POWER Digest (March 2009)

News items of interest to power industry professionals.

RWE and E.ON to partner on new UK nuclear capacity. German giants RWE AG and E.ON AG on Jan. 14 said they would partner to develop new nuclear power stations in the UK. The 50:50 joint venture will have a long-term focus on seeking secure sites being sold by the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency and taking them through the consents process to building and operating new nuclear power stations. The joint venture will aim to develop at least 6 GW of capacity in the UK.

The two companies said they would together contribute the financial stability and balance sheet strength required to support a program of this scale. The companies have stakes in 20 nuclear power stations around the world. E.ON and RWE already jointly own three nuclear reactors in Germany. The companies said that the joint venture has not made a decision on reactor technology for individual sites it acquires and will make a selection based on a thorough assessment of the technical and commercial merits.

E.ON, one of the UK’s leading power and gas companies, is currently building a 1,275-MW gas-fired combined heat and power plant in Kent and the 180-MW Robin Rigg offshore wind farm in Solway Firth. It has permission to build a 1,200-MW gas-fired power station at Drakelow in Derbyshire, and it has applied to build a 1,600-MW clean coal plant at Kingsnorth in Kent. It is also a part owner of the 341-turbine London Array, the largest planned offshore wind farm in the UK, along with Abu Dhabi’s Masdar and Denmark’s DONG Energy. But in January, news reports hinted that Masdar was reconsidering the viability of the £3 billion proposal that would be built in the Thames Estuary, questioning the economics of the project. Masdar acquired Shell’s 20% stake in the project in late 2008, a move that drew strong support from the UK government, which has lofty goals for the UK to become the world’s leader in offshore wind.

RWE is planning investments totaling about £1 billion per year for the next 10 years in the UK. The company is developing a £1 billion modern gas-fired power station at Pembroke. In December, npower renewables was granted consent to construct its 750-MW Gwynt-y-mor offshore wind farm off the North Wales coast. That project is expected to boost RWE’s offshore wind holdings, along with the 90-MW offshore farm at Rhyl Flats, North Wales, which is currently under construction by the company.

"The UK power industry needs significant investment to replace aging coal and nuclear plant [sic] and to drive the change to a lower carbon economy," Andrew Duff, chief executive of RWE subsidiary RWE npower, said in January. "This joint venture will deliver an early, substantial and vital contribution from nuclear power. At the same time, large infrastructure projects can bring major benefits to the UK economy through jobs, direct investment and supply chain opportunities."

The UK must replace a third of its generating capacity in the next 15 years or suffer chronic power shortages, energy experts in the country have said. A recent report from global energy consultancy firm Capgemini claims that power generation in the UK has already fallen to its lowest level in 10 years. The shortage has been caused by the increase in the level of demand for electricity combined with a growing tendency to build wind turbines at the expense of other, more reliable, electricity sources.

Finland’s Fennovoima Applies to Build New Nuclear Reactor. Finnish nuclear power company Fennovoima on Jan. 14 submitted its application to the Finnish government for a decision-in-principle on the construction of a nuclear power plant. The company said that the project would enhance Finland’s power self-sufficiency and fulfill the electricity needs of businesses and households.

"The price of electricity is an important competition factor for the metal industry, food industry, building material industry, retail trade and local energy companies involved in the Fennovoima project," the company said in a press release this January. "In order to safeguard the potential for investment and employment in Finland, Fennovoima’s 64 shareholders need their own stable and reasonably priced electricity production. At present their self-sufficiency in electricity procurement is very low."

Finland’s four operating nuclear reactors — two at Loviisa, operated by Fortum, and two at Olkiluoto, operated by Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) — currently supply about a quarter of the country’s power needs. A third reactor at Olkiluoto, an EPR, is under construction by an AREVA-Siemens consortium. TVO is also proposing to build another reactor at Olkiluoto, while Fortum is considering building a third unit at Loviisa. TVO in April 2008 applied for a decision-in-principle, though Fortum has yet to apply for such a decision.

Fennovoima is presenting three site alternatives for the nuclear power plant: Hanhikivi in the municipality of Pyhäjoki, Gäddbergsö in the municipality of Ruotsinpyhtää, and Karsikko in the municipality of Simo. The alternative sites fulfill the requirements for constructing a nuclear power plant and are suitable for the project. Once the decision-in-principle has been ratified by Finnish parliament, Fennovoima will select the final power plant site.

Fennovoima will prepare for construction of a nuclear power plant with a rated electricity output of 1,500 MW to 2,500 MW at the selected site. The company said that the alternatives are to construct either one large nuclear reactor or two smaller reactors. Fennovoima will consider the EPR and SWR 1000 by AREVA and the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor by Toshiba. All alternatives can be designed to produce district heating in addition to electricity. Fennovoima hopes to start the proposed reactor by 2020.

Beacon Power and National Grid to Evaluate Flywheel Storage Systems. Beacon Power Corp., the company whose flywheel energy storage system could support more stable, reliable, and efficient electricity grid operation, said in January it had executed an information-sharing and performance evaluation agreement with the energy utility National Grid.

