Total U.S. Sales of Electricity Down Last Year
Total U.S. electricity sales in 2015 fell 1.1 percent from the previous year, representing the fifth time sales have fallen in the past eight years, according to a report published last month by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The slump reflects declining electricity sales in the industrial sector and little growth in sales to the residential and commercial building sectors, despite growth in the total number of households and commercial buildings. The report cites market saturation, increased-efficiency electrical equipment, slowing economic growth, and the changing composition of the economy as drivers in the current down trend.
In addition to decreased electricity sales to residential and commercial customers, the report also notes reduced sales in the industrial sector, but notes these decreases mainly reflect economic factors.
EIA: More Than 80% of 2015’s Retired Generating Capacity was Coal-Fired
Nearly 18 GW of electric generating capacity was retired in 2015, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), and more than 80 percent of that was coal-fired.
About 30 percent of those coal retirements happened this month after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule went into effect.
According to the EIA, some plants applied for and received one-year extensions and will retire this month. Several plants received additional extensions beyond April based on their roles in grid reliability.
The EIA noted that much of the country’s existing coal capacity was built between 1950 and 1990. Coal units that were shuttered in 2015 were primarily built between 1950 and 1970. The average age of those units was 54 years.
Nearly half of the country’s coal capacity that retired in 2015 was in Ohio, Georgia, and Kentucky. Each of those states retired at least 10 percent of their coal capacity last year.
Other states with traditionally high levels of coal-fired generation, including Indiana, West Virginia and Virginia, each retired at least 1 GW.
Consumers Energy Closes Seven Oldest Coal Plants
Consumers Energy confirmed it will close its seven oldest coal-fired power plants by the middle of the month, amounting to two-thirds of the company’s coal fleet. The retirements will reduce the company’s carbon footprint by 25 percent, while reducing its emissions by 40 percent.
Collectively generating just under 1,000 MW, the company’s “Classic Seven” plants have operated in Michigan for more than six decades. Plants include: B.C. Cobb 4 and 5; Muskegon; J.C. Weadock 7 and 8; Hampton Township (Bay County); J.R. Whiting 1, 2, and 3; and Luna Pier.
GE to Deploy Robotic Inspection Tools for Gas-Fired Power Plants
GE’s Power Services business will deploy advanced robotic inspection tools to inspect natural gas-fired power plants owned by utility Alinta Energy in Australia and New Zealand.
GE’s DIRIS and TurboRotoscan inspection systems will be used in 19 generators manufactured by GE, Alstom, Mitsubishi, and Brush. The systems will alert the utility to potential generator issues, giving it time to evaluate its options. Inspections will begin this month and be performed through 2020.
GE Hitachi Nuclear Reactor Inspection Tool Reaches Milestone
A remote-operated-vehicle inspection tool has reached a milestone in the examination of nuclear reactor components.
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s remotely-operated Stinger In-Vessel Visual Inspection (IVVI) tool successfully facilitated the examination of more than 1,000 nuclear reactor components. The Stinger was recently used during a refueling outage at an unnamed U.S. nuclear reactor, the ninth deployment of the inspection tool. It was first used at Plant Hatch in 2013.
Stinger is able to examine the complete range of components from the reactor vessel flange to the annulus floor through advanced camera and remote positioning technology. High-resolution video can be transmitted in real time for analysis by NRC-certified technicians in North Carolina. With new camera and lighting capabilities, Stinger now has the ability to conduct cladding examinations on reactor pressure vessel interior walls.
Siemens Opens Cyber Security Centers in US and Europe
Siemens opened its Cyber Security Operation Center in Europe and the U.S. to protect industrial facilities worldwide
The center has a joint location in Lisbon and Munich, and one in Ohio. Industrial security specialists at the sites will monitor industrial facilities all over the world for cyber threats, warning companies in the event of security incidents and coordinating proactive counter measures.
