Ørsted Gets UK’s Green Light to Build 2.4-GW Offshore Wind Farm. Danish multinational company Ørsted on Dec. 31 received development consent from the UK to build the 2.4-GW Hornsea Project Three offshore wind farm. The development consent order came just weeks after the UK government set an ambitious target to install 40 GW of offshore wind—and 1 GW of floating offshore wind—by 2030 as part of efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040. The order, granted 26 months after Ørsted submitted its final plans for the project, allows Ørsted to install 231 turbines—not 300 as the company had applied for—off the Yorkshire coast in the North Sea. Ørsted completed the 1.2-GW Hornsea One project 89 kilometers (km) off the Yorkshire coast in January 2020. Featuring 174 Siemens Gamesa 7-MW wind turbines, that project is currently the world’s largest offshore wind farm. Ørsted is now building the 1.4-GW Hornsea Two wind farm. That project, which features 165 Siemens Gamesa 8-MW turbines, is slated to come online in 2022. The company said it is also exploring a fourth wind farm—Hornsea Four—about 65 km off the Yorkshire coast, but that project remains in the pre-application phase.
JERA Commissions USC Coal Plant in Japan. Japanese power giant JERA on Jan. 8 commissioned the 650-MW Hitachinaka Joint Thermal Power Station Unit 1, a coal-fired ultrasupercritical (USC) unit located on the site of JERA’s two-unit 2-GW Hitachinaka Thermal Power Station in the city of Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture, east Japan. While the 650-MW plant owned by JERA subsidiary Hitachinaka Generation is part of JERA’s extensive fleet of 28 thermal plants, the company announced in October that it will seek to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050. Under its roadmap, JERA plans to shutter its entire 2.2 GW supercritical coal power generation fleet in Japan by 2030, and then gradually increase the ratio of mixed combustion of fossil fuels to ammonia and hydrogen at USC plants.
Eskom Forced to Take Koeberg 1 Offline Despite Chronic Power Shortage. Eskom has taken Unit 1 at the two-unit 1.8-GW Koeberg nuclear plant offline for repairs, and it does not expect to return it to service until May 2021, dealing another blow to the power-strapped region. The state-owned utility said on Jan. 4 it took the unit offline after observing an “increasing leak rate” on one of three steam generators at Unit 1. Unit 2, completed in 1985, continues to safely operate and generate at full power. “Although the leak rate was well within the safety limits, a conservative decision was made to take Koeberg Unit 1 offline for repairs,” Eskom said. The unit, a CP1 model built by Framatome in 1984, had been slated to begin a maintenance and refueling outage in February. In September, Eskom received the first of six replacement steam generators for the Koeberg units as part of a $1.2 billion program to extend the plant’s operating life by 20 years. The generators were designed by Orano and are being manufactured under a subcontract by Shanghai Electric Power Equipment Co. The first three steam generators were scheduled to be installed at Unit 1 between February and June this year, and between January 2022 and May 2022 for Unit 2. As Eskom announced yet another round of load shedding in January, Unit 1’s early outage adds to 13.2 GW of capacity of unplanned outages and another 6.4 GW that is out for planned maintenance. The utility also said a second wave of COVID-19 cases is affecting its operations.
Ringhals 1 Permanently Closed. Ringhals 1, a 1976-commissioned 881-MW boiling water reactor (BWR) owned jointly by Vattenfall and E.ON at the four-unit plant in Sweden’s Väröhalvön peninsula area, powered down permanently on Dec. 31, making it the fourth reactor to close in Sweden in the last seven years. The closure follows Ringhals 2, a Westinghouse pressurized water reactor (PWR) that Vattenfall shut down in December 2019. The company, however plans to continue operating Ringhals 3 and 4, also both Westinghouse PWRs, for at least 60 years, until the beginning of the 2040s. Vattenfall built Ringhals 1 as a BWR and Ringhals 2 as a PWR because, though the company owned 100% by Sweden set out to model Ringhals on U.S.-based Westinghouse’s design in the late 1960s, the state sought to merge its nuclear entity, AB Atomenergi with Swedish industrial company ASEA’s nuclear department. “In order to make Asea accept the merger, the state offered to bulid an Asea reactor in Ringhals. This is why Ringhals started with two reactors Ringhals 1 (Asea-Atom) and Ringhals 2 (Westinghouse),” Vattenfall said. However, Asea-Atom’s reactor was delayed, which is why Ringhals 2 was put into operation first. “The final cost was almost twice as much as estimated. Despite this, Ringhals proved to be a highly profitable investment,” it said.
