News items of interest to power industry professionals.

CEZ to Build Czech Republic’s First Gas-Fired Plant. Czech power utility CEZ plans to build an 800-MW steam/gas power plant in the Melník, in the Czech Republic’s Central Bohemia region. The project will replace the output of three coal-fired units in the region, two with an output of 110 MW and one with an output of 500 MW. All three plants will reach the end of their life by 2015.

GE Hitachi Signs Agreement with L&T for Indian Nukes. GE Hitachi (GEH) and Indian engineering and construction company Larsen & Toubro (L&T) signed a nuclear power plant development agreement on May 19. GEH expects the agreement to help it establish an extensive network of local suppliers to help build a future Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) in India. The agreement was one of the first preliminary nuclear technology trade agreements to be announced by a U.S. majority – owned company since the U.S. and India adopted a civilian nuclear energy accord in October 2008. GEH had in March 2009 announced an ABWR development agreement with state-owned Nuclear Power Corp. of India.

Vattenfall Withdraws Interests from UK Nuclear New Builds. Swedish state-owned power company Vattenfall announced on June 1 that it had decided to put any decisions about participating in the UK’s nuclear new build program on hold for the next 12 to 18 months because of the "economic recession and market situation." The company said that it would retain a significant interest in the UK energy market and monitor developments in nuclear new builds, however. The company’s plans to develop the UK’s wind asset portfolio are not affected by this decision, it said.

Masdar Connects 10-MW PV Plant to Abu Dhabi Grid. Abu Dhabi – based solar integrator Enviromena Power System on June 1 announced the completion of the Masdar 10-MW Solar Power Plant, the largest grid-connected solar system in the Middle East and North Africa. The 212,000 – square meter (55-acre) solar system consists of 87,777 photovoltaic modules and will produce 17,500 MWh of clean energy each year, offsetting approximately 15,000 tons of carbon emissions annually. The plant will produce energy to power the initial construction activities of Masdar City. The AED 185 million project was completed on time and on budget. Enviromena added that it is also one of the most quickly constructed and cost-efficient photovoltaic installations in the world in terms of projected power output.

Brazilian Bank Covers GDF SUEZ for 68.5% of €3.3 Billion Jirau Hydro Project. The Brazilian development bank BNDES (Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social) has approved a 20-year loan of BRL7.2 billion (approximately €2.44 billion) for GDF SUEZ to finance the Jirau project, a 3,300-MW greenfield hydroelectric power station. The loan is the largest ever granted by the Brazilian development bank and covers 68.5% of the total €3.3 billion investment in the Jirau plant. Jirau will help address the growing demand for electricity in Brazil (about 4,500 MW per year) and is currently the largest energy infrastructure project in the country.

Wärtsilä Successfully Test Runs Engines on Renewable Fuels. Wärtsilä, a supplier of flexible power plants for the decentralized power generation market, has successfully performed a number of tests that demonstrate the ability of its engines to run on a range of vegetable and animal-based oils. In the tests, conducted between February and April of this year at the VTT technical research center in Espoo, Finland, a Wärtsilä Vasa 4R32 engine successfully operated on jatropha oil, fish oil, and chicken oil.

The first tests with engines running on a liquid biofuel were carried out in 1995, when Wärtsilä began testing with rapeseed oil. Since 2003, Wärtsilä engine power plants have been in commercial operation using palm oil as the fuel source. Wärtsilä has, as an example, a market share of more than 95% in Italy for power generation from liquid biofuels. The aim of these recent tests has been to assess the capability of engines to operate on renewable fuels that do not compete with agricultural uses.

Alstom to Build Geothermal Plant in Mexico. Alstom in May said it had won a €45 million turnkey contract with Mexico’s Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) to supply a geothermal power plant, including key equipment, in Mexico. When completed in October 2011, the 25-MW Los Humeros II geothermal power plant will power Mexico’s eastern Puebla state. Mexico is the fourth-largest geothermal energy producer worldwide, after the U.S., the Philippines, and Indonesia. Alstom will be the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor for the project.

— Sonal Patel is POWER’s senior writer.