Tag Archives: Alstom Power

A meeting of minds – integration of solar and gas power

In the third guest blog from Alstom Power, Christian Bohtz, Product manager gas power plant applications, Alstom Switzerland explains how solar and gas power can be used in tandem to great effect

Attempts to combat global warming are moving power generation towards an increasing role for renewable energies – C02 reduction is a priority for all. The Middle East has seen several countries introduce renewable targets of up to 20 per cent. The area has abundant open space and sunshine, making solar power central to power strategies in the region.

Solar power, however, is cyclical, the power it can generate during night time is minimal. An advantage is that solar power generation does create peaks at times of high requirement; it will generate the greatest power levels around midday when demand peaks. However, during times of weak sun, solar may struggle to meet demand and needs ‘back-up’ to ensure constant supply. Therefore, finding a suitable back up is the major question for any solar power station.
For the Middle East, an area rich in fossil fuels, and power stations extracting them, an effective answer lies in the Combined Cycle Power Plants (CCPPs) that are already utilising the region’s natural gas.

CCPPs offer a constant supply of power, but ALSO create CO2. Alstom Power has the ability to integrate a CCPP with a solar plant using equipment and infrastructure of the CCPP to generate solar power; an Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) power plant. This allows operators to create a power plant that USES clean, low cost solar energy at peak times whilst a constant, assured flow of electricity is generated even when solar generation is limited, from natural gas production.

The ISCC approach utilises the components of a CCPP: no extra power block is needed, the steam turbine, generator, water steam cycle (WSC), plant infrastructure and grid access of the CCPP is in shared use with the solar field. The additional steam produced in a solar receiver through concentration of solar energy is integrated in the CCPP and expanded in the steam turbine, converting solar energy to electricity.

Consequently, initial installation costs are reduced as a full solar power plant doesn’t need to be installed. Generation costs of the solar power are significantly reduced and no back-up boilers are required to cover cloudy periods or sudden spikes in demand.

The efficiencies created by this combined, flexible approach are also significant. ISCCs can acheive efficiencies above 80 per cent and can boost energy production at peak times by 20 per cent through solar boost mode. Energy production levels can also be maintained at a constant level whilst lowering natural gas consumption to improve a plant’s environmental footprint.

Alstom is partnering with solar technology provider, BrightSource, to build ISCCs using the most efficient solar tower technology. One Brightsource project, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) in the Mojave Desert saw its first steam produced in 2012 and will be completed this year. The plant will power 140,000 homes during peak hours and will reduce CO2 emissions by more than 400,000 tons per year.

Integrated Solar Combined Cycles – CO2 reduction is a priority for all. However, renewable energies don’t currently supply constant energy. For instance, solar energy’s power generation capabilities are cyclical across the day – its output will peak at midday and reduce as the day matures. By integrating solar thermal technology with gas power stations, we can guarantee power continuity whilst reducing CO2 output.

Stop by our seminar and speaker sessions and visit us on stand at B2968

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Integration is the only way forward for energy in Europe

In a second guest blog from Alstom Power, Giles Dickson, VP environmental policies & global advocacy, Alstom France explains why co-operation and unity are needed across the continent if the power generation industry is to develop

Europe’s energy security is declining. Robust measures are needed to stop it falling into crisis. Generation capacity is dropping as plants close and insufficient investment is made in new large plants. Progress in grid upgrades and back-up capacity must be faster and further reaching in order to fully integrate and support new renewable capacity. Member States sometimes behave in isolation from one another, but important decisions about the energy mix in one country can have effects on others.

In many areas we accept that a deeper level of co-operation and integration is necessary to solve European-wide problems – the current economic crisis is a case in point. Energy is no different: aside from failing to safeguard the future of Europe’s energy supply, poorly co-ordinated support schemes are compounding the cost of low-carbon generation and back-up and costing consumers more money. This is made worse by a lack of coherence between different policies.

The diversity of Europe’s climate should be benefitting its inhabitants, but a lack of co-ordination between Member States has caused investments to be made where they are not necessarily the most effective. In times of economic difficulty, it is more important than ever that a lack of co-ordination is not allowed to distort investment and reduce returns. To succeed, co-operation must be present at both the political and technical levels of policy making.

Unity would not just change the way Europe’s energy future looks from within, but improve the way in which it is perceived by international energy partners, strengthening its voice on the world stage.

There are five main areas in which greater integration would help to overcome these problems.

