If you’ve flown on a commercial airplane, you’ve likely sat within a hundred feet of an operating gas turbine engine. Gas turbines have been used to power aircraft since the 1940s. But gas turbines like those on airplanes are also used for generating electricity. These designs are known as aero-derivative gas turbines and occupy a special place in the power market.
Aero-derivative gas turbines are popular because of their reliability, efficiency, and flexibility. They are significantly lighter, respond faster, and have a smaller footprint than their heavy-duty counterparts, which makes them much easier to utilize for temporary purposes and in applications that require mobility.
“If you look at the high-level goal for the industry in terms of decarbonization, grid resilience, resource adequacy, and affordability, the aero-derivatives fit perfectly in all those categories,” Harsh Shah, vice president of sales and business development with Mitsubishi Power Aero, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “We provide solutions that generate power from 30 MW to 140 MW, and we see a very strong demand for these products across the globe—everywhere—in developed nations, developing nations, whether it’s industrial, utilities, independent power producers, and even captive power producers.”
Shah said the main reason for the demand is that when customers require fast-track power solutions, and can’t wait years between signing a contract and having the power come online, aero-derivatives are often the best option. “When time is an important factor, the aero-derivative solution is very important,” he said.
Shah offered a recent example to demonstrate how quickly aero-derivative gas turbines can be deployed. Mitsubishi Power Aero (previously PW Power Systems, the company underwent a rebranding on April 1) worked with Mexico’s state-owned power utility, Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), to add 150 MW of generation to help meet summer demand in the Mexicali, Baja California region. Negotiations began in January this year, and the capacity was available to the grid less than four months after the contract was signed.
“We supplied five MOBILEPAC units. These are trailer-mounted, very-mobile, very-compact units—don’t require any site preparation, in terms of, you don’t need a concrete foundation, minimal work required at the site,” said Shah. “From the time we signed the contract, within 110 days we had power up and running.”
Time plays into another benefit of aero-derivative gas turbines in that they can go from completely cold to full power very quickly. “Our aero-derivatives offer a very unique value proposition to our customers, whereby, we would be fully up and running in less than 10 minutes, and we’re pushing that envelope to lower and lower times—five minutes and such,” Shah said.
Flexibility is also an important feature. “This is flexibility from different perspectives. You could have flexibility in terms of the ramp rates—how quickly you can go up and down. And this is especially important as across the globe you have more and more renewables on the grid. You need solutions that can cover when the sun is covered or the wind power drops off. So, the ramp up, ramp down, and fast responsiveness gives the very-much-required flexibility,” Shah said. “In addition to that, we get flexibility because of multifuel capability—whether you are using gas or liquid fuel. You also have flexibility for dual frequency in 50 or 60 Hz. And then the last aspect of flexibility that I will touch is very high power density. … Optimal use of land is very important, and the high power density of our solutions is creating a lot of demand.”
To hear the full interview, which includes other examples of work Mitsubishi Power Aero has done in places such as Puerto Rico, Algeria, and Japan, and more about the benefits aero-derivatives can provide in ongoing decarbonization efforts, 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:
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—Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).