Solar Turbines: a step closer to the future

Solar Turbines draws on its interchange and partnership with customers to create a new Service Model and true Industry 4.0 technology solutions.

author: Solar Turbines Switzerland Sagl

Industry Insight by:

Solar Turbines Switzerland SAGL

Solar Turbines (Caterpillar Group) is one of the world’s leading suppliers of energy solutions in the industrial sector. With a machinery fleet of more than 16,000 units and customers distributed globally, it operates in various sectors, ranging from food & beverage, ceramics and oil & gas, through to pulp & paper. Its highly technological gas turbines (from 3.5 to 23 MWe) can curb even the highest energy costs, such as those for paper production, in which industry it boasts 350 units (and 20 of these with direct drying, for the tissue sector).

Energy & Cash Flow.
Energy & Cash Flow.

Partnership-based innovation

In recent years, Solar Turbines has worked on improving the technological content of its machinery, as well as its approach to customers. Through a close partnership with its customers, Solar Turbines collects comments and feedback in order to optimise its service.

Paolo Masiero, Manager Market Development Solar Turbines.
Paolo Masiero, Manager Market Development Solar Turbines.

“It is very interesting to obtain suggestions and requests, from every part of the world, to adapt our solutions to various needs, thus enabling us to optimise our technologies, our service and the use of our gas turbines within production cycles – says Paolo Masiero (from the Solar Turbines Power Generation Division).  This allows us to create target benchmarks, with a view to continuous improvement”. Customer companies are followed step by step. The Business Development team – flanked by the Balance of Plant team, which provides financial support for the investments – deals with devising and designing the best technical solutions aimed at achieving the desired benefits based on the customers’ data. “Our turbines are no longer standard, but rather custom-made solutions, also developed through the custom engineering of individual machinery parts”. In the end, once the system has been set up, Solar Turbines follows its customers by means of an internal program called Value co-generation (from the term co-creation). More than a traditional customer service, through this service the company teams up with the customer with a view to improving its applications as needed. “We work on those aspects that can really create value, streamline processes, and reduce operating costs – says Mr Masiero. As a result, we have decided to focus on further developing our turbines, while also improving our customised assistance and consulting services”.

Powering the future through innovative, sustainable energy solutions

 

Decarbonisation, digitalisation and decentralisation

In addition to maximising performance, Solar Turbines’ technologies also play an important role in terms of achieving environmental objectives. As Mr Masiero explains, they contribute to achieving the 3 “Ds”: Decarbonisation, Digitalisation and Decentralisation. “We contribute to decarbonisation with more efficient machinery capable of operating with renewable, low-carbon sources and with hydrogen blends. In this regard, Solar Turbines’ gas turbines, including those for the tissue sector (Titan 130, Taurus 60, T70), are as of now ready for the gases of the future: 48 of our installed machines operate in environments with a high hydrogen or CO content, and 111 work with biogas and syngas. In the field of digitalisation, we have increased the efficiency of industrial processes, enabling integration with variables in the renewable energy world and thereby supporting energy infrastructure for new business models. Finally, in terms of decentralisation, our systems support local self-production and thus make it possible to decentralise energy production, increasing grid resilience and stabilisation. This also gives our customers access to new energy supply and demand markets”.

 

The service becomes digital

However, these objectives require changing the way of thinking and adopting the new concept of prosumer – the producer and consumer rolled into one. Smart technologies allow the gas turbine, connected to the production ERP system, to communicate also with the signal coming from the grid. This makes it possible to manage the peaks of energy demand – from the production cycle, as well as from the grid itself – arising from the instability typical of renewable sources, allowing the system to balance itself and to stabilise the nodes. This is where the Insight platform kicks in, bringing us back full circle to Solar Turbines’ service. “The platform allows the ongoing monitoring of the gas turbine’s parameters, comparing them with other similar solutions among the 16,000 machines operating throughout the world – says Mr Masiero. This advanced predictive maintenance system works on a statistical principle that allows us to carry out maintenance on the customer’s premises according to production needs. This means the customer can produce when it needs, where it needs, and at the lowest possible cost”.

Finally, the platform integrates with the work of the Solar Digital business unit that deals with energy optimisation. “Solar Digital develops the system’s software and hardware that brings together the customer’s production, the power plant and the outside world, interconnecting the entire supply chain in an IIoT perspective”. This gives the customer access to a higher level of plant optimisation, turning the company into a veritable Industry 4.0.

We act with urgency to deliver innovative and high quality turbomachinery, energy and lifecycle solutions

 

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