Industry News

Luminant to Close Two Coal Plants in Central Texas

The plants, the two-unit Sandow Power Plant in Milam County and the two-unit Big Brown Power Plant in Freestone County, were both described by the company as “economically-challenged” due to sustained low wholesale power prices, an oversupplied renewable generation market and low natural gas prices.

“This announcement is a difficult one to make,” said Curt Morgan, Vistra Energy’s president and CEO. “It is never easy to announce an action that has a significant impact on our people. Though the long-term economic viability of these plants has been in question for some time, our year-long analysis indicates this announcement is now necessary.

The closing of Sandow involved a contract termination agreement with Alcoa, as well as the impending closure of the Three Oaks Mine which supports the plant.

The final day of operations is set to be Jan. 11, 2018.

Offshore Wind Could Generate Five Times the Energy as Onshore

Researchers at the Carnegie Institute of Science claim that faster ocean wind speeds could give offshore wind turbines the potential to generate five times as much electricity as land-based turbines.

The majority of wind used by wind turbines originates higher up in the atmosphere and then travels down.

In their study, Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira pose the question of whether the atmosphere over the ocean could move more energy downward than the atmosphere over land.

In particular, they believe the drag introduced by wind turbines would not slow down wind turbines in the North Atlantic as they would over land, due to large amounts of heat pouring out of the North Atlantic Ocean during the winter. 

Second Steam Generator Placed at Vogtle Expansion

Though the ultimate fate of the Vogtle nuclear expansion has yet to be decided, development of the site continues with the placement of a second 1.4 million-pound steam generator at the site’s Unit 3.

Both of the new AP1000 units at the Vogtle expansion will use two steam generators. All four are now onsite, Georgia Power announced.

The company said “momentum has accelerated” on the project, with other milestones including a concrete ‘super placement’ for Unit 3 and the lift of the 237-ton CA03 module for Unit 4.

Short-Term Energy Forecast Shows Growth
of Coal Production

The latest Short-Term Energy Forecast from the Energy Information Administration indicates coal production continued to grow in September.

An estimated 66 million short tons of coal was produced during the month, up one percent from the same time last year. The year-to-date production total now stands at 591 MMst, up 12 percent from the first nine months of the previous year.

By year-end, the EIA expects coal production to increase by eight percent before slowing to a one percent growth in 2018.

Coal exports through July also grew, with the 51 MMst total 62 percent higher than the same period in 2016. That total is likely to slow, as the year-end total is expected to be 75 MMst, or 24 percent higher than 2016.

Natural gas production is predicted to average 73.6 billion cubic feet per day in 2017, up by 0.8 Bcf/d from 2016. Production in 2018 is forecast for 4.9 Bcf/d higher than 2017’s level.

Analysis Suggests 42 Percent of U.S. Coal Plants Could Retire or Convert

A new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists suggests up to 42 percent of coal plants in the United States could shut down or convert to natural gas in the near future.

That number includes an estimated 25 percent that have already announced a retirement date or plans to convert to natural gas, and another 17 percent that are actively losing money and could face shutdown.

The UCS indicated that, between 2008 and 2016, 17 percent of U.S. coal capacity retired and another four percent converted to natural gas and other fuels. As a result, coal’s share of electrical generation fell from 31 percent in 2008 to 31 percent in 2016.

Ohio Siting Board Approves Over 2 GW of Gas Plants

The Ohio Siting Board has approved the development of two new gas-fired plants with a combined output of over 2, Energy Business Review reported.

The first of these is the Guernsey Power Station, which will have a capacity of 1.1 GW and be constructed by Guernsey Power Station LLC in Guernsey County. The board indicated it will feature three units in a single-shaft configuration with gas and steam turbines.

That plant is expected to break ground in December and start commercial operations by October 2020.

The second plant, the 940-MW Trumbull Energy Center, will be built by Clean Energy Future-Trumbull in Trumbull County. The facility will feature two units with heat recovery steam generators and a steam turbine.

Construction of that plant will start in November with operations set for June 2020.

Annual Energy Storage Installations to Top 14 GW by 2026

A new study by Navigant Research indicates annual installations of utility-scale power storage for transmission and distribution deferral is expected to grow rapidly over the next decade.