Framatome to Acquire Rolls-Royce’s Legacy Nuclear I&C Business. French nuclear giant Framatome on Dec. 7 said it signed a sale purchase agreement with UK firm Rolls-Royce to acquire its civil nuclear instrumentation and control (I&C) business, which operates mainly in France and China. If it garners the required regulatory approvals, the transaction, expected to close in the second half of 2021, will allow Framatome to absorb Rolls-Royce’s products and technologies in I&C systems, which are installed in 150 operating nuclear reactors worldwide. Rolls-Royce has designed, manufactured, installed, and renovated analog and digital safety I&C systems for nuclear reactors all over the world. It was the original equipment supplier of process controls and safety I&C systems of France’s 58 reactors, and it designed and installed the first digital protection system in the world at the Paluel nuclear plant in France in 1984. According to Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East, the transaction will mark a simplification of the technology company’s portfolio, and it will contribute toward an August 2020–announced target to generate more than£2 billion from business division disposals. In 2019, Rolls-Royce’s I&C business had 550 employees and reported revenues of $113.5 million, which were consolidated within results reported by its Power Systems business. In an investor update on Dec. 11, company executives said the Power Systems business “experienced a significant fall in demand in most non-governmental end markets” over 2020. Other assets the company is considering divesting include its ITP Aero aeronautical and industrial engine business, and its medium-speed gas and diesel engines business, Bergen Engines.
1.2-GW Turkish Hydropower Project on Tigris Fully Operational. The 1.2-GW Ilisu Dam & Hydroelectric Power Plant on the Tigris river in southeastern Turkey’s Madrin District was declared fully operational on Dec. 24. Approved in 1997, the $2.4 billion state-owned project suffered several setbacks and delays during its 11-year construction period, but as officials have noted, it required considerable planning, including to resettle local residents and protect historic and cultural assets. The area was home to a Byzantine fortress and the 12,000-year-old town of Hasankeyf, which has thousands of neolithic caves and hundreds of ancient monuments. Filling of the dam flooded 100 miles of the upper Tigris River and its tributaries, including the ancient valley. Ilisu is Turkey’s fourth-largest hydropower plant. According to a project consultant consortium comprising AF Consult, IM Maggia Engineering, and Dolsar Engineering and Rast Engineering, the plant is composed of a 135-meter (m)-high and 2,289-m-long concrete faced rockfill dam, gravity dam, spillway, three power intakes and tunnels, and a powerhouse with six Francis units of 222 MW each. The project’s contractor consortium includes: Nurol & Cengiz, Andritz Hydro, and Stucky & Temelsu.
Geothermal/Lithium Production Project in Germany Economically Sound, Suggests Developer. A pre-feasibility study completed by Australian firm Vulcan Energy Resources in mid-January for its Vulcan Lithium Project in Germany suggests “robust economics” for the project that could combine geothermal energy production and a direct lithium extraction (DLE) process. Vulcan said the resource in the Upper Rhine Valley is large enough to satisfy Europe’s lithium needs for “many years to come, and ensure the transition to electric vehicles is done with minimal environmental footprint.” The European Union has a battery capacity target of more than 500 GWh by 2030 as it seeks to meet carbon neutrality targets and enforces combustion engine bans. Nearly 400,000 tons of lithium hydroxide will be needed regionally by the end of the decade, it said. Vulcan’s production process will involve a 74-MW geothermal plant, its DLE process, and a lithium refining plant, which will use electrolysis to convert lithium chloride extracted from the brine to lithium hydroxide. The process recycles water, produces no toxic wastes, and emits no gases from its heat and power production, according to the company. It envisions a three-phase construction period that could wrap up at the end of 2025.
—Sonal Patel is POWER’s senior associate editor.