These protective measures are part of Siemens’ plant security services, which range from security assessments and the installation of protective measures, to continuous surveillance of power plants.
TransAlta to Decommission Canada’s Oldest Wind Farm
TransAlta Corporation will decommission Canada’s oldest wind farm, Cowley Ridge in Pincher Creek, Alberta.
Commissioned in 1993, Cowley Ridge was Canada’s first commercial wind farm, featuring 57 turbines and generating 16 MW of clean energy. The turbines were mounted on 24.5-meter lattice towers.
Canada now has an installed wind capacity of 11,205 MW.
Decommissioning will take place through June, followed by site reclamation.
TransAlta is reviewing options to repower the site with new wind turbines.
Duke Energy Names New Chief Fossil/Hydro Officer
Duke Energy has named Regis Repko the company’s new senior vice president and chief fossil/hydro officer. Repko succeeds Charlie Gates, who announced his retirement in March.
Repko will be responsible for the operation of the company’s regulated fossil/hydro generation fleet in six states, including outage and maintenance services. He will help shape the company’s generation stragety as Duke rebalances its portfolio to reduce carbon emissions.
Dominion, Microsoft Partner to Bring New Solar Project to Virginia
A partnership between the Commonwealth of Virginia, Microsoft, and Dominion Virginia Power will bring a new 20-MW solar facility to the state.
Dominion will build the facility on company-owned land in Fauquier County adjacent to its Remington generating station.
“This partnership will help lower carbon emissions in Virginia and diversify our energy portfolio, while growing the solar and data center industries in Virginia,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Areva TN to Supply Used Nuclear Fuel Storage System
Areva TN signed two $200 million long-term contracts with U.S. utilities to supply used fuel storage solutions.
Areva will supply its NUHOMS dry-shielded canisters and the NUHOMS horizontal storage system, which will house the canisters on site. The canisters are designed to store fuel assemblies from pressurized water reactors, including high-burnup, short-cooled fuel.
In the U.S., nearly 1,000 used fuel canisters are currently loaded at more than 30 sites.
MHPSA G-Series Gas Turbine Headed to Power Plant in North Carolina
NTE Energy picked Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas Inc. to supply an M501GAC gas turbine for a power project in North Carolina.
The turbine is set for the Kings Mountain Energy Center, which will produce 475 MW of electricity in combined-cycle mode. The plant will be built, owned, and operated by NTE’s affiliate, NTE Carolinas LLC. It is set for commercial operation in 2018.
The turbine to be installed at Kings Mountain will be manufactured at MHPSA’s Savannah Machinery Works in Georgia.
Oregon Senate Passes Bill to Abandon Coal Power by 2030
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign into law a bill that would eliminate the state’s use of coal for power production.
Senate Bill 1547 requires Oregon’s electric utilities to abandon coal by 2030. The bill also increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard for the state’s three largest utilities, requiring them to procure at least half their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2040.
SB 1547 also creates a community solar program, changes criteria for generating renewable energy certificates, and ensures facility decommissioning costs are recovered.
SB 1547 gives the Public Utility Commission (PUC) broad rule-making and regulatory authority, capping the annual rate increase at 4 percent and establishing a mechanism for exemption of compliance would result in adverse financial impact to ratepayers. The PUC is required to report back to the Oregon legislature.
MTU Onsite Energy to Supply 160 Gensets to VPower Group
MTU Onsite Energy, a division of Rolls-Royce Power Systems, has contracted to supply 160 gas-powered gensets to VPower Group, a company with expertise in decentralized power generation. The deal allows VPower to secure production capacity within MTU, making it possible to meet customer demand on short notice. The gensets will be based on MTU’s 16V 4000 L32 units, each with an output of 1,560 kW.
In 2014, the two companies teamed up to deliver 32 natural gas-powered gensets to Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise (MEPE), with another 64 units following in 2015. The gas-powered MEPE is directly tied to Myanmar’s power grid and stabilizes the country’s domestic power supply.