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Vastly Improved Modern Coal-Fired Power Plants

January 24, 2017

Ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants deserve clarity.

Recently, an editor dismissed ultra-supercritical coal-fired as jargon, and asked: Is there really something called an “ultra-supercritical” power plant?

Yes, there is: And everyone, engineers and average people, deserve an explanation about why they are such a great improvement over the coal-fired power plants built in the past.

They are called ultra-supercritical because they operate at very high temperatures and pressures that have been made possible by recent advances in metallurgy.

They operate at 4,350 psi, and 1,112°F, with efficiencies of 44% HHV (high heating value).

Ultra-supercritical (USC) steam generally refers to supercritical steam at more than 1,100 degrees F. Supercritical refers to when the steam undergoes a transition from a mixture of water and steam, to vapor with corresponding changes in physical properties.

While engineers are interested in the technical details, everyone should be interested in the increased efficiency.

Virtually all of the existing coal-fired power plants in the United States operate at an efficiency of 32% HHV.

USC plants with an efficiency of 44% are, therefore, nearly 40% more efficient than all but one of the existing coal-fired power plants in the United States.

This means they use roughly 40% less coal and emit approximately 40% fewer emissions, including CO2.

Ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants are an important improvement over existing coal-fired units. While they are more costly than traditional supercritical plants, they cost half as much as nuclear or integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plants.

John W. Turk, only U.S. ultra-supercritical power plant. Photo courtesy of SWEPCO.

John W. Turk, only U.S. ultra-supercritical power plant. Photo courtesy of SWEPCO.

The only USC plant built in the United States is the John W. Turk, 600 MW plant in Fulton, Arkansas.

Currently, no new coal-fired power plants can be built in the United States because of EPA regulations limiting CO2 emissions. USC plant CO2 emissions are slightly above the 1,400 pounds per MWh limitation imposed by the EPA.

Coal is an important resource, with the United States having reserves that could last 400 years.

Coal, together with natural gas, can provide inexpensive baseload power for all Americans.

Ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants are a significant improvement over existing coal-fired power plants.

Additional improvements are on the way with USC plants that can operate at even higher temperatures and pressures, and with corresponding additional ,improvements in efficiency.

USC plants that can operate at 1,300 and 1,400 degrees F, are referred to as advanced ultra-supercritical (AUSC) power plants.

The new administration should move quickly to clear the way for these new, and more efficient, coal-fired power plants.

******

Nothing to Fear, Part 2, explores the problems of using wind and solar for generating electricity.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

 

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

******

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Latest on Electric Vehicle Sales

January 19, 2017

Plug-In (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) had a good year in 2016, while sales of hybrids, like the original Prius, continued to fall until the last quarter.

US Sales of Electric Vehicles, Including HEVs 2016

Month

Hybrid (HEVs)

PHEVs&Extended Range Vehicles

Battery (BEVs)

Totals

Total PHEV & BEV

January

20,967

3,137

3,576

27,680

6,713

February

24,371

3,909

4,424

32,704

8,333

March


28,756


5,290


7,815


41,861


13,105


Total 1Q 2016

74,094

12,336

15,815

102,245

28,151

Total 1Q 2015

86,005

7,722

14,127

107,854

21,849

% change


-16%


37%


11%


-5%


22%


April

28,988

5,842

6,266

41,096

12,108

May

30,573

5,619

6,526

42,718

12,145

June


27,679


6,094


7,678


41,451


13,772


Total 2Q 2016

87,240

17,555

20,470

125,265

38,025

Total 2Q 2015

104,965

10,787

20,069

135,821

30,856

% 2Q change


-17%


63%


2%


-8%


23%


July

32,633

6,525

7,762

46,920

14,287

August

32,206

6,372

8,601

47,179

14,973

September


31,286


6,037


10,032


47,355


16,069


Total 3Q 2016

96,125

18,934

26,395

141,454

45,329

Total 3Q 2015

105,405

10,660

17,071

133,136

27,731

% 3Q change


-8.8%


77.6%


54.6%


6.2%


63.5%


October

26,484

5,943

4,864

37,291

10,807

November

28,498

7,858

6,266

42,622

14,124

December


34,507


10,211


13,077


57,795


23,288


Total 4Q 2016

89,489

24,012

24,207

137,708

48,219

Total 4Q 2015

88,029

13,789

19,797

121,615

33,586

% 4Q change


1.7%


74.1%


22.3%


13.2%


43.6%


YTD Year 2016

346,948

72,837

86,887

506,672

159,724

YTD Year 2015

384,404

42,958

50,995

498,426

114,022

% change

-9.7%

69.6%

70.4%

1.7%

40.1%

 
Total sales all light vehicles 2016

17,396,291

% PHEV & BEV to total

0.92%

(Data from Electric Drive Transportation Association)

Sales of both PHEVs and BEVs grew at the same rate during 2016.

