Clean sustainable energy for Greenland

2012-12-10 - ABB is providing a complete power and automation solution for a new hydropower plant in Greenland that will provide the country’s third largest community with emission-free energy and reduce the nation’s dependence on costly imports of fossil fuel.
By ABB Communications

Ilulissat, with icebergs from the nearby Ilulissat icefjord in the background

Greenland is the largest island and least densely populated country on Earth. Its 57,000 inhabitants are spread over a vast area the size of western Europe, with most of them living in small communities along the fjords of the west coast.

Most of these communities are accessible only by boat or airplane during the summer and by dog sled in winter. Due to the self-contained nature of Greenland communities, each town generates its own energy and distributes it via a micro-power grid and local district heating network.

Historically, this energy has been generated in Greenland by diesel-driven power plants, which require costly imports of fossil fuel and are the biggest single contributor to the island’s greenhouse gas emissions.

During the past few years, however, Greenland has been replacing its diesel power plants with hydropower plants – thereby using its vast resources of glacial meltwater to generate lower cost hydropower and reduce the country’s fuel imports and greenhouse gas emissions.

The latest of these renewable energy projects is a 22.5 megawatt (MW) hydropower plant for the town of Ilulissat on the west coast - the third largest community in Greenland. The plant replaces an existing diesel-driven power plant and will provide electricity for the town and the local district heating network.

ABB was selected to supply a complete electrical and control solution for the hydropower plant by the Iceland-based engineering, procurement and construction contractor, Ístak.

The ABB solution includes high- and medium-voltage switchgear, protection and control devices, telecommunications and CCTV systems, and an Extended Automation System 800xA for supervisory control and data acquisition. ABB is also responsible for design, engineering and commissioning, and for the integration of plant equipment into a fully integrated remote-controlled system.

Operational reliability is critical for the plant owner, Nukissiorfiit, the government-owned energy provider. The plant is unmanned and located in an isolated fjord 45 km from Ilulissat. If a fault were to occur during harsh winter storms, access would not be possible for days or weeks and the old diesel-driven power plant would have to be restarted at great inconvenience and extra cost.

This is the third complete power and automation solution that ABB has supplied for Greenland’s ongoing turn to renewable energy. In 2010, ABB supplied a similar solution for a new 15 MW hydropower plant that supplies Sisimiut, the island’s second largest town, with clean electric power. Prior to that in 2007, ABB completed the delivery and commissioning of the communication and control system for the 9 MW Qorlortorsuaq hydropower plant.

As a result of these and other hydropower projects, almost 70 percent of Greenland’s electricity is now generated by emission-free hydropower.

The first of the three 7.5 MW turbines at Ilulissat started production one year ahead of schedule in October 2012, enabling the diesel-driven power plant to be shut down months in advance. The remaining turbines are scheduled to go online in 2013.

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Ilulissat icefjord close to the town of Ilulissat, Greenland