Acoustic pulse reflectometry (APR) is a tube inspection method that has been gradually gaining acceptance as a tool for heat exchanger inspection. Different types of heat exchangers operating in different operating environments have different failure mechanisms, making some of them more suited than others for inspection by APR. Finned tube heat exchangers are a typical example of heat exchangers particularly conducive to APR inspection.
At the close of 2009, the U.S. geothermal industry had seen seven new geothermal power plants come online in the previous 12 months. In 2010, only one new power plant was completed.
Geologists drilling an exploratory well in Iceland’s Krafla volcano in search of supercritical geothermal resources in 2009 unexpectedly uncovered a new way to harness energy from deep within Earth’s crust. It involves accessing shallow bodies of molten rock, which the geologists say could likely be found elsewhere in Iceland and around the world, wherever young volcanic rocks occur.
In 2010 investment in wind power continued to accelerate, particularly in California and Texas. California also entered several solar projects in the race for financing. The finish line that renewable power developers and their partners are racing to meet is a December 31 deadline to qualify for federal cash grants.
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Completed in 2009 and partially funded under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the 50-MW Blue Mountain Faulkner 1 Geothermal Power Plant is harnessing large amounts of renewable energy by tapping into an underground geothermal reservoir in northern Nevada. This subterranean source of heat allows the binary plant to generate pollution-free baseload electricity.
Most countries are trying to increase the percentage of their electricity supply that comes from renewable sources. But because capital costs for renewable generation still, in most cases, are higher per kilowatt-hour than for fossil-fueled power, governments are looking at all options for encouraging the development of greater renewable capacity. Feed-in tariffs (FITs) are one policy tool that has been used, most notably in Europe. Now North America is testing FITs as well.
As U.S. utilities increase the percentage of renewable energy in their generation portfolio, they must deal with a number of key issues related to selecting specific technologies. Additionally, they must figure out what it will take to make renewables emerge as a mainstream generating option in the future.
One of the world’s largest geothermal power stations was officially opened this May on New Zealand’s North Island. A joint venture between Mighty River Power and Tauhara North No. 2 Trust, the new 140-MW Nga Awa Purua Geothermal Power Station increases geothermal’s share of power in New Zealand to around 14%—a proportion that has more than doubled since 2005.
Mexico has already developed substantial large hydro and geothermal resources. However, without policy changes and government-sponsored financial incentives, unconventional renewable sources are taking the equivalent of baby steps.