July 1, 2002 — What do the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, soccer’s World Cup, the Rio de Janeiro Carnival in Brazil, and the World Trade Center site have in common?
Other than being high-profile events or sites of intense public interest, they are also highly energy-intensive. And in each case, rental power played a key role in addressing the temporary electricity demand.
While high-profile events such as these attract much of the publicity, rental power solutions extend far beyond the bright media lights, into applications such as utility grid support, replacement power during scheduled or unscheduled outages at industrial and commercial facilities, on-site power supply at construction sites, and “insurance” power for clients concerned about high electricity prices.
And although the rental power market has slowed somewhat from where it was the last two years – when business was booming to help utilities deal with inadequate capacity and hot weather – the rental power market is establishing itself as a critical cog in the power machine.
The rental power market has grown into a multi-billion dollar business. “We estimate the size of the rental market at around $3.6 billion in 2002, including rental temperature control,” said Stephen Bernstein, manager of business development and global sales with GE Energy Rentals.
“We estimate growth over the next four years at 10 percent CAGR, which is in-line with the general rental business.” The driving factors for the growing rental market are many and varied, but they include:
• More efficient utilization of capital, by not having to outlay or allocate capital for those assets that can be rented;
• Physical, by not having to provide storage, testing and maintenance facilities;
• Human resources, by not having to employ operating, maintenance and repair personnel;
• A desire to have the most efficient, and newest, equipment;
• Tax implications;
• Regulatory requirements or concerns; and
• Increased market penetration through a better understanding of the benefits of renting over buying.
The rental market encompasses everything from kW-sized portable gas-fired generators for backup and remote power supply to multi-MW trailer-mounted diesel gen-sets and gas turbines for temporary power supply or replacement power.
The industry is still primarily built around diesel gen-sets, although gas-fired recips and gas turbines are making significant inroads in applications where gas fuel is readily available and/or where emissions restrictions limit the operational time for diesel units.
“The market for large power blocks is already shifting toward gas turbine-based solutions, although the small-scale emergency power market will remain dominated by diesels for the time being,” said Paul Marcroft, Business Development Manager for Alstom Power Rentals.
The industry is also still primarily built around a distributor model, with dealers in local areas providing much of the sales, service and logistics support.
Caterpillar and Aggreko are the industry stalwarts, although a number of new players with big plans, and a host of smaller players, are nipping at their heels, including GE Energy Rentals, Cummins Power Rent, Alstom, Kohler, Stewart & Stevenson, and Sunbelt Rentals.
The interest in the rental market by these companies makes one thing clear – the business is becoming more competitive, which should be good news for rental customers.
Rental to the Rescue
The power rental business has been around for decades, but it gained a large jolt of publicity in the midst and aftermath of the power shortages and transmission problems that plagued California, the Midwest, the Northwest, and several other regions in 2000 and 2001.
Utilities scrambled for supplemental power to compensate for inadequate transmission capacity, inadequate power generation capacity, and severe weather conditions.
Utilities unable or unwilling to secure additional generating capacity paid dearly. Seattle City Light, for example, reportedly spent more than $700 million buying power in 2000-01, compared to just over $80 million spent the previous two years, and has now accumulated more than $1.7 billion in debt.
“Last year, we had about 650 MW in utility contracts for prime power applications,” said Rocky Hofstetter, Cummins Power Rent General Manager. “This year, we only have a couple of hundred MWs under contract for utility applications.”
The big difference between this year and last is that lower demand and additional supply from new power plants have resulted in lower power prices this year, thereby dampening utility demand for rental power.
Utility rental projects for prime power are often limited by emissions – particularly in states like California – which puts limits on run-times for diesel units. “There’s no place in the U.S. that I’m aware of where you can run a diesel 24 hours per day,” said Hofstetter.
Run times for diesels are typically restricted to 250-300 hours over a defined length of time (3-6 months), although gas-fired reciprocating engines and gas turbines can often get approved for 1,000 or more hours of operation because of their reduced emissions profile.
Several utilities and industrial clients have taken advantage of the benefits of gas-fired rental units:
• ComEd, which relied on rented diesel gen-sets in 1998 and 1999 for back-up power and peaking capacity, opted instead for five rented gas turbines from GE Energy Rentals in 2000. The 22.8 MW TM2500 units, based on the proven LM2500 aeroderivative gas turbine, offer light weight, dual fuel capability, and operating versatility. The ComEd units ran on natural gas at 60 Hz, but then were shipped to Ireland for operation on distillate fuel at 50 Hz.
• At the Puget Sound refinery in Anacortes, Wash., Equilon Enterprises decided to install four XQ5200 systems from Cat Rental Power in 2001 to provide the refinery with a steady energy supply. The XQ5200, a trailer-mounted unit dispatchable within six minutes, is based on the Solar Taurus 60 gas turbine, with an ISO rating of 5200 kW.
