"It’s déjà vu all over again," said Yogi Berra. The Hall of Fame catcher could easily have been predicting the coming resurgence of natural gas – fired generation. Yes, a few more coal plants will be completed this year, but don’t expect any new plant announcements. A couple of nuclear plants may actually break ground, but don’t hold your breath. Many more wind turbines will dot the landscape as renewable portfolio standards dictate resource planning, but their peak generation contribution will be small. The dash for gas in the U.S. has begun, again.
This September, as Siemens Energy wrapped up testing of its H-class SGT5-8000H gas turbine at E.ON’s Irsching 4 gas power plant in Bavaria, Germany, the company raved about what it is calling "the world’s most powerful gas turbine."
Construction of the Portlands Energy Centre was a logistical dream: A mothballed power plant next door had an active switchyard, natural gas pipeline, and cooling water structure. The new facility put peak power into the Ontario Power Authority’s grid from its two combustion turbines only two years after collecting the necessary permits. The entire plant entered commercial service on April 23, 2009 — six weeks early.
Northern Italians are enjoying la dolce vita (the sweet life) even more today than they have historically, thanks to the additional electrical capacity provided by the new Livorno Ferraris power plant. Well-received by locals due to its environmentally progressive operations and low-profile appearance, the 800-MW plant is powered by combined-cycle units that burn natural gas. The plant, which generates more than 5 million kWh per year, is part of a comprehensive renewal of the Italian energy sector and will make an important contribution toward ensuring that the country’s power supply is more secure.
Midwest Energy has a history of thinking and acting independently, especially since breaking away from the Rural Utilities Service almost 15 years ago. Two years ago, when its board of directors grappled with finding a balance between purchasing and generating electricity, it decided to construct its first power plant in 37 years. A matched set of nine 8.4-MW gas engines at Goodman Energy Center now provides efficient peaking electricity, improved overall system reliability, and backstop capacity for a 325-MW electrical system that features 16% wind power generation.
One key area at the 800-MW Michoud power station where O&M excellence is evident is in maintaining plant water quality.
The Edward W. Clark Generating Station, which has supplied electricity to the Las Vegas Strip for more than half a century, has learned the secret of life in the desert: adaptability. The plant’s early years featured conventional steam plants operated around the clock. By mid-life, Clark had been upgraded with two combustion turbine combined-cycle power blocks operated as intermediate-load resource. Today, the old steam plants have been replaced with fast-start peaking gas turbines.
Over the past decade, the development of new natural gas – fired generating assets has been similar to an amusement park roller coaster ride — very high peaks and the lowest of lows, with fast and stomach-churning movement between. Expect the ride to continue into the near future.
Uncertainty about CO2 emissions legislation is prompting power plant owners to consider the possibility of accommodating "add-on" CO2 capture and sequestration solutions for coal-fired plants in the future. Those same plant owners may be overlooking the possibility that future natural gas – fired combined cycles will also be subject to CO2 capture requirements. This month we examine the capture options. In a future issue, Part II will present the installation and operating costs of different carbon capture technologies.