Specifically, installations are expected to grow from 331.7 MW this year to 14,324.8 MW in 2026.

“The major advantage energy storage has compared to conventional T&D upgrades results from the flexibility related to how storage systems can be deployed and the variety of services they can provide,” said Alex Eller, research analyst with Navigant Research.

Navigant predicts utility companies will turn to these types of deployments to avoid the typical challenges associated with transmission, including community concerns, timelines and future load growth uncertainty. 

DTE Energy Opens Largest Solar Park in Michigan

DTE Energy announced full operations at its 60-MW Lapeer solar park in Lapeer, Michigan.

The 200,000-panel array sits on more than 250 acres, and DTE indicates it is the largest solar park in the state.

“DTE plans to reduce carbon emissions by more than 80 percent by 2050 in a way that works for Michigan’s economy, homeowners and businesses,” said Irene Dimitry, vice president of business planning and development for DTE Energy.

Solar energy now makes up seven percent of DTE’s renewable energy portfolio and brings the company›s investment in solar energy to $170 million since 2008. DTE now operates 1,000 MW of renewable energy at 13 wind parks and 13 solar arrays.

Siemens, Chromalloy Choose Tampa Area for Joint Venture

Siemens and Chromalloy Gas Turbine Corp. have chosen Hillsborough County as the headquarters location for their new joint venture, Advanced Airfoil Components.

The Advanced Airfoil Components manufacturing facility will employ 350 with a capital investment of approximately $139 million. Siemens and Chromalloy evaluated multiple states before ultimately choosing Florida as the best destination for this new headquarters.

The new joint venture will focus on turbine blade and vane cast components for power generation. The two companies will lease 210,000 square feet at Tampa Regional Industrial Park and will open in late 2018.

Luminant to Close Monticello Power Plant

Luminant, a subsidiary of Vistra Energy, announced plans to retire the coal-fired Monticello Power Plant in Titus County, Texas, by January 2018.

Curt Morgan, Vistra Energy’s President and CEO, said a year-long analysis concluded operating the 1,800-MW plant is no longer economical.

“For more than 40 years, Monticello employees have generated reliable power for Texans, and we honor and recognize their service,” he said. “But the market’s unprecedented low power price environment has profoundly impacted its operating revenues and no longer supports continued investment.”

Luminant filed a notice for closure with ERCOT, which triggered a reviability review.

Facebook Data Center to Spark Solar Development in Virginia

Facebook data center under development near Richmond, Virginia, calls for the development of multiple solar facilities to power it.

As Facebook plans to operate its eighth data center in the U.S. on 100 percent renewable energy, Dominion Energy will construct new solar facilities across the state to support it. The capacity and locations were not revealed.

The Facebook data center would be served under a new renewable rate option called Schedule RF, or renewable facility, which Dominion Energy plans to file with the Virginia State Corporation Commission later this month. If approved, Schedule RF would allow Facebook to offset its annual energy needs with renewable energy delivered to the grid.

ENGIE to Develop Largest Energy Storage Installation in Massachusetts

Green Charge, a subsidiary of ENGIE, announced plans to develop and operate whats being called the largest utility-scale energy storage system in Massachusetts.

The three-MW system will be installed at the 5.76-MW Mt. Tom Solar, which began operations in January adjacent to the former Mt. Tom Power Station, and will deliver energy to Holyoke Gas & Electric. ENGIE expects the system to be complete by April 2018.

The system will be used to optimize intermittent solar energy and reduce utility capacity costs for HG&E while reducing stress on the HG&E distribution system and improving power quality and reliability.

76 Percent of North American Utilities Expect Moderate Cyberattack Risk

A survey of utility executives indicated 76 percent of those in North America believe the country faces at least a moderate risk of electricity supply interruption from a cyberattack.

The survey, conducted by Accenture, indicated 57 percent of respondents said they’re most concerned by an interruption of the power supply from cyberattacks, while 43 percent indicated the destruction of their physical assets was their biggest concern.

“As highly sophisticated, weaponized malware is being developed, a greater risk to distribution businesses arises from cyber criminals and others who would use it for malicious purposes,” said Stephanie Jamison, managing director, Accenture Transmission and Distribution.

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