As the energy crisis has eased over the past year, utilities are not as desperate to commit to rental contracts. In many cases, however, the transmission issues remain, waiting to rear their ugly heads. “The T&D infrastructure is still a problem in many regions,” said Luis Ramirez, vice president of operations with GE Energy Rentals.
“Weaknesses in the grid and power instability during peak usage periods continue to be a challenge.”
A case in point is Long Island. Recent failures within two weeks in two major transmission lines that supply power to the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) left the utility scrambling to secure replacement power for the summer. Although one of the lines, Y-49, has returned to service, the other, Y-50, is still undergoing repair.
Further, the new cross-Sound transmission project may not be available until mid-July, and four of the new peaking turbines that LIPA is installing may not be on-line until mid to late July. The result is a potential shortfall of almost 500 MW of power.
To counteract the loss of transmission capacity, LIPA is installing 200 MW of temporary emergency standby generation in the form of ten GE TM2500 gas turbines at three LIPA substations. “We need the emergency standby generators as an insurance policy,” said LIPA Chairman Richard Kessel.
“Two cable failures in two weeks underscores how vulnerable Long Island is to the loss of off-island electricity supplies. The standby generators will provide us with a small emergency electric supply, which could be the margin between keeping the lights on Long Island during an extreme heat wave.”
Kessel stressed that the emergency generators would only be used during periods of extreme heat and only if absolutely necessary to prevent rolling blackouts.
Since the portable turbines will have limited use and will only be available for use in July, August and part of September, the generators are exempt from a State Environmental Quality Review Act assessment.
However, LIPA is undertaking an environmental assessment to identify any potentially significant impacts that could be caused, and will take appropriate action to minimize any potential impacts if necessary.
An alternative to the traditional rental contract is to team with the rental company in a quasi-merchant mode. The rental power company essentially sets itself up as an independent power producer, working with the utility to define viable substation locations, coordinate installation, and define a strike price for operation.
Cummins Power Rent, for example, has several such partnerships in place. “We can watch the spot market price every five minutes in PJM,” said Hofstetter. “When the market price begins to inch up past our strike price, we’ll determine the point at which the revenue generation potential will offset our costs and provide a decent profit.”
The Northwest has been a hot spot for rental power applications. A lack of rainfall in the Northwest in early 2001, for example, was one factor that compelled the Grant County (Wash.) Public Utility District (PUD) to consider the benefits of rental power. Rainfall shortages severely limited hydroelectric generation in the Northwest, forcing local utilities to turn to the spot market for needed power.
Washington State increased its dependence on power generated in California from 12 percent to 20 percent in 2001, at the absolute wrong time when prices were skyrocketing in California’s deregulated market.
“I was approached by PUD back in January 2001 about a rental power project they were considering to make up for some expected shortages,” said Project Manager Lee Willis of Titan Power Plus LLC.
“After about three months’ of analysis and negotiations, we finally committed to the project,” which consisted of eleven 1.5 MW rental gen-sets from Cummins Power Rent. Timing was critical, as power prices on the open market averaged $300/MWh in May 2001 as the project began installation.
Willis examined other technological options such as gas turbines, but quickly ruled them out. “This was going to be a short-term, fixed-length contract from August 2001 through January 2002,” said Willis. “At the time we were developing the project, the cost of a turbine was estimated at 2-3 times the cost of the diesel units. Also, we couldn’t find any turbines that would have been available for at least 3-4 months.”
The first of the 11 gen-sets were delivered on May 10, 2001, within five days of contract signing. Willis coordinated the efforts of multiple contracts and suppliers to get the site graded, trenches dug, conduit run, ground wiring installed, fuel tank set in place, and the gen-sets installed and interconnected – all within a mandated four-week window. All 11 units were installed, plumbed and successfully tied into the grid on June 7.
Titan Power’s deal with Cummins consisted of an eight-month contract period, with four levels of pricing based on engine running hours: a standby rate if the engines sat idle, a single-shift rate, a double-shift rate, and a triple-shift rate. Service and maintenance provisions were also included in the contract to guarantee the units’ availability and operation.
Willis cautions power renters to be completely familiar with the contract details, such as insurance, responsibility for various maintenance functions, vendor response time in the event of a unit malfunction, and payment schedules. Rental companies, for example, often use a 28-day month for billing purposes.
The units had to be ready to generate on 24 hours notice from the utility. PUD made the decision to generate, and Titan Power was then in charge of the plant’s operation. “We originally planned to have a fully automated, remote operation plant,” said Willis, “but when it became apparent we wouldn’t be called upon to generate very often, we scrapped that part of the project.”
