Four Important Ways Aero-Derivative Gas Turbines Are Being Utilized in Power Systems

Aero-derivative gas turbines are widely used in the power industry. As the name implies, aero-derivative gas turbines evolved from innovations to proven technologies used in airplane jet engines. These gas turbines provide anywhere from 30 MW to 140 MW of efficient, reliable power, and deliver operational savings to energy providers worldwide.

According to Harsh Shah, vice president of sales and business development with Mitsubishi Power Aero, there are four key areas where aero-derivative gas turbines are used. “The first is what we would call a traditional peaking application,” he said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. This is important when demand exceeds supply during certain periods of the day. “You basically want an asset that can cover the extra demand,” he said.

Another application is what Shah called “reverse peaking.” This is when supply decreases quickly for some reason, such as cloud cover affecting solar output, a rapid decrease in wind generation, or some other supply disruption. “If supply drops below the demand, you can have a solution like aero-derivatives to cover that in a very, very, very short time,” said Shah.

Shah said emergency and fast-track applications also provide regular opportunities for aero-derivatives. These can arise from weather-related events or other unforeseen activities. Sometimes, problems result from inadequate planning, or other political and social motivations that require quick deployment of power systems, which aero-derivatives are ideally suited to accommodate.

“Last, but certainly not least, is distributed power and grid independent operations,” Shah said. Things like crypto-mining operations or hydraulic fracturing require significant power, and aero-derivative units can quickly fill the role and offer the mobility to change locations, if situations change.

As mentioned, aero-derivatives fill an important role in support of renewables, and that is likely to increase as more renewable energy resources are added to the grid. “Renewables growth and its impact on grid dynamics is, I believe, one of the key challenges that the power sector faces as it aims to decarbonize over the next 20 or 30 years,” Shah said.

Power producers worldwide strive to supply reliable power to all customers 100% of the time. That requires dispatchable assets that can provide power as needed, which intermittent renewable resources are not capable of without energy storage or immense overbuild.

“On-demand, aero-derivative power, we believe, is an ideal way to bridge this capacity and reliability gap effectively, and more importantly, very affordably,” said Shah. “Such peaker plants would offer, in our view, a clearest path to complementing the rise in renewables while still maintaining grid stability and reliability.” Aero-derivative gas turbines are very effective in these cases because of their inherent fast-start and flexible design. “The units are designed for five-minute starts from a complete cold condition,” Shah explained.

Mobile units are highway compatible and can provide emergency power in nine days or less upon arrival. With modular designs, quick-disconnect cables, factory assembled modules, and pre-fabricated field piping, aero-derivative gas turbines are designed to minimize setup time and promptly begin generating the precise power needed for almost any situation.

To hear the full interview, which includes examples of emergency and mobile projects Mitsubishi Power Aero has completed and the results owners experienced, listen to The POWER Podcast. Click on the SoundCloud player below to listen in your browser now or use the following links to reach the show page on your favorite podcast platform:

For more power podcasts, visit The POWER Podcast archives.

Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).

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