By Raul Pereda
Natural disasters have hit nearly every continent in 2017. We have seen flooding and monsoons in Southeast Asia, landslides in Africa, earthquakes in Mexico and Central America, and a barrage of hurricanes that destroyed many Caribbean islands and impacted the south and east coasts of the United States.
In these cases, thousands of homes were destroyed, schools were closed, water treatment facilities faltered, and hospitals were shut down. To restore critical infrastructure, reliable power is a must. One underestimated area of destruction that presents a major barrier to recovery is widespread power outage. With our growing dependence on technology and interconnected systems, power reliability is a basic need for disaster-affected communities, right alongside medical care, water, and food.
Consider that even before this year’s consecutive hurricane, flooding, and earthquake devastation, six of the top ten biggest natural disasters worldwide happened in the last decade. In the U.S. alone, the average cost to the economy from weather-related outages is estimated at $18 billion to $33 billion a year, and early estimates of the combined damage from the recent record-breaking storms could reach $290 billion.
It may be difficult to predict when a natural disaster will occur, but governments and municipal authorities can put proactive plans in place to ensure power infrastructure is restored with minimal down time so that citizens are not left in the dark.
An Emergency Power Lifeline
One effective disaster preparedness solution for high-risk areas is a mobile gas turbine generating package that provides quick and reliable power and superior performance for emergency or fluctuating power demands.
Media coverage of disaster relief sometimes focuses on the use of portable, standby diesel or petrol generators. However, for large-scale restoration of municipal power, industrial gas turbines are required and also need to be mobile in order to be effective in emergency situations.
With lower cost than standard industrial turbines and higher efficiency, an emergency mobile package powered by an aero-derivative engine is able to generate 30 megawatts of power, enough electricity to light up to 30,000 homes in times of temporary power loss.
For example, in March 2011, the devastating 9.0 magnitude Tohoku earthquake – one of the largest in recorded history – hit the northeastern coast of Japan. This earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused massive damage to nuclear reactors and infrastructure, causing immediate loss of power and forcing thousands of residents to evacuate. To make matters worse, several other nuclear and conventional power plants also went offline, causing rolling blackouts across several regions in Japan and leaving tens of thousands of people without power for weeks.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) needed an emergency power solution that could be quickly deployed. After assessing infrastructure damage, PW Power Systems provided a 135-megawatt solution utilizing three FT8 MOBILEPAC gas turbine units (25 MW each) and two SWIFTPAC units (30 MW each) that were quickly installed at two TEPCO sites to aid Japan’s relief efforts. Both plants were fully operational and contributing to the national grid with equipment supplied from the United States within 45 days.
“When a pre-commissioned emergency turbine solution is delivered to a site-ready location, it can be generating power in less than 24 hours.”
– PW Power Systems
More recently, during the holy month of Ramadan in 2015, the Algerian government suffered a series of power outages at its two main generating plants throwing a fasting population of thousands into darkness. Given the importance of this holy time of year, it was crucial for the country’s leaders to restore electricity as quickly as possible. In this situation, four FT8 MOBILEPAC units were completed, commissioned, and brought online in less than three weeks.
Emergency power covers scenarios as diverse as disaster relief, peak periods, and sudden blackouts. Since the first
FT8 MOBILEPAC was deployed in 2004, PW Power Systems has delivered more than 130 units around the world, demonstrating the versatility of mobile turbine solutions. Whether to connect rural African communities in Guinea, restore power at a downed plant in Venezuela, deliver electricity to the Caribbean island of Martinique during a high-season outage, or add capacity to an isolated grid in Algeria to avoid unrest, emergency mobile power solutions have served as a lifeline to those in desperate need.
Powerful Rapid Response Activation
When a pre-commissioned emergency turbine solution is delivered to a site-ready location, it can be generating power in less than 24 hours. For example, the FT8 MOBILEPAC gas turbine package manufactured by PW Power Systems needs little on-site preparation and does not need any foundation or concrete pad allowing for quick installation. In emergency configuration, the unit can be shipped in a single Antonov aircraft for rapid worldwide delivery. The package is comprised of two trailers: one contains the gas turbine, electric generator, exhaust collector, diffuser, and engine lube oil systems, and start package. The second trailer carries the 15 kV switchgear, control system, operation panel, protective relays, batteries and charger, and motor control center.
These mobile gas turbines also produce significantly less emissions than reciprocating engine solutions, making them an ideal fit for environmentally conscious customers and developed markets with stringent environmental regulations.
Faced with today’s seemingly increased threat from natural disasters, reliable and fast-track emergency power solutions are needed more than ever. Furthermore, with increased electrification of developing nations, the world’s energy consumption is predicted to increase substantially. In times of great need, a mobile aero-derivative turbine is a quick-dispatch solution with the ability to deliver the flexibility and performance needed to adapt to rapidly evolving power demands.
Raul Pereda is president and chief executive officer of PW Power Systems.