Under the two-year agreement, the companies will share technical, performance, and economic data associated with Beacon’s flywheel energy storage systems and their potential operational value to National Grid’s electricity transmission networks. Objectives of the agreement include National Grid’s evaluation of Beacon’s flywheel energy storage systems not only for fast-response frequency regulation but also for wind-related ramp mitigation — another potential large-scale grid stability application.

Ramp mitigation refers to the ability of regulation and reserve generation units to quickly compensate for a rapid systemwide change in aggregate power output caused by sudden changes in power production. As a variable resource, wind power generation often experiences rapid fluctuations in power output. As the amount of wind generation on the grid increases, many grid operators foresee the need to increase total regional ramping capacity to maintain proper energy balance.

"National Grid is one of the largest investor-owned utility companies in the world, with an extensive footprint in the United Kingdom as well as the northeastern U.S.," said Bill Capp, Beacon Power president and CEO. "Prior to this agreement, we collaborated closely with National Grid in 2006 and 2007 on our demonstration system in Amsterdam, New York, as well as more recently on three interconnection projects in Massachusetts and New York. We believe that additional benefits can come from the broader sharing of information provided by this new agreement."

Beacon Power and National Grid will focus on the sharing of technical information and performance results for Beacon’s Smart Energy Matrix, the energy storage – based regulation resource that Beacon is now operating under ISO New England’s Alternative Technologies Program. The two companies will also be sharing technical information and analysis of the potential economic and performance benefits of fast-response flywheel regulation and wind-related ramp mitigation in both the U.S. and the UK.

Under terms of the agreement, Beacon will work with National Grid to forecast future increases in the demand for regulation capacity resulting from greater deployment of wind power. National Grid will also work with Beacon Power to define an optimal control algorithm for Beacon’s fast-response energy storage technology that would maximize regulation benefits on the grid.

Duke’s IGCC Project Clears Regulatory Hurdles. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission on Jan. 8 approved Duke Energy’s revised cost estimate for its $2.35 billion Edwardsport integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) project under construction in southwest Indiana. The commission approved a proposed $365 million increase, as well as a request for $17 million to study capturing a portion of the plant’s carbon dioxide emissions.

The North Carolina – based company had filed the cost increase request with state regulators in May, citing international demand for materials and rising labor costs as main drivers for the increase. The company said it has now negotiated contracts with major suppliers and can better forecast project costs. The plant is expected to have a total estimated average customer rate impact of about 18%. The rate increase will be phased in between now and 2013. The state had in November 2007 directed Duke to develop carbon capture and storage studies for the project.

The 630-MW Edwardsport project, which is being built at the site of an existing power plant, is the first major new coal-fired power plant to be constructed in Indiana in more than 20 years. The company will retire the existing plant — with coal and oil units built between 1944 and 1951 — prior to start-up of the new facility. Construction began last year and is scheduled to be completed in 2012.

According to forecasts by the Indiana State Utility Forecasting Group, the state will need new power generation equal to five projects the size of this plant by 2012 to meet surging demand. Duke Energy Indiana President Jim Stanley said the plant would use the Midwest’s plentiful coal supply. "If greenhouse gases are going to be regulated, and we believe they will be, then coal gasification plants with carbon capture and sequestration technology hold tremendous promise to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and help address global climate change," he said.

GE and MHI to Develop "Next Generation" Steam Turbines for Gas Plants. GE Energy and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (MHI), two manufacturers of power generation equipment, on Jan. 29 signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to co-develop the "next generation" steam turbine for use in gas turbine combined-cycle power plants. Development of a new advanced steam turbine is viewed by both companies as an important step toward meeting customer requirements for increased combined-cycle efficiency and performance worldwide.

GE and MHI, after negotiation and execution of definitive agreements, are planning to pursue cooperation with the goal of designing and developing the world’s most advanced "best of breed" combined-cycle steam turbine, which the two companies then would include as part of their respective product offerings.

GE has a long history of partnering with other suppliers to accelerate the pace at which advanced technology products are brought to market. Steve Bolze, president of GE Energy’s Power & Water business, said that given the 100-year maturity of stream turbine technology, incremental performance enhancements will require significant new technology investments. "By sharing in the development, GE and MHI will look to share best practices and development activities to bring a next generation combined cycle steam turbine product to market faster than either party could individually achieve," he said.

Much of the current demand for steam turbines is being driven by the strong global interest in natural gas – fired, combined-cycle power generation plants. Although a full range of technology options is required to meet the world’s growing electricity needs, steam turbines remain the backbone of the power generation industry, playing a part in generating more than 80% of the world’s electricity, the companies said.

MHI to Provide 800-MW Gas Turbine for Calgary Utility. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (MHI) in January said it had received an order for an 800-MW natural gas – fired turbine combined-cycle (GTCC) power generation system from ENMAX Green Power Inc., a subsidiary of ENMAX Corp., a Canadian electricity provider. The GTCC power generation system is destined for the Shepard Energy Centre, to be built near Calgary, Alberta, and slated to be online to serve the winter load of 2012. The highly efficient generation system will provide enough electricity for over half of Calgary’s robust electricity demand, MHI said.