Large Hydro Station Wins POWER’s Highest Honor, 21 Additional Outstanding Projects Recognized in 2022

It’s always difficult to select winners from the field of nominations submitted to POWER for its annual awards, and this year was no exception. The Wudongde Hydropower Station was the big winner, while various coal, gas, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal, and energy storage projects were also honored.

For more than four decades, POWER magazine has honored the top performers in the electricity-generating industry with annual power plant awards. The highly prized awards are presented to plants and power projects that have distinguished themselves through innovative designs and engineering expertise, with many producing power more reliably and economically than comparable plants. POWER also doles out special awards for noteworthy smart grid, water, distributed energy, and commercial and industrial generation projects, and for the first time this year, it gave an award for an innovative hydrogen project.

Award winners are selected by the editors of POWER based on nominations submitted by industry insiders and readers of the publication, including suppliers, designers, constructors, and operators of power plants. The Plant of the Year Award, as well as the Reinvention, Water, Smart Grid, Distributed Energy, Hydrogen, and Commercial and Industrial Generation awards, were revealed in the July issue of POWER. Coal Top Plants were announced in August, Renewable Top Plants in September, Gas Top Plants in October, and Nuclear Top Plants in November. The following is a recap of all the winners.

Plant of the Year

The Wudongde Hydropower Station in Sichuan Province, China, received the highest honor. China already was the global leader in hydropower generation before Xi Jinping, the country’s president, in 2020 announced a plan for the world’s most populous country to become carbon-neutral by 2060. That strategy, backed by government policies in support of renewable energy as part of the overall plan to increase the electricity supply for China’s nearly 1.5 billion people, again put the spotlight on the country’s massive hydropower projects, including the Wudongde Hydropower Station. Wudongde is considered a major part of China’s “West-to-East” power transmission program, designed to move surplus electricity from western China to the more densely populated eastern part of the country.

Wudongde (Figure 1), built for an estimated cost of about $18 billion and owned by China Three Gorges Corp., a Chinese state-owned power company, is notable for several reasons. It’s the first (by location) in a series of four cascade hydropower stations in the lower reaches of the Jinsha River (the Chinese name for the upper reaches of the larger Yangtze River), and with 10.2 GW of installed capacity, it is the fourth-largest hydroelectric project in China and the seventh-largest in the world.

1. The Wudongde Hydropower Station, with 10.2 GW of installed capacity, is the fourth-largest hydroelectric project in China and the seventh-largest in the world. Courtesy: GE Renewable Energy

The Wudongde station, which entered full commercial operation in summer 2021, about a year after its first unit began producing power, straddles Luquan County in Yunnan Province, and Huidong County in Sichuan Province. It features a dozen 850-MW units, with six supplied by Voith, and six supplied by GE Renewable Energy. The project, which took about five-and-a-half years to build, also includes structures for water retaining, water releasing, and water diversion, along with providing power generation.

Reinvention Award

The Pinnacle Wind Farm in Keyser, West Virginia, won the Reinvention Award. Repowering of power generation facilities can provide an aging plant with a new lease on life. But there’s more to it than just extending an installation’s operational lifecycle; repowering can increase power generation capacity, the efficiency of electricity output, and can enable an existing facility to take advantage of new technologies, without the need to construct an entirely new power plant. Such an effort also enables a power plant to continue to benefit a community by creating jobs, bringing in tax revenue and other funds—and of course providing even more needed electricity.

Clearway Energy Group saw that potential at the company’s 54-MW Pinnacle Wind Farm, which came online in 2012 and was repowered over several months last year. It was Clearway’s first repowering in West Virginia—the company has more than 580 MW of wind farms in its portfolio and project pipeline in the state—and its fourth repowering effort overall across its power generation fleet. The project upgraded Pinnacle, improved the plant’s efficiency, and also brought more reliability to the local electric grid.

Water Award

Under a project fostered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Varanasi Research Group, researchers developed a “Water Panel,” which was selected as POWER’s Water Award winner. The innovative solution is designed to harvest water from power plant cooling tower plumes for reuse at plants or to supplement city water supplies.

The amount of water loss from cooling towers has been a longstanding concern in the power industry. Water is mainly lost through evaporation, which involves vapor dissipation into the ambient air during the heat rejection process. The researchers developed a way to capture the evaporated water. It works by zapping the air rich in fog with a beam of ions, causing the water droplets in the fog to become electrically charged. These droplets are then drawn toward a mesh of wires (like a window screen), captured, and drained into a collection pan.

Smart Grid Award

A Fault Isolation Service Restoration (FISR) module, part of an Advanced Distribution Management Solution (ADMS), that improved grid reliability and reduced outage durations for customers of PPL Electric Utilities was the Smart Grid Award winner. PPL Electric Utilities’ smart grid upgrades have saved more than 1.3 million customer outages since 2015, and the company reduced the total number of outages in 2021 by 34% compared to the average over the past five years.

