Flagship Project in the Caribbean:
PV Hybrid System on the Island of St. Eustatius

From Wiebke Krueger (guest post) on May 24, 2016 in Category Hybrid Energy System with 10 Comments

The setting: An island with 4,000 inhabitants and three diesel generators to supply power. The mission: Reduce fossil fuel usage and establish a grid stabilizing energy supply based on renewable energies. The challenge: Supply a smart combination of a 2 MWp PV farm and diesel generators; introduce the largest lithium battery storage system in the Caribbean; use the latest SMA products; and develop a new monitoring platform—within the space of just nine months.

The PV farm on the island of St. Eustatius, which includes one of the largest lithium battery storage systems, went into operation in March 2016. Thanks to the SMA Fuel Save Controller, the island is now saving 800,000 liters of diesel a year. I worked on-site as a project manager during the 10-day commissioning process and was part of a fantastic international team. You can read my blog here, which details my experiences of an exceptional project on a special island:

 

Setting a green example in the Caribbean

To climb the second-highest mountain in the Netherlands at a height of 600 meters, we had to undertake a journey that took approximately 24 hours—from Kassel via Amsterdam to St. Maarten, and from there to St. Eustatius by propeller-driven plane. Sitting majestically above this island of 4,000 inhabitants in the Netherlands Antilles, the extinct Quill volcano is a real landmark as well as being the emblem on the flag. In its checkered history, which has been shaped by trade, slavery and piracy, the island has changed hands a recorded number of 22 times and now has the status of a special municipality in the Netherlands. On the island, also known as Statia, things have been a lot calmer over the past few decades. It is an island on which animals—particularly donkeys, cows, sheep and chickens—roam free. And now the island wants to make a name for itself with its ambitious PV hybrid project and set a green example for the whole region with this flagship project.

 

Everyone knows about the PV farm

We were already identified as newcomers by the locals while sitting on the 20-seat propeller-driven plane, and were asked about the purpose of our trip. Four flights a day connect Statia with the lifeline of St. Maarten. Of course, the primary objective of our trip was neither the archeological treasures nor the sea turtles of the marine national park, but the PV farm. Absolutely everyone on the island has heard about it. “The solar park? Yes of course, great!”exclaimed the taxi driver, which was a typical response.

 

 

Saving 800,000 liters of diesel fuel

Two years ago, the utility company Stuco was spun off from a former group of companies, which included St. Maarten and Saba, to form an independent company. Conserving diesel fuel is expected to improve its operating business figures. The target is to use 800,000 liters less diesel fuel a year. For this purpose, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs is financing construction of a PV hybrid system.

In the past, eight PV system managers manually operated the three Caterpillar diesel generators with a nominal power output of between 900 kW and 1,200 kW around the clock. The employees were trained to recognize the smallest changes in frequency or inconsistencies in the operating noise of the generators, so that they could intervene at lightning speed.

The genset system is now set to be complemented by a PV farm and a battery storage system. To optimally combine these different energy sources, at SMA Sunbelt Energy GmbH we focused on the system design. Despite the more complex system layout, it is designed with automatic operation and low maintenance in mind.

 

Hurricane-resistant PV modules and protected Sunny Tripower inverters

During our planning and production phase in Kassel, our local partner Eco Energy worked from September 2015 to February 2016 on construction of the 1.89 MWp PV farm. The Sunbelt team in Kassel followed the construction progress live via camera links. To withstand the frequent barrage of hurricanes in the Caribbean without sustaining any damage, extremely pressure-resistant PV modules by Suntech were used on a frame produced by Schletter. The 73 SMA Sunny Tripower 25000TL-30 PV inverters were installed in containers to protect them against corrosion from the sea air.

 

Customized hybrid system for extreme energy management

SMA Sunbelt Energy GmbH was responsible for the overall technical design and on-time delivery of the large-scale storage system, the battery inverter including MVPS as well as the monitoring and control system. The components used included the new Fuel Save Controller and the Sunny Central Storage 1000. Designing the system was made a lot harder by a lack of data on solar irradiation and cloud movements.

The battery power of 1 MW and charge rate of 2.5-4C mean that the system is designed for the worst-case scenarios. We have seen battery inverter power outputs of up to 800 kW when the system is in operation, which means that the impact of cloud movement is much greater than we originally thought. But high-performance and flexible energy management can safely offset these extreme step loads.

PV penetration is 89%. This means that 89% of the power consumption of around 1.7 MW is covered by solar power. By way of comparison, without a storage system PV penetration of 60% was classed as a very good value.

