On the following pages, we introduce the magazine’s 12 Top Plants of 2006. Among this year’s winners are two solar energy plants and another that marries fuel cells with heat and waste gas recovery. As those projects make clear, a plant doesn’t have to be big to earn kudos from us. What we typically like are plants that showcase a design or technology innovation, push the efficiency envelope, or tread lightly on the environment. Congratulations to the winners!

Every power project tracks a unique course to a common goal—commercial operation. Invested in each project are the blood, sweat, and tears of its development, design, and start-up teams—not to mention a few years of their lives. Our job at POWER is to share your experiences (good and bad), especially on projects that have unique features, notable characteristics, or just a great story that the rest of the industry should hear. Typically, engineers are great at building and operating equipment but not very good at tooting their own horn. That’s where we come in.

The Top Plants selection process begins with a request. Earlier this year we issued a call for nominations via ads in POWER and our POWERnews biweekly industry newsletter. (Visit our web site, www.powermag.com, to subscribe to the newsletter; it’s free.) More than 100 nominations, representing a wide range of plant types and technologies, were received from all segments of the industry, ranging from plant managers and engineers to equipment suppliers. POWER’s editors then shrunk the list to a dozen finalists, researched the projects, interviewed the people who contributed to their success, and wrote articles on the plants listed below.

This year, we also reached out to a number of users groups for nominations. One of our Top Plants—TXU Corp.’s Monticello Steam Electric Station—also is the PRB Coal Users’ Group’s 2006 Plant of the Year. Next year we plan to solicit nominations from even more users’ groups. If you know a deserving project that is expected to come on-line by July 2007, check out our web site for information on how and when to nominate it.

Making the A-list

This year, the biggest challenge we faced in our ongoing effort to cover as many generation technologies as possible was identifying nominated plants that meet one of our key criteria: a commercial service debut within the past year. Most projects filling that bill are natural gas–fired combined-cycle plants—although sky-high gas prices have trimmed the ranks of their successors. Circumstances may dictate how a plant operates, but it won’t dictate if a plant deserves recognition.

Currently, there’s a lot of hype about how many coal-fired projects are in the development pipeline. But few have yet to materialize; POWER’s 2006 Top Plants includes just one coal-fired facility—Monticello, which isn’t honored for being new but rather for the impact that a coal-blending project there has had on TXU’s resource planning.

Wind projects would dominate our list if the number of plants completed over the past year were a selection criterion. But so many wind farms seem to be—like many gas-fired combined-cycle plants—very similar projects, so there’s little technology to recognize. In the case of wind power, we expect more Top Plant–worthy projects to emerge in coming years, given the sheer number of large offshore plants now under consideration or in development (see Global Monitor).

Innovative design or engineering—as opposed to a technology choice—remains the distinguishing characteristic of most of our Top Plants. In that context, a project could win for any of several reasons: using a unique approach to fill a shortfall in regional generation reserves, producing power more reliably or economically than comparable plants, finding ways to be frugal with water use, or demonstrating a technology for reducing air or water pollution.

A notable difference in this year’s roster is the inclusion of more renewable-energy projects—specifically, projects based on photovoltaics and solar thermal energy recovery. Among the winners is a unique total-energy project that generates power and steam for a brewery. We believe that the importance of this project belies its size.

We also believe that, in some way, each of our 12 Top Plants manifests a new trend in the electric power industry that you should be aware of.

Arcos de la Frontera Grupo III—Cádiz, Spain—World’s first GE 9FB gas turbine installation becomes a standard for Iberdrola.

Bavaria Solarpark—Bavaria, Germany—World’s largest (11 MW) photovoltaic plant completes first year of operation.

Bethlehem Energy Center—Glenmont, N.Y.—750-MW repowering project features fish-friendly cooling system, reduced emissions.

Brooklyn Navy Yard Cogeneration Facility—Brooklyn, N.Y.—Refurbished 286-MW plant with award-winning environmental record also supplies steam to Manhattan.

Currant Creek Power Plant—Mona, Utah—First new generating capacity built by PacifiCorp in 20 years "went commercial" twice.

Kannagawa Hydropower Plant—Gunma and Nagano Prefectures, Japan—First 480-MW phase of world’s largest (2,800 MW) pumped-storage plant enters service.

Linden Generating Station—Linden, N.J.—Huge (1,240 MW) plant near New York City uses reclaimed wastewater for all cooling needs.

Monticello Steam Electric Station—Mount Pleasant, Texas—Based on 10 years’ experience blending PRB coal and lignite at Monticello, TXU proposes building 11 more units in east Texas like the three there.

Mountainview Power Plant—Redlands, Calif.—First project by Southern California Edison since deregulation resurrects abandoned project and goes commercial in record time.

NYPA Astoria Project—Astoria, N.Y.—New York Power Authority’s first combined-cycle plant, the first sizable new capacity in the Big Apple in decades, is rated at 500 MW.

Saguaro Solar Power Plant—Red Rock, Ariz.—First solar thermal project with an organic Rankine cycle built in the U.S. in almost 20 years.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Fuel Cell Project—Chico, Calif.—1-MW project first integrated recovery of heat and waste gas; next, it may add solar cells.