Meeting Base or Peak Loads with Natural Gas
Electric utilities can operate gas engine generators continuously to serve base electrical loads. This is particularly advantageous in the absence of a reliable centralized power plant, or where the economics and availability of natural gas fuel are key drivers.
Gas engine generators are also commonly used to handle peak loads. Spikes in demand for utility grid electric power typically occur in the early morning before the workday, and in the late afternoon after the workday ends. Most people can relate to getting home from work and immediately flipping the light switch, turning up the heat or air conditioning and tuning in to the local news on television. When thousands of people collectively engage in the same behavior, large spikes in power consumption occur for a relatively short period of time. Some utilities choose to enter into long-term power purchase agreements to own a reserve block of power to address these intermittent spikes. However, this approach can lead to unnecessary base load capacity, driving up costs for the utility and its customers.
Caterpillar customers receive expert consultation on how to design, install and maintain power plants designed for utility applications.
Benefits from utility gas generator applications include:
- Reduced energy costs
- Efficient use of resources
- Increased revenue opportunities
How It Works
Baseload generator set power plants can range in size from just a few megawatts (MW) for a small island to over 100 MW for larger metropolitan areas. These power plants can be built with many 2 to 6 MW size class generators operating in parallel as a central source of electricity for the local electric grid.
Typical peaking power plant solutions operate in the 2 to 50 MW range from 100 to 3,000 hours per year. Most 100 hour-per-year plants would typically be diesel fueled and cover a super peak, while natural gas fueled power plant economics favor higher hour applications and longer duration peak demand.
Cat® utility grade paralleling switchgear is used to operate multiple generator sets together and in parallel with the main utility grid. In open power markets, the power produced from these generators during the peak times of day can be dispatched to meet local customers' needs or sold in open, real-time markets at the spot price for a profit.
For emergency utility power shortages or outages, Caterpillar also provides utility scale gas rental power modules via the Cat Rental Power that can be quickly dispatched and installed to make up immediate power shortages.