Sales of PHEVs and BEVs remained minuscule, at less than 1%, when compared with total light vehicle sales.

The media hype for BEVs continues, but sales remain so small that they must be considered cars for the rich and famous. While sales increased by 70% year over year, they amounted to fewer than 100,000 vehicles.

Total sales of BEVs from 2011, essentially when they entered the market, through 2016 were still only 292,992 vehicles. This is far short of Obama’s prediction of 1,000,000 BEVs by the end of 2015.

The business model for BEVs is highly questionable, with Tesla, for example, having received much of its income from the sale of California Zero Emission Credits amounting to over $390,000,000.

Tesla logo

Tesla logo

There is also the question of whether the federal government will continue to allow a $7,500 subsidy for BEVs.

The introduction of the Bolt by GM, and Tesla’s Model 3, priced at $35,000, and currently still eligible for the $7,500 tax credit, could determine whether battery-powered vehicles go mainstream.

BEVs have four important impediments.

  • Insufficient range, compared with ICE vehicles
  • The high cost of batteries, which results in the high cost of BEVs
  • The lack of charging stations
  • Time required to charge batteries

PHEVs eliminate range anxiety, and partially reduce the cost penalty for the battery.

The real issue is whether BEVs and PHEVs can become a replacement for internal combustion engine (ICE) powered vehicles, without subsidies and EPA fuel mandates for gasoline powered vehicles.

* * * * * *

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Wind and Solar Inflict Pain

January 13, 2017

Actual costs show that wind and solar are more costly than natural gas or coal for generating electricity.

Equally important is that wind and solar create problems for utilities and grid operators.

This is best explained using the Duck curve created by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO).

CAISO curve showing load during a 24 hour period

CAISO curve showing load during a 24 hour period

The topmost curve shows the load in 2013, when there were few wind and solar installations, while the bottommost curve shows the load supplied by baseload power in 2020.

The shaded area, from morning to evening between the topmost and bottommost curves, represent the power supplied by renewables, which, coincidently represents the power not supplied by baseload power.

Typically, in most areas of the country, baseload power is supplied by natural gas and coal-fired power plants.

The second most important feature of the Duck curve is that it shows how baseload power must be rapidly ramped up when the sun sets, which can severely stress power plant and distribution equipment, causing costly maintenance problems.

Duck Curve showing effect of 80% renewables

Duck Curve showing effect of 80% renewables

The second graph depicts the potential effect on the load curve when wind and solar provide 80% of the electrical load. (Note that the Duck curve uses a suppressed zero on the load axis, so zero load on the left axis is below the elongated red curve.)

When 80% of the daytime load is supplied by wind and solar, only a very small portion of the daytime load is provided by natural gas and coal-fired power plants.

This has important implications.

  1. Since wind and solar are intermittent, and don’t supply electricity when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun stops shining, all the fossil fuel power plants must be available, at a moment’s notice, to supply power that’s no longer being provided by wind and solar.
  2. Fossil fuel power plants can’t be disposed of. They must be kept and maintained, no matter how much wind and solar is on the system.

During the day, essentially from 7 am to 7 pm, the utilities do not receive revenues when wind and solar installations are owned by other entities: Either companies, like YieldCos, or individuals in the case of PV Rooftop solar.

Without revenues, the utilities can’t stay in business. Either utilities must be taken over by the government, using taxpayer money to support them, or the public must pay a capital charge on their electric bills to cover the cost of maintaining the fossil fuel power plants.

The undeniable fact is that wind and solar increase the cost of electricity.

  1. The levelized costs of electricity (LCOE) for wind and solar are 2 to 5 times greater than for natural gas or coal-fired power plants.
  2. The penalty for having to maintain fossil fuel power plants, either by imposing a capital charge on utility bills, or by having the government nationalize the utility system, creates additional costs that tax payers, one way or the other, must pay.

Wind and solar, with their current state of technology, are bad ideas that create problems and force people to pay much more for their electricity.

* * * * * *

Nothing to Fear, Part 2, explores the inherent problems with wind and solar.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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Betting on Long Shots

January 10, 2017

Another Department of Energy (DOE) long shot bet using tax payer money on a renewable energy source .

DOE recently awarded the Oregon State University’s (OSU’s), Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) a $40 million grant.

In making the grant, the DOE said, “Wave energy resources range between approximately 900 TWh and 1,230 TWh per year, distributed across the coast of Alaska, the West Coast, the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. For context, approximately 90,000 homes can be powered by 1 TWh per year.”

