units.”
The engine power plant demonstrates Wärtsilä’s Smart Power Generation technology that enables an existing power system to operate at maximum efficiency while ensuring large-scale renewables integration by effectively absorbing current and future system load variations lowering the cost of energy. The Smart Power Generation technology is advantageous as Cooperative Energy is in the process of installing increasing levels of renewable generation, notably new solar generation into its network.
The engine power plant replaces Benndale Station’s original gas turbine 16 MW power plant, Cooperative Energy’s first owned generation source that was installed in 1969.
“This marks a milestone for our company,” said Jeff Bowman, Cooperative Energy president. “In 2007 our Board of Directors established a goal to increase our owned generation capacity, and this is a very positive step in that process. The Benndale plant will add flexibility and diversity to our generation fleet, which is positive for our members, our communities, and economic development efforts.”
“Cooperative Energy is a forerunner in delivering a modern and flexible electricity supply to its members. Wärtsilä is proud to be a partner in this. The choice of Wärtsilä 31SG engine generation set, specifically designed for flexible power generation and allowing the integration of high levels of energy from renewable sources speaks for this,” said Mikael Backman, Director, Solutions, Americas, Wärtsilä Energy Business. “Our track record in being a technology leader in power generation in 177 countries around the world, and in all types of climates and operating conditions, represents a clear indication of the value proposition Wärtsilä can deliver to the market.”
Wärtsilä currently has an installed base of 3,668 MW in the United States.