A Positive Turn In Power Generation For MTU

From engine manufacturer to supplier of complete power generation solutions, MTU tells the story behind the success of the company’s generator set range. Microgrids and hybrid solutions are key enablers towards a reliable and environmental-friendly power supply, Roberta Prandi reports.

During a recent company symposium on power generation, Andreas Görtz, vice president of the Power Generation business at Rolls-Royce Power Systems talked to Diesel & Gas Turbine Worldwide about the profound shift his organization has experienced over the past 10 years in the power generation business.

“In 2009, MTU (now a brand of Rolls-Royce) was a major manufacturer and supplier of engines. The business of selling loose engines was more than 80% of the total,” Görtz said. “In 2019, our forecast shows that sales of loose engines will be just less than 20% of the total sales. And towards 2030 we expect that sales of loose engines for power generation will be insignificant within Rolls-Royce.”

This change has been brought about first of all because of acquisitions of gen-set manufacturers over the years; the first one in 2002, when MTU acquired a stake in the German manufacturer of combined heat and power (CHP) systems MDE. In 2007 it was the turn of USA-based Katolight Corp. (located in Mankato, Minnesota, USA), and in 2012 of Germany-based Aggretech.

The 4000 Series gen-set by MTU – here in the 12-cylinder version – is a popular engine for CHP applications, as in the microgrid installed at the German factory of Winkelmann, a supplier of automotive components.

“Rolls-Royce’s division for power generation designs and manufactures diesel and gas systems ranging from 30 to 12 000 kWe. The split between diesel and gas gen-set sales this year will be 62% for diesel systems and 18% for gas,” Görtz said.

“We see three major global trends in power generation: decarbonization, security of energy supply, and integration of renewable power into the power supply. The last one brings two main challenges: one is grid stability in power supply – in terms of pure kilowatts available – a key factor in a global economy that is going more and more digital. We simply have to deliver the energy to power all the data centers that keep our economies, societies, and personal lives going,” Görtz said. “The other challenge is grid stability in frequency, since renewable sources, as wind farms and especially solar power plants, do not ensure the necessary rotary mass to stabilize frequency. We simply have to provide flexible back-up power that can assure energy supply when renewables are not enough and support grid stabilization, and the best solution is decentralized power as in microgrids and emergency standby systems.”

To contend with these challenges, Rolls-Royce’s strategy is to offer a broader portfolio of products—for example, adding storage units to its portfolio—and to optimize the existing products, like the gas gen-set range, which is now capable of fast start-up (less than two minutes up to full load). “One other key strategy for Rolls-Royce going forward is to offer customers tailor-made solutions,” Görtz said.

One example of the capabilities that Rolls-Royce can offer for the power generation market is the installation of a hybrid microgrid at the manufacturing factory of Germany-based Winkelmann—a supplier of parts to the automotive industry that has recently successfully disconnected its facility in Ahlen from the national power grid.

Here, Rolls-Royce delivered six CHP modules, each with a 16-cylinder vee-configuration 4000 Series engines – for a total output power of more than 9 MW electric and 10 MW thermal. The six modules feed power and heat for the production processes in the manufacturing plant. The hybrid microgrid plant is completed by two battery banks for back-up power (with a capacity of 500 kW each), two 50-Hz flywheel generators that ensure frequency stabilization, and an MTU process control system. A solar plant will be added in future as a renewable source of energy.

An own company microgrid is being built as well – and is actually in the final stages of construction – at the Friedrichshafen, Germany, manufacturing plant of Rolls-Royce. When commissioned it will not be used just to produce power for the plant but also as a simulation tool for customers, who will be able to have their own microgrids designed by Rolls-Royce’s Validation Center. Another microgrid is planned for the company’s facility in Aiken, South Carolina, USA.

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