Category Archives: Power Generation

Integrating Renewables

Thinking about solar power and the current concerns regarding the increased costs of integrating wind power into the grid… Germany is learning first hand how grids designed for central power generation may not be adequate for significant distributed generation.

See the following article in the NewScientist:

Solar Power Could Crash Germany’s Grid

Plant and Grid operators are finding that there are minimum generation requirements on the lines.  You can’t turn a large coal fired boiler down below a safe minimum load, and if you take too many plants offline to allow solar and wind to cover loads during the middle of the day, the grid may not be able to recover when the sun sets and the air goes still – all at the same time people are heading home, re-energizing their homes and firing up the oven for dinner.

Once again it comes back to sufficient energy storage capabilities on the grid.  Whether that means pumped storage, hydrogen production, geothermal heat wells, fly-wheels or something altogether new is still a question for debate.  Maybe a mix of all the above technologies, along with a smattering of electric car batteries will be the answer. 

One thing is for certain, most have us have gotten used to having clean, reliable power.  I don’t think we’ll be willing to give it up anytime soon.

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Absorption Inlet Chillers

Another great article from Power Engineering:
Innovation in Turbine Inlet Conditioning” from TIC and GE.
(October 2010, starting on page 51)

The article outlines an option to use absorption chillers instead of mechanical chillers for gas turbine inlet cooling. Using the GT exhaust gas energy as input to run the chillers – there is no (or very minimal) aux load requirement to run the chillers.

Sounds like a great idea to me!!

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ASME Power 2010 – Keynote

Greetings from the ASME Power 2010 Conference in Chicago.

A quick overview of the keynote speech:

Ed Tirello once again lit up the audience with great commentary on the status of the industry. He talked about a number of things, including what all the keynote speakers seemed to agree with: the lack of a US Energy Policy is hampering the ability of the industry to move forward. And while he did state outright that he’s “not an engineer” and tended to “make things up” (which garnered many smiles from the audience), his views bring some insights into the issues which our industry will be facing in the near future.

Richard Knoebel spoke next, providing some numbers to the CO2 sequestration issue – including some potential costs of adding carbon capture & sequestration (CCS) to new coal and gas power plants (noting in some cases it will double the capital costs of installing new generation assets).

Stephen Kuczynski stepped up next to speak of his company’s experiences with operating nuclear facilities – and some of the steps they’re taking to keep their fleet operating safely and reliably. One item I noted – was their program of promoting “assertive engineering”. In other words, if an engineer sees something that needs fixing – he/she should not let politics or the companies quarterly stock price get in the way of seeing that it gets fixed, and fixed correctly.

In light of the BP disaster, I can only imagine how many engineers were told to be quiet in light of the costs and schedule delays which would have occurred in order to do things right. In the case of nuclear power, where there have been accidents in the past, engineers – and others – are encouraged to take personal responsibility for the equipment around them, to make sure avoidable accidents don’t happen in the future. I encourage us all to apply that same confidence and assertiveness to all our projects.

The final speaker was Gregory Snyder, who covered some of the future-thinking options of integrating renewable energy and electric cars into the grid.

All the speakers provided great information that is of great interest to the industry. Thank you to ASME for bringing this group together and providing a venue for their presentations.

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ASME Power 2010 Conference

The ASME Power 2010 Conference is coming up next week (July 13-15, 2010).

I’ll be going early to take the steam turbine performance class on Monday (7/12/10), presented by Gary Golden (EPRI), James Wieters (SCANA) Dr. Simon Hogg (Durham University) and Robert Scott (Alstom). It got rave reviews last year, so I’m really looking forward to attending.

I’ll also be presenting a paper this year:

    An Experience with PTC 70 – Ramp Rates

The presentation is in Session 13-4 (Performance Test and Performance Monitoring Techniques) on Wednesday afternoon, July 14, 2010. I hope to see you there.

If you’d like a copy of the final paper and/or the presentation slides, drop me a note ( I’ll get them posted here after the conference, as well.

If you have any experiences with determining ramp rates for your facilities that you’d like to share – I’d love to hear from you.

    How do you determine your ramp rates?

Do you run a dedicated test to collect data, or do you use ‘normal’ operating data as the basis?

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GHG Impact of Electric Cars

An interesting article on electric cars and net greenhouse gas emissions (during operation) can be found at

What I don’t see them taking into consideration, is the manufacturing costs of the car. So, as long as you’re comparing the gas-only new car versus an electric version you’re OK. But, I think you’re still better off just running your existing car for another 100k miles, even if it gets pretty poor gas mileage.

The article includes some interesting charts on the regions mix of power generation across the US. I was surprised to see that TVA’s Hydro production does not have an appreciable impact on the SE generation mix. Here in Washington, BPA’s hydro is still the main source of electricity in the region.

Another note of interest was the amount of power still generated with oil in New York and Florida.

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PowerGen International 2009

Two Weeks to PowerGen 2009 in Las Vegas, NV USA.

I’ll be there!

If you’re also going to be there, and would like to meet for lunch or around the exhibit hall or sessions, drop me a note or voicemail (see the T2E3 website for contact info). I haven’t lined up which sessions I’ll be attending yet – pending getting the full conference agenda – but you can bet if there are papers dealing with finding efficiency improvements, I’ll be there.

If you have any recommendations on vendors to visit in the exhibit hall – I’d be interested in hearing what those might be as well. The exhibit hall is HUGE, so I try and map out a plan for my “must see” vendors in advance.

I hope to see you there!
Until then – I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Floating Windmills

Very interesting news article came in today’s Energy Central Daily. The source article is from the Maine Press Herald: ‘Amazing’ turbine may be tested off Maine.

A large 2.3 MW wind turbine is being contemplated for a location off the coast of Maine at water depths more than 650ft deep. It would be anchored with three tethers – but otherwise would simply float. Amazing.

Hopefully they wouldn’t lose too much energy through the six miles of transmission lines across the ocean floor. But, then again, the stability and strength of the winds out on the ocean may more than make up for any extra losses.

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