POWER Digest (September 2011)

Australia Pursues Carbon Tax. Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard on July 10 laid out an ambitious plan to cut national greenhouse gas emissions by 5% of 2000 levels by 2020 by imposing a A$23 (US$23.4) per metric ton carbon tax, starting next year. If parliament approves the plan before year-end, the carbon tax will increase 2.5% per year, and the nation would eventually move to a market-based trading scheme in 2015.

Australia is a major coal exporter and relies on coal for 80% of its power generation (which produces 37% of its greenhouse gas emissions). Federal Treasury modeling suggests the carbon price would not significantly affect the power generation sector until after 2020.

Gillard’s plan includes loan guarantees for power generators through a new energy security fund to help industry refinance loans of up to A$10 billion over five years. The government has also proposed to finance the shutdown, partial closure, or refueling with natural gas of coal plants (with capacities totaling 2,000 MW) in Victoria state by 2020. The plan also sets up a A$10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corp. to fund renewable capacity.

Zimbabwe Eyes $1.3 Billion Power Plant Expansion. The Zimbabwe Electric Supply Authority (ZESA) is scouting for international investors to fund a $1.3 billion expansion of the country’s three major power plants in a bid to end power shortages that have crippled the country’s mining industry and stunted economic recovery (see “THE BIG PICTURE: Lights Out,” p. 10). ZESA says it is struggling to meet the estimated 2,200-MW power demand, because its power stations have an installed capacity of just 1,900 MW and are grossly underperforming.

The state-owned utility plans to expand the Hwange power station to add 600 MW to the grid while adding two new 300-MW units at the 1,200-MW Kariba hydropower plant. The Zimbabwean reported in July that 13 unnamed private producers have been licensed to produce power for the country but none has begun production because they say tariffs in Zimbabwe are uneconomic.

Vietnam Releases Coal-Heavy 10-Year Power Plan. Vietnam on July 28 approved a 10-year national power development plan that seeks to increase generation capacity to 75 GW in 2020—compared with 21 GW at the end of 2010. In 2020, the country envisions 97% of its power will be produced domestically, 46.8% of which will be thermal, 24% gas-generated, 19.6% hydropower, 4.5% renewables, and 2.1% nuclear (from the country’s first nuclear plant). In July, Petrovietnam awarded its subsidiary Petrovietnam Technical Services Corp. a contract to build the 1,200-MW Song Hau 1 Thermal Power Plant in the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang within 45 months. The plant will use coal imported from Indonesia and Australia.

Alstom Signs €330 Million Contract for Israeli Gas Power Plant. Alstom on July 28 signed an operation and maintenance contract for about 20 years, worth €330 million ($470 million) with Dalia Power Energies Ltd. for the 853-MW gas-fired Tzafit power plant in Israel. The scope of the contract includes complete day-to-day operation and maintenance of the two gas-fired combined cycle units, located 40 kilometers southeast of Tel Aviv. Each unit is based on Alstom’s GT26 gas turbine, steam turbine, generator, control system, and heat recovery steam generator.

The Tzafit power station is expected to enter commercial operation in 2014. The plant is the biggest project ever to be executed in Israel by an independent power producer and will add 835 MW to the country’s national grid, corresponding to 7% of the country’s currently installed base. Alstom and Dalia had in June signed an agreement to build two 417-MW gas-fired combined cycle units on an engineering, procurement, and construction basis.

Alstom to Supply Major Component for Japanese Fusion Initiative. The French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) on July 22 selected Alstom to supply half of the magnetic coils for the JT-60SA tokamak—a toroidal magnetic confinement chamber designed to control a plasma for research into the possibility of generating energy by nuclear fusion—currently under construction in Naka, Japan. The tokamak is a major contribution to ITER, the multinational fusion demonstration project, whose facility is being built in France. Alstom will supply Japan with nine of the 18 magnetic coils that make up the tokamak. Each coil, weighing more than 15 metric tons, will be constructed by Alstom at its plant in Belfort, France. The nine coils are scheduled for delivery by the fall of 2015.