Prior to the implementation of GE Digital’s ADMS, PPL Electric Utilities’ outage management system utilized topology and paper maps. The fault locations were determined through either circuit patrols in the field or split-and-test processes. The new process provides more visibility on the fault locations for the operators, who are now able to identify the locations quickly and use the knowledge to make more intelligent operational decisions. Additionally, operators are now able to remotely execute the switching steps via telemetry, thus reducing the duration of restoration from an average of two hours to about two to three minutes with FISR. This also minimizes the number of customers impacted by outages.

Commercial and Industrial Generation Award

The City of White Plains, New York, enlisted DSD Renewables to design, engineer, develop, construct, and finance a nine-site, 6.8-MW community solar and 1.7-MW/8-MWh energy storage portfolio that won POWER’s Commercial and Industrial Generation Award. The unique project boosted the municipality’s revenue outlook while providing financial value for its energy-hungry commercial hub, and sustainability-oriented investors and consumers.

One unusual aspect of the White Plains project is that the large-scale solar and energy storage capacity is distributed within an urban environment. Community solar is more commonly installed at rural greenfield sites. As part of the agreement, DSD funded all the development work to secure incentives, as well as security entitlement around interconnection, working with Con Edison. When the solar power is delivered to the Con Edison grid as metered energy, subscribers receive utility bill credits, allowing them to accrue savings on their bills.

Distributed Energy Award

An innovative project that combines solar power with electric buses won POWER’s Distributed Energy Award. Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) worked with Enel X North America, assisted by solar firm Borrego, to begin operating the $4 million solar-plus-storage microgrid in May 2021. The system powers an electric public transportation bus fleet, enabling the community to rely on solar power rather than diesel fuel, decreasing risks caused by fuel price fluctuations and pipeline disruptions.

The public-private partnership minimized financial risks by splitting funding between multiple parties, and it locked in 30% savings for power produced over the next 20 years. The electric buses are much quieter and more environmentally friendly technology, helping the VTA become a better community member. An additional benefit of the microgrid created by the solar and electric bus project is that the energy services network can support the community in the event of an emergency.

Hydrogen Award

The Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R) is revitalizing an earthquake-stricken region and providing a remarkable boost to Japan’s ambitions to launch a hydrogen society, making the project a worthy recipient of POWER’s first-ever Hydrogen Award. For the past two years, FH2R has consistently been ranked as one of the world’s largest projects of its kind. According to project participants, FH2R uses a 20-MW solar PV array built on a 180,000-square-meter site along with grid electricity to power a single-stack 10-MW-class electrolyzer. Its developers say it can produce, store, and supply up to 1,200 Nm 3 /hr of hydrogen at rated power operation.

The project’s objectives address a key challenge, which is to ensure hydrogen production technology can be adjusted to balance supply and demand in the power grid. The facility’s alkaline water electrolysis system was designed and built by a subsidiary of Asahi Kasei, a multinational Japanese chemical firm. The electrolyzer uses chlor-alkali membrane electrolysis, which is an established industrial process through which chlorine, caustic soda, and hydrogen are produced simultaneously, using brine and electricity.

Top Plant Awards

As previously mentioned, POWER recognizes Top Plants each year in four categories—coal-fired, renewable, natural-gas fired, and nuclear. Top Plants are often recently commissioned facilities that exhibit some unique design or technology that is notable and of general interest to the power industry. They also can be plants that have distinguished themselves as industry leaders for significant improvements made to their equipment, operations, staffing, or operating record to emerge from an “also ran” to top of the class in performance. The following are the 2022 winners.

Coal Top Plants. The two coal-fired projects selected in 2022 were Osaki CoolGen Corp.’s complex three-phase demonstration project in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan, and Shanghaimiao Unit 1 in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China.

Osaki CoolGen seeks to achieve highly efficient coal-fired power generation with near-zero emissions by integrating carbon capture–ready coal technology with a fuel cell. The project includes a 166-MW oxygen-blown integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) demonstration plant and a CO 2 separation and capture unit.

Shanghaimiao Unit 1, meanwhile, is a 1,000-MW unit that came online in December 2021. The plant will eventually have four generating units, and is the largest thermal power project under construction in China, according to Guodian Power. The plant is part of China’s strategy to deliver electricity via the 800-kV, 10-GW Shanghaimiao-Shandong ultra-high-voltage direct current (UHVDC) transmission line to Shandong province on the country’s eastern coast.

Renewable Top Plants. Six renewable projects were recognized this year with Top Plant awards. They were the Bighorn Solar farm in Colorado, the Boone Dam project in Tennessee, Energypark Haringvliet in the Netherlands, Harvey Milk SFO Terminal in California, Svartsengi Geothermal Power Plant in Iceland, and Western Spirit Wind in New Mexico.

The 300-MW Bighorn Solar project in Pueblo is located on 1,800 acres of land on EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel property. It is the largest on-site solar facility dedicated to a single customer in the country and supports the nation’s first solar-powered steel mill.

The $326 million Boone Dam project involved construction of a composite seepage barrier created in several phases, which included the highly visible, two-year, round-the-clock construction of an underground cutoff wall. Following completion of the underground work, the Tennessee Valley Authority restored the crest of the dam to its previous elevation and constructed a floodwall.