Titan Power and PUD decided to let the contract expire in early 2002 since power prices had fallen dramatically. The gen-sets were disconnected and returned to Cummins. Willis estimates the dismantling costs at around 5 percent of total project cost.
Lighting Up Logan
Farther south, residents of Logan, Utah experienced a similarly expensive power scenario. When power prices rose in June 2000, Logan City Light & Power expected that the $10 million it had reserved in the bank for power purchases would be more than sufficient to carry the municipal utility through the summer months until prices fell in the fall. When prices didn’t fall, Logan City quickly began examining other options to reduce its 30 percent dependence on market power.
“We priced the rental generators and estimated our running costs at around $150/MWh,” said Ron Saville, Logan City Light & Power Director. “At the time, market prices were ranging from that up to as high as $500/MWh. We looked at power prices from power marketers and other utilities we had done business with, and all pricing seemed to be in excess of the $150 range available from the rental units.”
Logan City analyzed its needs on peak hours and contracted with Cummins for nine 1.5 MW generators to cover those peaks.
“A single larger unit would have provided too much power at times,” said Saville. “The smaller units met our fluctuating demands better than a larger one. Also, our air quality permit limited us to three units per site, and substation space and transformer capacity imposed additional constraints.” Each of the units required environmental permits, but the Department of Air Quality expedited the process by issuing a “blanket” permit to Cummins for its engines.
The nine gen-sets functioned as peaking capacity for Logan City, which only used them when market power prices exceeded $150/MWh. The units interfaced with Logan City’s SCADA system, enabling the operators to remotely start as many units as needed to meet current demand. Although the rental units achieved their intended purpose – saving Logan City an estimated $330,000 while in use – Saville acknowledges that in hot weather, the units did not perform as well as expected.
“We thought we would get 1.5 MW from them, but occasionally we had to power them down to guard against a tendency to overheat. The rental contract should clearly explain if any adjustments will be made to payment requirements if the rental units provide less than rated power output.”
As power prices slumped in Spring 2001, Logan City relied on the rental units less and less, and they were ultimately disconnected. Furthermore, Logan City is completing the installation of three 5 MW gas turbine units, which will replace the peaking capacity provided by the rental units.
Power to the Peaks
The Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City provided a big test for temporary power generation, especially in the aftermath of 9-11. Spread out over 20 different venues, the Games offered less-than-ideal locations to site power equipment, such as the sides of various mountains for the skiing and sledding events. Supplying power to these locations required rugged technology, excellent logistic support, proven distribution capabilities, and flexible implementation skills to react to changing circumstances.
Planning for the Winter Games began 18 months in advance of the opening ceremony in February 2002. Aggreko, selected by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee as the sole provider of temporary power and electrical distribution, immediately began designing the temporary power systems, coordinating its efforts with those of the SLOC, even sharing the same CAD drawings to facilitate conflict-free design.
By summer 2001, Aggreko’s 107-member team was in Salt Lake installing more than 3,000 electrical distribution panels, 250 transformers and 250 generator sets with a total generating capacity of more than 100 MW.
The events of 9-11 precipitated substantial changes in the security aspects of the power generation system, according to Aggreko Vice President Gordon Broussard. The SLOC widened security zones considerably, added additional magnetic analyzer (metal detection) stations, and established additional military command posts, forcing Aggreko to add about 10 percent to the planned generating capacity.
The climate and terrain surrounding Salt Lake City presented several unique challenges: Black Hawk helicopters were required to deliver some of the gen-sets to remote sections, such as at the top of the men’s downhill ski course; rock climbers were employed in certain areas to run cable to and from generators; and Aggreko’s maintenance technicians had to strap on skis to reach some of the units for check-ups and servicing.
The SLOC demanded that the power supply system be as environmentally friendly as possible. All of the gen-sets were equipped with a Save-All basin to contain any fluid leak or spill from release to the environment. SLOC also mandated that all of the electrical distribution equipment be UL-listed. The UL-listing ensures that equipment meets the highest safety standards and the increasingly stringent demands for electrical codes for temporary power and distribution services.
Immediately following the Winter Games, much of the equipment in use in Salt Lake was shipped halfway around the world to provide temporary power for the World Cup soccer events in Japan. “We were not awarded a design/build contract for the World Cup, only a commercial supply contract,” said Scott McShan, Aggreko Global Event Director.
“This meant that we had to work with Japanese engineers who were already in place and consequently not familiar with our equipment or temporary power for events in general. Like most engineers, they were very good at what they were trained to do, but there simply isn’t any training for ‘temporary power design,’ especially when you are dealing with specific equipment and the redundant aspects that have to be incorporated into the design.”
This article is scheduled to appear in Power Engineering Magazine, July 2002. To read the current issue of Power Engineering, visit http://pe.pennnet.com/Articles/Print_TOC.cfm?Section=Articles&SubSection=CurrentIssue.