POWER Digest (March 2011)

GDF SUEZ, RWE, and Iberdrola Pull out of Cernavoda Nuclear Expansion. French power company GDF SUEZ, Germany’s RWE, and Spain’s Iberdrola on Jan. 20 said they would no longer participate in a project to build Units 3 and 4 of the Cernavoda nuclear project in Romania. The companies cited “economic and market uncertainties surrounding the project,” which were “not reconcilable now with the capital requirements of a new nuclear power project.” The companies, which had been partners in the project with Romania’s SN Nuclearelectrica since 2008, stressed in a joint statement that their withdrawal did not reflect on the technical quality of the project.

USEC to Extend Operation of Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. USEC announced on Jan. 11 that it was working to extend operation of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant beyond May 2012. A decision about the Kentucky plant’s future, expected during the first half of 2011, would be based on economic considerations—including future power prices, a “significant factor” for the power-intensive facility, the company said. The Paducah plant produces low-enriched uranium used as fuel in commercial nuclear power plants in the U.S. and around the world. To support extended operations, USEC is also considering enriching a portion of the Department of Energy’s depleted uranium stockpile from its weapons programs. “Given the current price of uranium, the federal government could generate substantial revenue by re-enriching portions of the depleted uranium at Paducah to the level of natural uranium,” the company said.

SSE and Norwegian Firms Explore Possibility of Subsea Power Link. Scottish and Southern Energy subsidiary SSE Interconnector on Feb. 2 signed a cooperation agreement with three Norwegian utilities— E-CO Energi, Agder Energi, and Lyse —and Swedish company Vattenfall to investigate the feasibility of building a subsea power link. The link would be 550 km to 700 km long and run between the UK and Norway. The partners will form a new company, NorthConnect, to undertake the project over the next three to four years to examine the technical and economic viability of building and operating a high-voltage direct current electricity interconnector, which would be designed to transmit power in both directions. NorthConnect is expected to conduct a variety of assessments, including commercial, technical, environmental, and engineering studies to identify the best locations for converter stations.

German Government, Firms to Test Molten Salt Solar Thermal Technologies. Siemens Energy on Feb. 1 announced that it would partner with German firms and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety to build a solar thermal facility at the University of Evora, southeast of Lisbon, Portugal, to test molten salt as a heat transfer medium. The project is part of the government’s “High-Performance Solar Thermal Power” research, which seeks to enhance the efficiency and reliability of parabolic trough power plants. It will test different types of salts and compositions with receiver tubes made by Archimede Solar Energy (in which Siemens owns a 45% stake). Partner firms include the German Aerospace Center, K+S AG, Senior Berghöfer GmbH, and Steinmüller Engineering GmbH.

France Launches $13.6B Plan to Build Offshore Wind Turbines. France, a country that produces 74% of its power from nuclear energy, on Jan. 25 unveiled a $13.6 billion plan to build, for the first time, offshore wind turbines. The 600 turbines would have a total capacity of 3,000 MW and would be installed at five sites in the western regions of Loire-Atlantique, Brittany, and Normandy. President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters that France will open bidding for the first phase of the contract in mid-2011; the winning bid will be announced in 2012. The wind farms are expected to be operational in 2015 to help the country meet its target of obtaining 23% of its power from renewable sources by 2020. Wind power currently makes up less than 2% of France’s capacity.

China to Invest $121B in New Nuclear Projects. China’s government plans to raise its nuclear capacity from 2% to 5% of its total power generation, for a total of 86 GW by 2020, by spending 70 billion yuan ($10.6 billion) annually, reported the state-owned China Daily on Jan. 26. The government is expected to approve another 10 nuclear power projects during its 12th Five Year Plan (2011–2015). The bulk of the investments are to be made by the China National Nuclear Corp., which will spend 800 billion yuan ($121 billion) by 2020. The newspaper also reported that the localization rate—the amount of nuclear equipment that is domestically engineered—stands at an average of 50% (80% for second-generation technology and 30% for third-generation reactors). Dongfang Electric has taken up most of that market share. That company said it has orders worth 45 billion yuan and expects figures to skyrocket this year.

Suzlon Wins $1.28B Order for Indian Wind Turbines. Indian wind turbine manufacturer Suzlon Group on Jan. 28 said it signed a $1.28 billion order with independent power producer Caparo Energy India Ltd. (CEIL) for 1,000 MW of wind power projects to be developed in India by March 2013. The projects will utilize various Suzlon turbine models, including the S88 and the new S9X series 2.1-MW turbines with the doubly fed induction generator technology. CEIL executives called for the Indian government to pass a supportive regulatory framework for wind energy.

MHI, L&T Begin Supercritical Component Plants in India. One plant to build supercritical coal-fired boilers and another to build steam turbines and generators have begun operation in India, joint owners of the facilities Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and India’s Larsen & Toubro Ltd. (L&T) announced on Jan. 11. Both plants are located at L&T’s existing plant at Hazira, Gujarat State. The 54,000–square meter boiler production plant has begun welding and assembly work of boiler parts, and the 53,000–square meter factory for steam turbines is producing supercritical equipment for a coal-fired plant in Andhra Pradesh. MHI said in a Feb. 2 statement that it had received two orders for core components of five 700-MW supercritical boiler and steam turbine sets. These will be installed at a Punjabi coal plant being built by L&T subsidiary Nabha Power Ltd. (slated to begin this summer) and at a power plant in Uttar Pradesh, which owner Sangam Power Generation Co. plans to put into commercial operation later this year.

Alstom to Supply Two CFB Oil Shale–Powered Units to Estonia. Alstom on Jan. 14 signed a €950 million contract with Narva Elektrijaamad AS, a subsidiary of Estonia’s state-owned utility, Eesti Energia, to supply two 300-MW units for a fossil-fueled power plant based on circulating fluidized bed (CFB) boiler technology in Estonia. The power plant, located in Narva, will be fueled by local oil shale. The new power plant will supply an important part of the country’s domestic electricity demand and ensure Estonia’s compliance with the European Union’s emissions directive.

Sonal Patel is POWER’s senior writer.