While impressive, the probability of wave energy ever becoming economically viable is close to zero.

While research is useful, tax payer money could be put to better use than for, what is clearly, a very long shot investment.

Graphic from Oregon State University web site

Graphic from Oregon State University web site

Wave energy faces huge obstacles.

The ocean environment is destructive. Wave energy installations must be able to withstand huge storms, a corrosive salt water environment and destructive marine organisms.

There have been several test facilities and numerous experiments of wave energy around the world.

Testing has been done at Perth, Australia, in Scotland, Hawaii, Northern Ireland, off the Aguçadoura coast of Portugal, a tidal barge off the French coast and the Sihwa Lake tidal power station in South Korea.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) noted, “Levelized costs of ocean energy technologies are currently substantially higher than those of other renewable [wind and solar] energy technologies.”

And electricity from wind and solar is two to four times more costly than electricity from natural gas or coal-fired power plants.

There is no question that the ocean has tremendous power and virtually unlimited energy, but trying to capture that energy to generate electricity is unlikely to be accomplished economically with any existing technology.

There are few environments on earth that are as harsh as that found in the ocean.

The allure of wave energy is romantic, but the reality is that we aren’t likely to see the generation of electricity from the motion of waves or tides … except from demonstration sites.

Wave energy is a boondoggle, and not suitable for the use of tax payer money when the nation is already seriously in debt.

* * * * * *

Nothing to Fear, Part 2, explores the problems of using wind and solar for generating electricity.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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© Power For USA, 2010 – 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Final Nail?

January 6, 2017

When first introduced, electricity from nuclear power was to be too cheap to meter.

Then, while the first nuclear power plants were being built, extensive delays and modifications resulted in large cost overruns. The utilities incurred these cost overruns, as the contracts were mostly cost-plus, where the construction companies were reimbursed for their costs.

By the end of the last century, 100 nuclear power plants providing 20% of America’s electricity had been built, but the sentiment in the industry was that nuclear power was too costly.

The constant changes and delays while building the first 100 nuclear power plants were attributed to construction being done on site where it was difficult to control events and costs.

It was thought that costs could be controlled by building major components in a factory and then shipping them to the site for installation.

It was believed that a factory environment would allow for the use of manufacturing disciplines and quality control that would keep costs under control.

At the start of this century, there was support for a nuclear renaissance, where new nuclear power plants of a new and safer design could be built at a reasonable cost, with major components being built in a factory.

Vogtle nuclear power plant. Photo courtesy of Southern Company Inc.

Vogtle nuclear power plant. Photo courtesy of Southern Company Inc.

The Fukushima disaster raised the specter of radiation danger once again, but the new generation of nuclear power plants would shut down safely and automatically if there was a problem.

As construction was started at the four new nuclear power plants, two in Georgia and two in South Carolina, there was great confidence that this time it would be different: Costs would be controlled and the plants would be built on schedule.

With last week’s announcement that Toshiba would take a multi-billion dollar charge against operations due to cost overruns, quality control problems and delays at the four nuclear power plants being built in the United States, it is now clear that nuclear power may be dead … at least for the foreseeable future.

Westinghouse, the Toshiba subsidiary building these new nuclear power plants, has experienced many of the same problems that occurred in the last century.

Toshiba’s stock fell 30% with the announcement confirming the problems at Westinghouse, and of problems with the construction of other nuclear power plants being built in other countries.

Whereas the utilities incurred the overrun costs in the last century, this time the contracts were written so that the construction companies and supplier of reactors incurred most of these extra costs.

Nuclear power was already dying a slow death in the United States as there was considerable doubt whether existing nuclear power plants would receive a second extension to their operating licenses. See Nothing to Fear for a description of why nuclear power is dying in the United States.

The problems at Westinghouse probably preclude any construction company or supplier of reactors from entering into contracts where they would be liable for cost overruns, and it’s doubtful that any utility regulator would allow any utility to assume such liabilities in the future.

This may have been the final nail in the coffin for nuclear power in the United States.

* * * * * *

Nothing to Fear, Appendix, explains why nuclear power is dying in the United States.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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Kemper Travesty is No Way to Save Coal Mining Jobs

January 3, 2017

Recently, members of Congress from both parties have put forth proposals to continue or increase subsidies for power plants that capture CO2.

The most notorious of these plants is the disastrous Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plant in Kemper County, Mississippi.

These proposals are being made under the banner of saving coal mining jobs, which is a ruse.

Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, met this month with president-elect Trump to discuss “a realistic path forward for coal,” saying Kemper was a “first-of-a-kind project that are often problematic.”

But, Kemper is not a first-of-a-kind project. Two other IGCC power plants have been built, both with terrible economic results.

