POWER Notebook: ‘Coal on Way Out’, Theme Parks Embrace Renewables

The chief executive of Vistra Energy Corp. last week said coal is not likely to regain market share in the U.S. power market. Curtis Morgan, in a panel discussion March 14 at the CERAWeek event in Houston, Texas, said “coal is on its way out. More and more plants are being retired.”

It’s not the first time Morgan has sounded the alarm for coal. He told CNBC in an interview in April 2018: “I don’t believe [coal] is going to have a renaissance. I think it’s on its way out. As much as I believe it is going to be part of the energy infrastructure around power, I believe that other sources are now catching up with coal in terms of the overall costs.”

Vistra is the parent company of TXU Energy, Homefield Energy, Dynegy, and Luminant. Vistra in the past year has closed four large coal plants that could no longer compete economically with cheaper power sources, including renewables. Morgan said he sees solar power taking a larger share of the power generation market. Vistra’s home state of Texas leads the nation in generation from wind.

Solar Farm Powering Disney Properties

Disney recently brought a 50-MW solar farm online at its Florida amusement park complex. The installation includes 518,000 solar panels on a 270-acre plot next to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The company said the solar farm will provide power for about 25% of Disney’s property in central Florida.

The solar farm is a collaboration with Origis Energy USA, a Miami, Florida-based solar company, and the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Disney in 2016 installed a 5-MW solar farm—arrayed in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head—to power part of Epcot Center. The company wants to reduce carbon emissions at its properties to 50% of 2012 levels by 2020.

Other theme parks also are using renewables to power their operations. KDC Solar LLC, a solar developer and owner/operator, is building a 23.5-MW solar power plant in Jackson, New Jersey. The installation is expected to power the Six Flags Great Adventure park in New Jersey in 2020. When operational, it will be the largest net metered solar installation in New Jersey.

Mitsubishi Targets Philippines with New Gas Turbine

Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (MHI), which is deploying its turbine technology across Indonesia, wants to use its new 120-MW H-100 gas turbine to help support electrification of island power grids in the Philippines. Ricky Sakai, MHI’s director of marketing and business development, told the Manila Bulletin newspaper that the new turbine would be able to serve the energy needs of off-grid areas. The Philippines has more than 7,000 islands that make up the country’s power system.

Sakai said, “The idea is to have a hub to receive big amount of LNG [liquefied natural gas], then MHI, being a company that can also build small ships for the mini-LNG carrier, will distribute the gas to these power systems in small islands.” Sakai said such a set-up is known as a “milk run distribution” of LNG to off-grid service areas.

Mitsubishi touted its gas technology as a complement to the Philippines’ push for renewable energy systems in its island grids. Michael Sicker, vice president in the Oil & Gas Division at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America, has said of the region, “It will be certainly one area where gas will be ideal for power generation – the fast ramp up time makes it ideal to marry to renewable energy supplies.”

Gas turbine technology has made several advancements in recent years, with units able to start faster, ramp-up more quickly, and deliver increased efficiency and performance.

—POWER staff reports (@POWERmagazine).