• Co-ordination and convergence of national support schemes for renewables and back-up capacity. The national approach to renewable energy policy has led to important market distortions. For example, the withdrawal of German nuclear capacity has had major technical and economic impacts on the European grid and required massive investments in new transmission networks. By co-ordinating our approach, we can ensure that investments yield the best possible return and maximise Europe’s influence with international energy partners

• Full interconnection between national transmission networks. The EU has set a goal of achieving interconnection in ten per cent of installed energy production capacity – only limited progress has been made towards this so far. Significant further outlay must be made to unlock investment in interconnectors and reduce cross-border bottle necks

• A strategic European approach to the location and deployment of baseload, intermittent capacity, back-up and storage. A co-ordinated approach to investments in storage and back-up capacity could facilitate cross-border market balancing. If carefully planned, this can be delivered without undermining the role of Member States in defining their own energy mix

• An effective EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that drives investment in new and more efficient generation capacity. The emissions reduction currently under way in Europe is more the result of economic crisis than the Emissions Trading Scheme. Although the ETS remains Europe’s best bet as a policy instrument to cut emissions, this will only be viable following coherent reform. This reform is likely to entail tackling the huge surplus of allowances and the permanent withdrawal of backloaded allowances.

• Greater co-ordination of innovation in emerging energy technologies. Increasingly, the emphasis on technology support is on the demonstration and scale-up of technologies that have already completed their R&D. It is likely that many larger demonstrations will need to be funded and operated on a collaborative basis between Member States.

To hear more of Alstom Power’s take on flexibility in the new energy world, stop by our seminar and speaker sessions and visit us on stand at B2968.

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Flexibility and variability – the modern energy world

The modern world is one where sustainability of our energy sources is of upmost concern, and we’re continuously introducing breakthrough technologies to make our energy cleaner, more efficient, more affordable, and more reliable. This is a great thing, but new technologies do not come without challenges to overcome. Renewable energy sources are not constant: a solar plant won’t provide the same energy at 5pm as it did at 12pm. Consequently our power generation strategies now need to be, first and foremost, flexible. Throughout Power-Gen Europe 2013, Alstom Power’s various speakers will illustrate how flexibility can and should be instituted across power generation infrastructures.

Factors such as some countries exiting nuclear power generation and dedicated public funding support policies have created a growing supply of intermittent renewable power sources. This is having a strong impact on the installed base of fossil-fired plants, reducing their operating hours and profitability, while also augmenting the operation stress due to more frequent starts and stops. What is important to remember is that no matter how strong the renewable penetration will be anywhere in the world, a fully operative thermal base will have to be maintained as long as a credible seasonal storage technology has not been developed. And that base will have to be more flexible and reliable to ensure the constant energy supply that the intermittent renewables are not capable of providing.

The methods to increase flexibility are innumerable. The range from integrating new energy sources such as solar steam into existing gas plants allowing a continued dispatch of power after sun set, to optimising the efficiency of each point in a CCPP’s 120 step ignition process to insure faster and more reliable start-ups.

The techniques we discuss will not just ensure sustainability, but ensure profitability. Throughout Power-Gen Europe and in our talks at the show we’ll touch upon

• Flexibility in CCPPs – CCPPs remain vital, the backbone of power generation, but increased renewables mean increased periods of low capacity and de-loading. That means greater power generation costs and demand consequently shrinking. By decreasing start-up times, creating more compact plant arrangements and supplementing fossil fuels with new energy sources, plants can contain variable costs and ensure competitive prices. Consequently, providers can ensure a constant electricity supply

• Integrated Solar Combined Cycles – CO2 reduction is a priority for all. The Middle East has seen several countries introduce renewable targets of up to 40 per cent. However, renewable energies don’t currently supply constant energy. For instance, solar energy’s power generation capabilities are cyclical across the day – its output will peak at midday and reduce as the day matures. By integrating solar thermal technology with gas power stations, we can guarantee power continuity whilst reducing CO2 output

• Optimised Plant Retrofit (OPR) studies – OPR studies and the subsequent retrofitting of a steam turbine solution on fossil-powered plants can not only reduce emissions, but also allow power output to be maintained, or even increased. Alstom Power has seen OPR sites and the resulting retrofit implementation increase gross output of a plant by 15 per cent, whilst simultaneously reducing the gross heat rate by more than 5 per cent

• Fast ramp up – Coal plants are also facing increasing requirements for flexible operation to partner with renewable energy sources and maintain a reliable, stable supply. For example, Alstom designs its steam turbines such that they can start up and ramp up quickly. Thin casings are used to avoid thermal stress placed on components while they do so. State of the art ultra-supercritical boilers do not utilise the thick- walled steam drum of sub-critical designs, allowing faster ramp rates.

To hear more of Alstom Power’s take on flexibility in the new energy world, stop by our seminar and speaker sessions and visit us on stand at B2968.

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