POWER Digest [March 2023]

POWER‘s editors curate important policy, technology, business, and industry news briefs from around the world in this department.

Pakistan Begins Commercial Operation of 1.3-GW Coal Plant

Pakistan on Feb. 7 began commercial operation of a 1.3-GW coal-fired power plant in the Thar Desert in Sindh province, southern Pakistan. The project, built as part of the Thar Coal Block-I Coal Electricity Integration project, was developed by China’s Shanghai Electric Group. Estimated to cost about $2.5 billion, the project comprises two 660-MW subcritical Shanghai Electric units. It will use local lignite supplied by Sino Sindh Resources Ltd. (SSRL), a Shanghai Electric subsidiary. SSRL was awarded a 30-year mining lease for Thar Coal Block-I in October 2011. As part of the project Shanghai Electric is also building a 6.8 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) open-pit mine. The Thar project is one of 16 priority projects developed under the 2013-signed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework. According to Pakistan’s CPEC Authority, 13 projects have already been completed, including 6.3 GW of coal-fired power projects, 600 MW of solar, 300 MW of wind, and 720 MW of hydropower. Another 630 MW of coal-fired capacity is under construction along with 870 MW of new hydropower. Several other coal, wind, and hydropower projects are also “under consideration,” the authority said.

Saudi Arabia Relaunches 7.2 GW of Gas Power Projects with CCS Requirement. Saudi Power Procurement Co. (SPPC), Saudi Arabia’s state-owned power project development arm, on Jan. 21 has relaunched four new combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) projects—a combined capacity of 7.2 GW—with an imperative that any bids must ensure the projects will be carbon-capture ready. The projects include two phases of the 3.6-GW Qassim IPP (Qassin IPP 1 and 2) project and two phases of the 3.6-GW Taiba IPP project (Taiba IPP 1 and 2). On Jan. 31, SPPC also specified 21 parties that are pre-qualified to bid for the projects. The CCGT plants will be built in alignment with the kingdom’s “Green Initiative,” which seeks to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2060 in addition to the objectives to ensure supply security, diversity of market participation, and fair competition. SPPC indicated it would re-tender the Qassim and Taiba projects with a carbon capture readiness in December, six months after the ministries of Finance and Energy fully nationalized SPPC, as part of the kingdom’s efforts to restructure its electricity sector, and introduce financial and organizational reforms. SPPC’s new role now involves planning and putting forward projects, and concluding power purchase and wholesale agreements, developing energy trading markets, and purchasing fuel.

South Korea Submits Proposal for Four Nuclear Reactors to Türkiye

South Korea’s Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) has submitted a preliminary proposal to build four 1,400-MW nuclear power plants in northern Türkiye. Türkiye reportedly asked KEPCO to submit a proposal for the project in December, including how KEPCO will develop and build the project. “The two sides began discussions on the project in earnest. They will carry out a feasibility test to come up with an optimum way to push for the project,” KEPCO said in a press release on Jan. 31. KEPCO is leading South Korea’s target of exploring 10 nuclear power reactors by 2030, and it is actively marketing OPR1000 and APR1400 units to countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America. South Korea is currently involved in a $20.4 billion contract to build four APR1400 nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—a combined output of 5,600 MW. UAE nuclear operator Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. (ENEC) began operating Unit 2 at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in March 2022, a year after it began commercial operation of Unit 1. Unit 3 has been grid-connected and is currently in the commissioning phase. Unit 4 is 92% complete. ENEC says that once the four units are fully operational, they will provide up to 25% of the UAE’s energy. In January, notably, ENEC and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power signed a memorandum of understanding to expand their cooperation on future South Korean nuclear plant exports, as well as on research and development for small modular reactors and microreactors.

GE Connects 1.2-GW Pumped Storage Plant in China

GE Hydro Solutions on Jan. 31 successfully connected all four units of the 1.2-GW Jinzhai pumped storage power plant in Jinzhai County, Anhui Province, China. GE supplied the plant’s four 300-MW pumped storage turbines, generator-motors, as well as the balance of plant equipment. The hydropower project is expected to stabilize China’s grid and help it integrate more renewables in its energy system. The project is part of China’s ambitious plan to install more than 200 pumped storage stations with a combined capacity of 270 GW by 2025. GE said it has so far delivered more than 12 GW of pumped storage solutions in China, which represent more than 25% of the installed base in the country.

Australia Closer to Building First Commercial CSP Power Plant

Australia’s Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) on Feb. 13 approved a conditional grant of AU$65 million to fund Vast Solar’s construction of VS1, a 30-MW/288-MWh concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in Port Augusta, South Australia. The grant is conditional upon the AU$203 million project’s financial close, which is targeted in late 2023. Vast Solar expects construction of the plant could take two years, and it anticipates start of commercial operations in late 2025. ARENA said the project will demonstrate how CSP can provide reliability and scalable dispatchable renewable energy to the Australian market. VS1 will use Vast’s modular tower CSP v3.0 technology, sodium as a heat transfer fluid, and a patented control system to generate dispatchable power with more than nine hours of thermal energy storage. The technology was proven in 2017 at Vast’s 1.1-MW grid-connected demonstration project in New South Wales. Vast said it is currently considering more than 20 projects based on the technology in sunbelt locations worldwide.

Estonia Sets Out to Build First Pumped Storage Plant

Zero Terrain, a 550-MW underground pumped storage plant that energy firm Energiasalv is developing in Estonia received an official permit to begin construction on Jan. 24. The project, Estonia’s first large-scale energy storage project, will be built in Paldiski, northwestern Estonia. It will provide 6 GWh of storage capacity (during one storage cycle of 12 hours). Energiasalv said it planned to continue with pre-qualification for construction procurement, and it will seek to finalize the tender process by the end of 2023. Construction start is slated for the summer of 2024.

Hexicon Secures Permits to Connect 7.1 GW of Floating Wind to Italian Grid

Italian transmission system operator Terna SpA on Jan. 19 granted floating wind power project developer Hexicon permits to connect six floating wind power sites to the national grid. The six wind farms, which could use Hexicon’s proprietary TwinWind floating wind design (featuring two turbines on one foundation), are still under development off the coasts of Sardinia, Sicily, and the mainland, in Puglia. Hexicon expects a seventh site will soon be permitted. The development marks a big leap for Italy’s efforts to ramp up its renewable production, which aim in part to cut dependence on Russian gas. “With a vast coastline and excellent wind resources, especially in the deep waters of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy has a strong potential for floating wind,” Hexicon noted. The Global Wind Energy Council suggests Italy is one of the top five emerging markets for offshore wind.

Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor (@sonalcpatel@POWERmagazine).

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