Photo of Kemper Power Plant, courtesy of Mississippi Power Company

Photo of Kemper Power Plant, courtesy of Mississippi Power Company

The first IGCC power plant was in Tampa, Florida, where two such plants were to be built, but the second was cancelled after costly problems with building the first plant.

Another IGCC power plant was built in Edwardsport, Indiana by Duke Energy in 2013, with terrible economic consequences. Originally it was to be built for $1.9 billion, but actually cost over $3.5 billion.

IGCC power plants cost around $6,000 per KW to build, which is about the same as a nuclear power plant.

Quoting from the Wall Street Journal, “One of the bills, filed by Republican Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, seeks to raise subsidies and continue them indefinitely rather than have them expire once 75 million metric tons of carbon dioxide have been captured, a milestone under the current law that is expected to be reached by 2019.”

Continuing or increasing subsidies for IGCC power plants is a travesty against tax paying Americans.

An additional travesty is that no more ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants can be built in the United States because of the new EPA regulations, while a truly clean ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant was built by Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) in Texarkana, Ark. in 2012, shortly before the EPA issued its regulations on CO2 emissions from power plants.

SWEPCO’s, John W. Turk Jr. power plant, rated 600-MW, is a modern, ultra-supercritical plant, built for less than half what an IGCC power plant will cost.
Ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants meet all EPA requirements except for the amount of CO2 they emit. They are 40% more efficient than traditional coal-fired power plants.

The John W. Turk plant was completed shortly before EPA issued its rules limiting CO2 emissions from power plants, where coal-fired power plants are limited to 1,400 lbs CO2/MWh.

Ultra-supercritical plant CO2 emissions are around 1,700 lbs CO2/MWh.

Modifying the EPA rule, even as a temporary method before eliminating the rules entirely, to accommodate ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants would be a far better method for saving coal mining jobs than wasting billions of tax payer dollars on subsidies for monstrous IGCC power pants.

* * * * * *

Nothing to Fear, Chapter 12, explains why carbon capture and sequestration will not work.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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Devastating Fuel Economy Standards

December 27, 2016

A $2.2 billion curse on the American economy.

This is the estimated cost to refiners for having to comply with the government’s program forcing renewable fuels on Americans.

This cost to refiners for buying RINs (Renewable Identification Numbers) is actually a tax on Americans.

The Oil and Gas Journal (OGJ) provided details on how this government program is costing Americans billions of dollars. Money that could be better spent on infrastructure that benefits everyone, not a few.

The Renewable Fuel (Volume) Obligation (RVO) is determined by the EPA annually, and establishes the obligation of refiners.

Quoting from OGJ, “The RVO is expressed in RINs, which attach to every gallon of renewable fuel produced at rates that vary with fuel type. One gallon of corn ethanol, has 1 RIN attached to it. If the producer sells the ethanol, the RIN goes with it.”

When a refiner blends ethanol with gasoline the RINs are separated and go toward the refiner meeting its RVO obligations.

If the refiner has too few RINs to meet this obligation, the refiner must buy the RINs from the open market.

Diagram from EPA website

Diagram from EPA website

The entire process is extremely complicated. Problems associated with the corrosive nature of ethanol limits where gasoline and ethanol can be mixed, i.e., blended, which creates additional costs.

There is also the problem of cellulosic ethanol not being available. Not only, is it not available, but it’s expensive.

Cellulosic ethanol is another rathole down which the government is throwing tax payer dollars.

The EPA explains, from its website,

“Congress created the renewable fuel standard (RFS) program in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand the nation’s renewable fuels sector while reducing reliance on imported oil.”

Here we have a program that is costing tax payers an exorbitant amount of money, while accomplishing very little, if anything.

There is no need, for example, to reduce reliance on imported foreign oil. Oil imports are decreasing due to increased production of shale oil.

It’s been demonstrated that ethanol doesn’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it’s becoming ever more clear that GHG are not the cause of climate change.

It expands the renewable fuel sector when it’s uneconomic and unnecessary.

And, it uses corn, a food, to produce a product that will be burned. Using corn to make ethanol is a travesty against humanity.

The government created this monster of a program and encouraged farmers to participate in it.

Since the program is unnecessary, it needs to be disbanded in a way that minimizes harmful impacts on farmers.

The RFS program is an excellent example of government interference with free markets. The RFS program harms everyone by wasting tax payer money and encouraging farmers to invest in a useless, and some could say prejudicial activity, i.e., corn for ethanol.

* * * * * *

Nothing to Fear explains why CO2 isn’t to be feared. Chapter 15, An Alternative Hypothesis, describes Dr. Svensmark’s hypothesis on cosmic rays.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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