Energypark Haringvliet is Vattenfall’s first power plant that combines wind, solar, and batteries. By combining these technologies, it is able to produce energy at a lower cost and make a more efficient use of available grid capacity with less impact on the environment. Located 20 kilometers south of Rotterdam, Haringvliet consists of six wind turbines; 115,000 solar panels; and 12 sea containers full of batteries. All three technologies jointly share the same grid connection.

Harvey Milk SFO Terminal in San Francisco has a 1.34-MW solar PV ballasted/hybrid flat roof racking system installed on the airport terminal. The azimuth of the array was analyzed in respect of the runways and approaching airplanes to ensure glare would not impact landing and taking off. A number of factors, including the site’s energy efficiency and sustainability, and PV system, contributed to the terminal’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification.

Svartsengi Geothermal Power Plant consists of 13 production boreholes connected to six plants. Eight of those wells are producing a mixture of steam and brine, and the other five are shallow dry steam wells. It also possesses one of the largest supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems in Iceland with 50 substations, which include hot water, cold water, and electricity distribution systems, and 11 turbines and generators.

With a capacity of more than 1,050 MW, Western Spirit Wind farm is the largest wind power project ever constructed as a single phase in the Americas. The project, which was completed in roughly a year in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic includes four wind power facilities that utilize a total of 377 GE wind turbines ranging from 2.3 MW to 2.8 MW in size. The turbines utilize various tower heights to optimize the wind capture at each facility.

Gas Top Plants. Winners in the Gas category were Anyang Combined Heat and Power Plant, South Korea; Cane Island Power Park, Florida; HO Clarke Generating Station, Texas; Long Ridge Energy Terminal, Ohio; and Muara Karang Power Plant, Indonesia.

GS Power’s Anyang Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Plant Unit 2-2 consists of the renewal of older gas-powered assets with the latest turbine technology including one GE 7HA.02 gas turbine, with a matching GT H65 generator, one STF D650 steam turbine, and a ST A39 generator, along with a Mark* VIe distributed control system (DCS) software solution.

Cane Island came online in 1994 and has regularly exceeded expectations for reliability and efficiency. In 2021, the facility had record-breaking continuous runs for Unit 3 (234 days) and Unit 4 (185 days), and Units 2, 3, and 4 had exceptional availability—95.6%, 96.8%, 93.4% equivalent availability factors (EAFs), respectively—well above the industry average of 85%.

The primary motivation for PROENERGY to build the HO Clarke plant, a 288-MW peaker in Houston equipped with six LM6000PC units, running at average heat rate of 9,725 Btu/kW, was to provide a physical showplace for its product. However, the plant’s economics are also sound, even while running at only an 11.7% capacity factor in its first year, which has increased sharply in 2022. Commissioned only two weeks before Winter Storm Uri, the station ran for 141 hours without interruption during the critical weather event.

Long Ridge Energy Terminal is one of the first power plants in the U.S. to be purpose-built for generating power with hydrogen fuel. While the pioneering journey that could ultimately allow the plant’s GE 7HA.02 gas turbine to combust 100% hydrogen by volume won’t been easy, a successful first test, combusting an initial blending of 5% hydrogen and 95% natural gas fuel by volume at the 485-MW combined cycle power plant, shows the plant’s promise.

Mitsubishi Power in late October 2021 brought 500 MW of gas-fired capacity online at the Muara Karang Power Plant, as part of an expansion project at the facility. The conversion of Muara Karang from coal to gas over the past several years left Jakarta with no coal-fired generation within the city’s boundaries. The move is part of a plan state-owned utility PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara, or PLN, has to achieve carbon neutrality in its operations by 2060.

Nuclear Top Plants. The Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby, Maryland, and Hongyanhe Units 5 and 6 in Donggang Town, Wafangdian, Liaoning Province, China, were selected as POWER’s Nuclear Top Plants in 2022.

During its 47-year history, Calvert Cliffs has blazed several licensing trails, including for permit environmental impact statements and relicensing. Despite changing ownership multiple times over the years and experiencing volatile market conditions, the dual-unit plant with a 1.8-GW total capacity has regularly generated more than 20% of Maryland’s electricity and about 81% of the state’s carbon-free power. Unit 2 also showcases the nation’s first complete accident-tolerant fuel assembly, a Framatome PROtect fuel design developed under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Accident Tolerant Fuel program.

Hongyanhe Units 5 and 6 came online during the past year. Hongyanhe’s six units provide a total of 6.71 GW of generation capacity, making it the largest nuclear power station in China. The plant’s two newest units are notable for their use of the ACPR-1000 reactor. Hongyanhe supplies power for about 20% of electricity consumption in Liaoning Province. The plant is the first commercial nuclear heating project in northeast China; using nuclear power for district heating is a crucial part of decarbonizing the energy sector.

POWER congratulates all of the winners for their unique and noteworthy accomplishments. Visit powermag.com/power-awards for information on how to nominate projects for 2023 awards.

POWER editors.

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