Industry News

Issue 4 and Volume 119.

Miss. Power announces start of gasifiers at Kemper plant

On March 10, Mississippi Power announced it had fired up gasifiers at its Kemper County power plant for the first time.

It’s another step by the unit of the Atlanta-based Southern Co. toward moving the $6.2 billion plant to being fully operational by the end of June 2016. The gasifier is meant to take soft lignite coal and turn it into a gas that will be burned, like natural gas, to make electricity. The company said that it plans to start using lignite in the gasifier later this year.

“”It is exciting to see more than 20 years of engineering and testing now taking shape at this first-of-its-kind facility,” Joe Miller, Kemper startup manager, said in a statement.

The plant has actually been making electricity since August, using natural gas from a pipeline to fuel its three turbines.

Spokesman Jeff Shepard said that until the gasifier is fully operational, Mississippi Power will have a series of test runs to clean and prepare piping leading from the gasifier to the turbines. The company will also use sand to evaluate how solid material in the gasifier unit behaves like a fluid.

Solar accounts for almost a third of new U.S. capacity

Solar accounted for 32 percent of new generating capacity in 2014, beating out both wind and coal for the second year in a row, according to a report. Natural gas was the only generating source that constituted a greater share of new generating capacity.

GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released the U.S. Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Review. The report also said newly installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity for the year set a record at 6,201 MW, increasing 30 percent over 2013’s total. An additional 767 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) came online in the same time period, including the 392-MW Ivanpah project, the 125-MW Genesis Solar project’s second phase, and Abengoa’s 250-MW Mojave Solar. All solar completed in 2014 represent $17.8 billion in investment – $13.4 billion in PV and $4.4 billion in CSP.

GTM Research forecasts the U.S. PV market to increase 31 percent in 2015, with the utility sector expected to account for 59 percent of the forecasted 8.1 GW of PV.

NRC renews Callaway’s operating license

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) renewed the operating license of the Callaway Nuclear Plant in Missouri.

NRC approved a 20-year license extension for the plant through Oct. 18, 2044. The Union Electric Co., doing business as Ameren, applied for the renewal in December 2011. A safety evaluation report was issued Aug. 21, 2014, and a supplemental environmental impact statement on Oct. 29, 2014.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment filed contentions last September and December seeking to reopen the Callaway adjudication. NRC denied the September request to reopen and suspend licensing of nuclear reactors, but the December request is still pending before the NRC. Procedures state that staff may renew a nuclear plant’s license despite outstanding adjudicatory contentions. If the license is set aside on appeal, Callaway will revert to its original license, which is effective until Oct. 18, 2024.

Renewal of Callaway’s license brings to 76 the number of nuclear reactors with renewed operating licenses. An additional 18 applications are currently under review.

Wind tower production facility opens in Mexico

Acciona Windpower, a subsidiary of Acciona Group, completed construction on a concrete wind tower production facility in Mexico.

The plant produces concrete segments for the wind turbine towers in the 252-MW Ventika and Ventika II wind farms in Nuevo Leon. Acciona is installing the wind farms for a development company consisting of Fisterra Energy, Cemex and other private investors. Total investment is around $650 million.

The two wind projects will use 84, 3-MW Acciona Windpower turbines. Acciona will perform the operation and maintenance of the projects for 15 years after they begin service, which is scheduled for mid-2016.

Acciona is building wind turbines for the Ventika and Ventika II projects, along with the 49.5-MW wind farm for Actis and Comexhidro in Oaxaca, and the 1.5-MW wind turbine installed in 2010 for CFE in Cancun.

SunEdison expands services to include energy storage

SunEdison Inc. acquired the energy storage project origination team from Solar Grid Storage LLC, a provider in deploying combined energy storage and solar PV systems. With the acquisition, SunEdison now offers battery storage solutions for solar and wind power projects for utilities, municipalities, businesses, and consumers.

“Storage is a perfect complement to our business model and to our wind and solar expertise,” said Tim Derrick, general manager of SunEdison Advanced Solutions. “Our strategy is to increase the value of the solar and wind projects that we finance, develop, own, and operate by improving their availability and ability to interact with the grid. With this acquisition we have added the capability to pair energy storage with solar and wind projects, thereby creating more valuable projects and positioning ourselves as a leader in the rapidly growing energy storage market.”

The move into energy storage comes after the company acquired First Wind. With 5-GW of solar and wind assets under management globally, Solar Grid Storage will integrate its solar-plus-storage control services with SunEdison’s Renewable Operation Center.

Li-ion batteries taking over storage market

Lithium-ion batteries have become the dominant technology in grid energy storage, capturing a 90 percent share of systems proposed in 2014. Molten salt batteries, however, accounted for a majority of installations by energy capacity, due to NGK Insulators’ early lead, but are no longer the technology of choice, according to a new report conducted by Lux Research.

“Driven by renewable-connected systems and demand management, grid-scale energy storage is taking off, with 450-MW and 730-MWh of systems installed in 2014 ,” said Dean Frankel, Lux Research Associate and lead author of the “Grid Storage Data Tracker.”

Globally, li-ion accounted for 419-MW and 1,555-MWh of proposed storage systems in 2014; as of January 2015, 1,100-MW and 2,523-MWh of grid energy storage have been deployed across 605 projects.

The report finds that Japan lead the market in installed energy storage capacity with 1,174-MWh.

DOE to help tribes advance onsite, renewable projects

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a third round of Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Renewable Energy Project Development Assistance, which provides federally recognized tribal governments and other tribal entities with on-the-ground support to accelerate clean energy project deployment.

Through the START Program, the DOE Office of Indian Energy and Energy Department National Laboratory experts provide assistance for tribal clean energy development by supporting community- and commercial-scale renewable energy projects throughout the U.S. Since its launch in December 2011, the START Program has helped 21 tribal communities advance their clean energy technology and infrastructure projects – from solar and wind to biofuels and energy efficiency.

“The program was very flexible, providing expertise in different areas as project needs changed, including the site location,” said James Jensen, project manager for Southern Ute Alternative Energy, LLC, which received START assistance in 2013 to help advance the development of its $3 million, 1-MW solar photovoltaic project.

Nuclear waste storage license could cost $330 million

The chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said completing the licensing process for Yucca Mountain would cost an additional $330 million.

All four commissioners appeared before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.

Chairman Stephen Burns said completing the used fuel repository construction licensing process would require the additional funds from Congress in the NRC’s budget. The commission proposed a $1.03 billion budget for fiscal year 2016, which is 1.7 percent higher than was approved for fiscal 2015. NRC did not request any funds from Congress to continue its review of the Yucca Mountain license.

Subcommittee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) both said during the hearing that they intend to pursue passage of the Nuclear Waste Administration Act, which would allow for the establishment of consolidated storage facilities such as the one proposed by Waste Control Specialists in Texas.

Alexander said the cumulative burden of regulations is not because lawmakers have “evil intent,” but that they pile up over time, creating a resource issue for the industry.

San Diego considers hydropower project

The city of San Diego and San Diego County Water Authority are considering the construction of a hydropower plant in the San Vicente Reservoir.

The Public Utilities Department told the City Council’s Environment Committee that the study of the $1 billion, 500-MW project could take 18 months to two years to complete. Committee members were told the facility would function as a large battery that could counter the inherent intermittency issues of the city’s future renewable energy resources.