A small coal-fired generating plant in northwestern New Mexico will be used to test new hybrid technology that combines solar- and coal-generated steam to produce electricity. Solar thermal concentrating technology will provide heat for the turbine and reduce coal usage.
The 245-megawatt Escalante Generating Station in Prewitt, 27 miles northwest of Grants, is one of two host sites that California’s Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) chose to test the technology. The other site is a natural gas-powered generating station near Las Vegas, Nev.
Most coal plant conversion projects have been to replace coal with biomass or natural gas Nuclear is playing a smaller role in replacing the coal power that is shutting down, but nuclear does have role.
Exelon said that it would completely close the Cromby Generating Station along the Schuylkill in Phoenixville and that it would retire two coal-fired generators at the Eddystone Generating Station on the Delaware River.
The targeted units have 933 megawatts of capacity. Exelon contends that there is sufficient generation capacity in the region to meet demand, and with new natural gas supplies coming into the market, it is supplanting coal as the preferred fossil fuel. Exelon also has plans to increase the output of its Limerick and Peach Bottom nuclear reactors in the next eight years.
The facility will be able to produce 96 megawatts of power once the conversion is completed in June 2012, making it one of the largest biomass power plants in the United States. It will draw on surplus wood fuel from suppliers within a 100-mile radius of the power plant. Georgia Power, the largest subsidiary of Southern Company, requested the conversion last summer and plans to begin the conversion by spring of 2011. The Georgia PSC approved Georgia Power’s request on March 17, while also approving the utility’s construction of two new nuclear power units at its Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant in southeast Georgia
Progress Energy Carolinas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Progress Energy, today announced that by the end of 2017, the company intends to permanently shut down all of its remaining N.C. coal-fired power plants that do not have flue-gas desulfurization controls (scrubbers).
The utility outlined its plan to close a total of 11 coal-fired units, totaling nearly 1,500 megawatts (MW) at four sites in the state:
The 600-MW L.V. Sutton Plant near Wilmington.
The 316-MW Cape Fear Plant near Moncure.
The 172-MW W.H. Weatherspoon Plant near Lumberton.
And the 397-MW H.F. Lee Plant near Goldsboro (retirement announced in August).
Progress Energy Carolinas has announced a plan to build new generation fueled by natural gas in Wayne County, N.C., and expects to announce additional gas plans in the near future. The company will continue to operate three coal-fired plants in North Carolina after 2017. The company has invested more than $2 billion in installing state-of-the-art emission controls at the 2,424-MW Roxboro Plant and the 742-MW Mayo Plant, both located in Person County, and the 376-MW Asheville Plant in Buncombe County. Emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury and other pollutants have been reduced significantly at those sites.
Why Coal Plants are Closing Now
At the national level, several things are driving the closings or “mothballing” of old coal-fired plants.
1. The closing plants are very old, and are relatively inefficient, with many parts and components at the end of design life. Physical size of the property may not allow for large scale upgrades. Moreover, an upgrade that ups capacity would open up the air emissions permitting process (see point 2. below).
2. Older coal-fired plants may not support cost-effective implementation of the pollution controls that will be needed to meet new standards for mercury and fine particulatesl.
3. These plants may be in air sheds where air quality standards are not currently being met (true in Pennsylvania for certain). Once such plants are closed, emission credits embodied in their air emissions permits can be in effect ‘traded’ for a new permit that puts out fewer grams of pollution per kilowatt generated: more power output for the same emission load.
4. Because of deregulation of power markets which occurred in the recent past, utilities are under pressure to keep power prices down, which makes it harder still to justify added capital upgrade costs on these old plants. With loans still hard to come by, the cheaper, faster to build, less-polluting natural gas plant gets the banker’s nod every time.
5. You will read and hear plenty of speculation about how the prospect of a ‘cap and trade’ regime is what is behind these closings. That’s load of horse apples being dumped by people who do not understand capital investment and pollution control standards. The climate bill, as proposed, gives these utilities free credits for carbon emissions above the moving cap. The costs of managing fly ash and mercury, and the relatively high expense of keeping these nags running is what the game is about.
As USEPA gets down to reviewing more air permits, you will see numerous additional announcements of capacity cut backs, mothballing, and outright plant closures. Keep in mind that some of the old coal fired plants are on polluted ground and that outright closure would mean expensive cleanup. Therefore, I am betting that ‘mothballing’ will be the prevailing modality
● Man dumps 37 billion tons of CO2 into the air every year. Nature manages to remove only 21 of them. The excess 16 is Global Warming’s CO2.
● Half of Global Warming comes from a few supersized coal-burning boilers that could be quickly replaced with a modified Russian BN-800 nuclear boiler.
5,000 Supersized Power Plant Coal Boilers are making 53% of Global Warming’s accumulating CO2 (8.6 billion tons of CO2/year). Few in number, these modern energy giants power only 2% of the world’s power plants but are making 53% of all Global Warming CO2. The world has about 5,000 supersized boilers in 1,200 huge power plants such as Taichung. 5,000 weapons of mass combustion, each one burns a mile-long train of coal every day – that’s over 5,000 miles of coal every day. They are truly Global Warming’s smoking gun. Suggested nuclear boiler replacement: BN-800
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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