Wärtsilä doubles renewable energy penetration by adding storage in holiday paradise


The energy transition is not only about adding new renewables generation capacity but must also consider how to integrate such assets into regional energy systems. The Caribbean island of Bonaire, part of the Netherlands Antilles chain, now hosts a 6 MW/6 MWh battery storage system to reduce excess energy losses by a substantial margin.

Finnish tech company Wärtsilä’s storage subsidiary Greensmith commissioned the battery for Contourglobal Bonaire.

According to an announcement made by Wärtsilä, completion of the system meant the island could stop curtailing excess energy losses from its wind resources, doubling renewable energy penetration. The system features a smart energy management system – GEMS – to optimize the dispatch and operation of generation assets, provide spinning reserve requirements with energy storage, and improve grid stability by providing voltage and frequency control.

“A big hurdle for utilities today is figuring out where to begin when it comes to modernizing traditional, thermal-based systems to allow the integration of more renewable generation assets without compromising reliability,” said Sampo Suvisaari, regional director for Latin America, North America and the Caribbean at Wärtsilä Energy Business. “Bonaire provides a real-time case study for how it can be done in a phased approach.”

Whole fleet application

The system commissioned by Wärtsilä allows operators to add hybrid solutions and is compatible with new technologies the island’s utility may connect in future. “To optimize the system, GEMS now factors in real-time asset performance as well as load and renewable energy forecasts,” said the company announcement. The GEMS software taps machine learning technology to incorporate weather, electricity demand and other factors into forecasting models. The data the system creates will not be confined to the use of the storage system, it will also help with automated decision-making processes for all of the Contourglobal Bonaire generator fleet.

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“During our commissioning tests, several load rejections were tested including loss of wind, loss of engines and loss of demand and in every circumstance GEMS instantaneously tracked and maintained the quality of the generation, avoiding the load shedding of the grid,” said Giorgio Narminio, Caribbean assets chief operating officer of Contourglobal. “This is just one example of how this project will improve operations through automation while helping the island avoid blackouts, achieve greater efficiencies and use more wind power.”

Upgrade ambition

Bonaire is on a path to 100% renewable energy supply that will require extensive modernization of the grid, on top of new capacity. The island is a popular holiday destination which means seasonal spikes in energy demand. The island’s dated thermal generators will be revamped by adding new, more efficient engines alongside the addition of more solar and wind resources.

Wärtsilä bagged the contract to deploy the storage system and GEMS software in the final quarter of last year and highlighted the speed with which it deployed the system.

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