Technical Overview

Technical Overview

 

Trouble-free commissioning

The first week of commissioning went without a hitch. One of the most exciting moments was the first time the battery was discharged into the utility grid via the Sunny Central Storage. This was followed by system functionality tests to check the interaction between the diesel generators and the Fuel Save Controller. Over the course of these tests, we simulated step loads and ramps by connecting and disconnecting the generators.

The commissioning process took just 10 days in all. The system functioned perfectly right from the first moment it was switched on. We were excited, especially because this gave us extra time for a Sunday excursion to Quill National Park. In the volcanic crater of the park, we discovered the local wildlife and wild banana trees.

This experience served to remind us once again for whom and for what we commissioned this sustainable power supply in the first place—not only for our client Stuco, not only for the 4,000 inhabitants living on the volcanic island, but also to preserve this remarkable flora and fauna.

 

Thank you to all project members, partners and suppliers who made this project a success and turned it into the flagship project of the Caribbean. If you are planning similar projects or have any questions, please write in the comments box or to Sunbelt@SMA.de. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

More information

Read the press release about this project

About SMA PV Diesel Hybrid Applications

 

About SMA Sunbelt

SMA Sunbelt Energy GmbH is a 100% affiliated company of SMA Solar Technology AG headquartered in Germany. The company was founded in 2014 and focuses on off-grid, solar hybrid and battery-based projects. SMA Sunbelt offers SMA’s off-grid components to international clients and additional services including customized turnkey installations of PV-Diesel hybrid and battery based applications.

 

5.00 avg. rating (99% score) - 8 votes

The Author

Wiebke Krueger (guest author)

Wiebke is an industrial engineer and has been working at SMA Sunbelt Energy GmbH since 2015. In her role as project manager, she handles international PV diesel hybrid projects, some of which are based in remote regions of the world. The amateur photographer makes the most of her trips to project locations to capture the countries and their people, as well as some exotic flora and fauna, through her camera lens.

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10 Comments

  • avatar

    Christian Höhle

    July 10, 2017 at 08:30

    TH Energy did an independent performance analysis on the first year of operation of Sint Eustatius.

    Result: Excellent performance 😎

    • * Battery degradation less than expected (98.7% left)
    • * Excellent fuel savings (just 1.2% less than forecasted while 4.9% less irradiation because of “less sunny year”)
    • * 812 887 liters of fuel saved in just one year

    Find the full report here:
    https://goo.gl/LSQcL8

    Reply »
  • avatar

    […] Aruba, St. Eustatius, and some other islands, Sint Maarten has made few strides toward implementing green energy outside […]

    Reply »
  • avatar

    Sahadat

    December 25, 2016 at 10:11

    I have 01 project, diesel genset have 750kva, 24hours running by diesel. We want to pv hybrid project. Can you help me which system is better for me

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Christian Höhle

      December 27, 2016 at 14:35

      Hello Sahadat,

      the best solution for your project depends on many different factors. Best would be to get in touch with our Fuel Save Solution Design Experts at FuelSaveSolution@sma.de – they can suggest which solution fits best to your needs.

      Best regards,
      Christian

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Qasim Iqbal Butt

    July 16, 2016 at 08:08

    I am going to install 1 MW PV project with storage and diesel generator backup at Djibouti, North Africa
    Plz give me full details of similar project. Also i would like to meet your representative in Dubai, UAE for discussion because we want to finalize our project as soon as possible and will start execution immediately.

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Christian Höhle

      December 27, 2016 at 14:55

      Hello Qasim,

      did you get in touch with our UAE subsidiary? Are your questions answered now? If not, let me know.

      Best regards,
      Christian

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Julian Luyt

    July 4, 2016 at 06:40

    Hi Lucas

    Im interested in this projects details, however I would not require generator integration for my project proposal. Could you provide me with the additional information or please feel free to contact me.

    Regards
    Julian

    Brisbane Australia

    Reply »
  • avatar

    Mohsin

    June 2, 2016 at 11:51

    Great work SMA team. I will be installing one solar power system with Reverse Power Protection and SMA FSC soon. Hope everything goes smooth :). Wish me luck !!!

    Regards

    Reply »
  • avatar

    Aybars Ertun

    June 2, 2016 at 10:09

    We are interested with your PV -diesel hybrid system with storage. We would like to know more about the technical details to see the applicability in our region.

    Kind regards

    Aybars Ertun

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Lucas Unbehaun

      June 3, 2016 at 07:37

      Hello Aybars,

      I forwarded your comment and your e-mail-adress to my colleagues from Sunbelt Energy GmbH, they will contact you.

      Kind regards,
      Lucas

      Reply »

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