Wärtsilä, a leading global supplier of flexible and efficient power plant solutions, has been awarded the contract to supply the engineering and generating equipment for a new power plant to be installed in Alaska, US.

The order has been placed by Matanuska Electric Association (MEA), a Palmer, Alaska based member-owned co-operative utility. The value of the order is $106 million.

The electricity produced will add power to the local grid and to MEA’s roughly 4,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines. The new plant will supply electricity to more than 100,000 households.

General manager Joe Griffith said: "Our member area is the fastest growing in the state of Alaska. We are confident that our choice of Wärtsilä engines provides the most reliable and cost-efficient power solution available, while meeting our projected load."

The scope of supply includes ten 18-cylinder Wärtsilä 50DF (V configuration) dual-fuel generating sets that will be operated primarily on natural gas. However, in case of interruption to the gas supply, the advanced Wärtsilä dual-fuel technology enables the engines to switch smoothly while operating to an alternative fuel, in this case light fuel oil (LFO). Wärtsilä will also supply specified auxiliary equipment.

"In the event of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, these engines can switch fuels without a hiccup, and that was a huge consideration in our decision to go with Wärtsilä," added Griffith. "We are moving towards becoming a vertically-integrated co-op providing electricity generation from our Wärtsilä engines, and upgrading our transmission system for a reliable delivery to our members."

An important factor in the award of this contract was that the Wärtsilä generating sets meet the state of Alaska air quality permits specific to this project. The flexibility of the equipment in its ability to maintain high efficiency output during wide daily and seasonal swings in load, was another key consideration in MEA’s decision to choose the Wärtsilä engines.

The power plant will be used to provide intermediate load following electricity generation, meaning that during periods of low demand such as at night, the load will be reduced and individual units can be shut down.

"This is an important order for Wärtsilä and further validation of the success of the 50DF technology, which provides the efficiency and environmental sustainability demanded by the customer," said Dennis Finn, Wärtsilä’s business development manager.

"The low emission levels and reduced fuel consumption give the Wärtsilä 50DF engines a substantial edge over the alternative gas turbines. Furthermore, the flexibility both in fuel choice and in being able to cope with large swings in the system load was particularly important in our negotiations,"

Delivery is scheduled during the autumn of 2013 and the plant is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2014.