A tokamak utilizes the concept of magnetic confinement to conduct tests on nuclear fusion. Hydrogen nuclei are heated to temperatures in excess of 150 million degrees Celsius to create a hot plasma that is contained in a confinement chamber. The strong magnetic fields produced by the superconducting coils surrounding the vessel confine the plasma and keep it away from the chamber’s walls.

ABB to Supply $1 Billion Offshore HVDC Link for North Sea Wind Farms. ABB on Aug. 2 said it had won an order worth $1 billion from Dutch-German transmission grid operator TenneT to supply a power link connecting offshore North Sea wind farms to the German mainland grid. The project—ABB’s largest transmission order—will deploy a massive offshore high-voltage direct current (HVDC) system with a rating of over 900 MW, keeping electrical losses to less than 1% per converter station. ABB will design, engineer, supply, and install the offshore platform, the offshore and onshore converter stations, and the land and sea cable systems. The 320-kilovolt cable voltage capacity in ABB’s HVDC Light transmission technology is the highest used for HVDC transmission with extruded cables, ABB said. The project is scheduled to be operational in 2015.

Chinese HTR to Use SCHOTT Electrical Penetration Assemblies. SCHOTT announced on June 22 that it would supply all required electrical penetration assemblies (EPA), sealed with glass and metal, for the Shidaowan demonstration high-temperature reactor (HTR) developed by the Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. The Huaneng-Shandong-Shidaowan Nuclear Power Co. is building the demonstration HTR, a twin-reactor module with a total capacity of 500 MWt, in the Chinese province of Shandong. The prototype reactor is scheduled to connect to the national grid sometime around 2015.

EPAs are components installed in a nuclear reactor’s structure to enable data and power cables to securely pass through the structure that is sealed-off completely. Because it is important for the EPA to remain hermetically sealed even when exposed to high temperature and high pressure, these products are vital to the smooth and safe operation of nuclear power plants. The latest generation of HTRs place extreme stress on components due to high pressure and temperature specifications.

AREVA to Manufacture Forgings for UK EPR. AREVA will manufacture forgings for the first of two UK EPRs to be built at Hinkley Point in southwest England. The French nuclear firm also said it is in commercial discussions with Horizon Nuclear Powe r and NuGeneration for the supply of up to six additional EPRs in the UK. The EPR is undergoing the Generic Design Assessment process in the UK.

Gainesville Renewable Energy Center to Use 100-MW Biomass Boiler. Metso is to supply a 100-MW biomass boiler island and plant automation system to the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC) in Gainesville, Fla. GREC has successfully raised nearly $500 million in construction financing, of which Metso’s delivery represents more than 25%. The new power plant installation will supply Gainesville Regional Utilities (a municipal utility) of Gainesville with renewable power under a 30-year power purchase agreement.

The biomass boiler will use bubbling fluidized bed technology, burning waste wood from logging and mill activity as well as urban wood waste from clearing, tree trimming, and pallets as the main fuel. Metso’s complete delivery scope includes the entire boiler island and flue gas cleaning system. Metso will also supply the entire power plant automation system. Commercial operation of the plant is scheduled for 2013. Once operational, the 100-MW boiler will be “one of the largest and most efficient biomass boilers in the world,” Metso claims.

GDF SUEZ Inaugurates 405-MW Gas Plant in Hungary. GDF SUEZ on July 7 inaugurated a 405-MW combined cycle gas turbine power plant at the Dunamenti site, in Százhalombatta, in Hungary. The €200 million plant is expected to increase the existing Dunamenti power plant’s capacity to 1,930 MW, which would be nearly 20% of the country’s total installed capacity. The project, which was launched in 2009, includes dismantling obsolete units. The new plant is outfitted with a high-efficiency dual gas and fuel turbine and a new boiler and features an efficiency of 57%, GDF SUEZ says.

Sonal Patel is POWER’s senior writer.