As an energy company SSE has to be constantly mindful of the evolving needs of its customers and stakeholders and adjust accordingly. There are no prizes for companies that stand still, and nowhere is that more true than in the markets where SSE Enterprise operates in its role as an agile and complementary partner to the Renewables and Networks businesses that are the bedrock of SSE Group.
So I’m fortunate to be heading an exciting project in the world of temporary power which aims to bring a revolutionary modular micro gas turbine technology to the UK capable of providing onsite semi-permanent power that is ultra-low in both NOx (Nitrogen oxides) and Sox (Sulphur oxides). With improving air pollution a Government priority, the ability to reduce emissions from generation really is a unique selling point.
Up until now construction companies, developers and manufacturers have had to rely on diesel generation to power their onsite needs, but they are all coming under increasing pressure to comply with tough emissions targets whilst still trying to meet demand for their temporary generation. We’re looking to solve this issue by providing a reliable source of electricity tailored to meet both the demands of the customer and the regulator.
Our proposition, which is currently named ‘Semi-Permanent Power’, will utilise gas to power the turbine. Its containerised micro-turbine technology is new to the UK; but it’s already proved its mettle around the world in challenging environments such as remote oil fields and mines.
The company that makes these micro gas turbines is called Capstone and is based in California – so they help companies comply with some of the toughest clean air standards in the world. Sadly, my plans for a nice work trip to the West Coast of America were dashed when it emerged that their UK distributor, Pure World Energy, has a base near my office in Reading!
But all this means that we are up and running with a collaboration agreement with Pure World Energy to bring this technology to the UK market. Indeed, the first of their units, which gives us something concrete to showcase to potential clients, recently arrived in Felixstowe, so this technology is coming in every sense.
What about power levels? Well, as Semi-Permanent Power technology is modular, the service can be ramped up to meet demand from 65 kVA to 10+ MVA providing flexibility to the user. The system also means that maintenance cycles are vastly reduced when compared to a reciprocation engine, resulting in less disruption to supply or the need for the provision for back-up generation.
The benefits our service bring customers don’t stop there as the service is also set to revolutionise how customers pay for their temporary generation. Traditionally, customers pay for the cost hire of the plant, fuel and ancillary services. Semi-Permanent Power customers will simply pay for the energy they consume at an agreed price for a set period; so no set up cost, hire costs or fuel costs, just the cost of the energy that they use.
Although Semi-Permanent Power will utilise gas to power the turbine with a main supply preferable, the turbines are capable of running off other types of all fuels and will run effectively off a virtual fuel line. We’ll also strive to increase the environmental performance of the proposition through utilising battery storage, thereby enabling switching between gas and battery to meet demand, reduce emissions and ultimately further reduce costs to the customer.
So these are exciting times for this project. At the moment we are talking to Government and the Environment Agency, as well as sounding out potential clients to gauge interest and bring this product to market.
A final thought: we know that SSE Group spends north of £15m annually to external companies to meet its Semi-Permanent Power needs as it is. So the size of the potential prize is clear for all to see…