Heightened interest in reciprocating engine technology is creating more options for utilities that seek increasingly flexible power sources.
1. They power up quickly. Even the largest of these plants can power up from zero to a full load in 10 minutes or less. And most use low-emission natural gas.
2. They are scalable. They can be dispatched one engine at a time to generate as little or as much energy as needed, and with great efficiency. A plant can also continue to operate if one reciprocating engine must be taken offline for maintenance. Contrast that with a large gas turbine, which requires taking its entire plant offline when down for maintenance.
3. They have short run-cycle requirements. Due to maintenance costs, a large gas turbine engine typically must run a minimum of four hours before it can be justifiably taken offline. A reciprocating engine plant, on the other hand, can be shut down without delay. These plants can also go online and offline multiple times a day with minimal wear and tear and no impact on the maintenance cycle.
4. They perform well at high temperatures and high altitudes. Combustion turbines lose performance at high altitudes and in areas with high ambient temperatures. Reciprocating engine plants aren't adversely impacted by these conditions.
5. They can be easier to site. A 200-megawatt reciprocating engine plant looks more like a light industrial building than a typical power plant. Such engines require no cooling towers or high pressure gas lines, either, which can shorten the permitting process.