I predict we’re going to see a lot more of this: Fossil fuel power plants providing the actual energy but with some wind and solar window dressing to make it seem like it’s something it is not.
GE Wins First Solar-Gas Hybrid Plant From TurkeyĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s MetCap
General Electric Co. (GE) said its new turbine designed to pair gas and renewable-power generation was chosen by TurkeyĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s MetCap Energy Investments for the first combination solar-natural gas plant.
The site will use technology from closely held eSolar Inc., wind and the Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“FlexEfficiencyĂ˘â‚¬ť gas turbine GE announced last week. The combination will be able to operate at a fuel- efficiency rate of more than 70 percent, greater than the rate of 61 percent for the combined-cycle turbine alone, GE said. It also makes solar more cost-efficient.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“This will be a power plant that combines wind, natural gas and integrated combined technology under one roof,Ă˘â‚¬ť Paul Browning, who runs thermal products at GE Energy, the worldĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s biggest maker of power-generation equipment, said at a Milan press conference.
The plant, to be located in Karaman, Turkey, will have a capacity of about 530 megawatts, enough to power more than 600,000 homes, MetCap Chairman Celal Metin said at the conference.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“We have worked with every single party in industry who has something to offer in state-of-art, in gas turbines, steam turbines, solar sites and wind,Ă˘â‚¬ť Metin said. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“We did not give it to them. They earned it.Ă˘â‚¬ť
Gas, Steam, Wind
The plant will integrate GEĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s 9FB gas turbine, which has a capacity of 510 megawatts and a frequency of 50 hertz; a steam turbine; a generator; GE wind-turbine power; and power from eSolar-concentrated thermal tower technology, according to a statement from the companies.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Solar-thermal with combined-cycle power plant are the most economic there is,Ă˘â‚¬ť Browning said in an interview. He said Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE expects more order announcements in the Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“weeks and months ahead.Ă˘â‚¬ť
So lets call this what it is: This is an entirely off the shelf combined cycle gas-fired power plant – nothing special about it. It does achieve pretty good efficiency, although that’s just because GE has been refining their turbine designs a lot in the past few years to squeeze out some additional thermal efficiency from these types of power plants. The combined cycle gas plant is not there to augment the wind and solar power systems or to be used when it’s cloudy and the wind is not blowing – the gas burner *is* the power plant and the wind and solar systems are suck on there to make it look like something it is not.
A few wind turbines have been added. They’re not even really part of the power plant. They’re just some wind turbines. If the wind is blowing continuously at a high rate of speed, it’s possible that a small amount less gas will be burned. The wind farm only has a net nameplate capacity of about 22 megawatts. During normal operations, the best one might hope to get for any period of time is going to be less than ten megawatts, and even that will only be during reasonably good conditions. Compared to the capacity of the gas-fired unit that’s not much at all. Considering that some of the capacity will need to be maintained as fast-dispatch reserve when the wind is blowing, the resulting savings in gas will be very very modest.
The solar thermal “power tower” is yet another example of window dressing. These kind of installations are supposed to eliminate the intermittent nature of solar power by providing thermal mass for energy storage. Yet it seems that here again, it has proven incapable of pulling its own weight as a power generator. Instead it will add a modest amount of extra thermal energy to the plant’s conventional power recovery boiler system. Like the wind system, it will rarely, if ever, actually reach nameplate output levels.
The idea of combining solar thermal power with conventional thermal power plants is not a new one. On the surface it seems to make sense: use the “free” energy of the sun to pre-heat the feed-water and thus grab a bit more energy to produce the steam. Unfortunately, in practice the amount of additional energy which can be obtained is so modest it can’t really justify the expensive upkeep of the solar collectors.
The economic argument is fairly transparent. Stating that solar thermal and natural gas are economical when paired is essentially admitting that solar thermal is not economical but that when a small solar thermal collection station is added to a gas power plant, the cost is nominal – low enough to justify it on the basis of subsidies and publicity. If the solar thermal plant were actually economical in its own right, that would be all that would be needed. If the cost per megawatt of solar thermal were actually favorable, it would make more sense to build ten 50 megawatt solar plants than one 50 megawatt plant and a 500 megawatt gas burner.
Ultimately, however, this plant has already succeeded in its main objective: It’s gotten attention, good press and has people talking about what a great step forward it is and how it’s a “bridge to renewable energy.” It’s no such thing. A bridge to renewable energy is a bridge to nowhere. This is just a gas burner. Don’t be fooled.
The power plant should be completed around 2015, unless it explodes during construction, as such power plants sometimes do.
This entry was posted on Sunday, June 12th, 2011 at 5:44 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Enviornment, Misc, Obfuscation, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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