Don’t ignore Coal

Don’t ignore Coal

Don’t ignore coal. Other countries aren’t.

In fact, the new high efficiency low emission (HELE), ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants are being built in China, Japan, India, and elsewhere.

These power plants operate at very high temperatures and pressures, with an efficiency of 45% HHV. This compares with the existing fleet of coal-fired power plants in the US that have an average efficiency of 33% HHV.

This means that pollutants from HELE power plants are 45% lower than from existing coal-fired power plants while CO2 emissions are cut even more.

Countries that are rich in coal, but lack plentiful, cheap natural gas, are finding that coal is the cheapest, most reliable source of electricity, other than hydro, they can have.

Wind and solar don’t come close, especially when they need expensive storage. For more information go to: Coal and the future of Energy 

SWEPCO Turk power plant. The only ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant in the United States.

Japan is planning to build 22 HELE plants, largely to replace the nuclear power plants shut down after the Fukushima disaster.

China has plans to build over 300 HELE plants, some in China and the remainder in other countries around the world.

The fact is, China is tearing down its subcritical and supercritical coal-fired power plants and replacing them with new HELE, ultra-supercritical power plants.

The United States could benefit by doing the same thing, but EPA regulations prohibit building HELE coal-fired power plants in the US.

Replacing existing supercritical coal-fired power plants in the United Sates with HELE plants would reduce CO2 emissions, while also reducing pollutants such as particulates.

These power plants would provide baseload, reliable power, 24/7/365 at a cost lower than the cost of building a like amount of wind and solar together with their accompanying storage.

The HELE coal-fired power plant would last for at least 60 years, while the wind and solar installations would have to be replaced every twenty years, and their batteries would have to be replaced every ten years.

In addition, the HELE coal-fired power plants would generate over twice as much electricity.

The reason? HELE plants have a capacity factor of 85%, while wind has a capacity factor of 35%, and PV solar has a capacity factor of, at best, 22%.

The United States is blessed with a large amount of low-cost natural gas which allows the building of power plants even more efficient than HELE plants, but efforts to prevent building natural gas pipelines and preventing Fracking could mean that HELE plants could be competitive in some areas of the United States.

Coal shouldn’t be ignored anywhere in the world where HELE ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants can be built.

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5 Replies to “Don’t ignore Coal”

  1. Interesting article on HELE power plants. Do you have a reference explaining how pollutants are reduced by 45% ?
    Thanks.

  2. Donn,
    As an engineer that worked in the coal power industry for decades, I cannot agree with you more. Realizing that 80% of the world’s energy still is provided by Fossil Fuels, my concern is that even if Regulations were rolled back and Utility Executives actually became interested in a balanced portfolio of coal, nuclear and renewables it will be tough to do. My concern is the retiring of talent like you and me as two examples compounded by the loss of many other capable engineers in their prime that have gone off into other industries. The closest example for coal fueled generation is to look back on nuclear power plant designers and manufacturers of teh 1970’s. Then we had Westinghouse, Babcock & Wilcox, G-E, Combustion Engineering and even Allis-Chalmers. The accident at Three Mile Island may not have harmed the first human but it killed all of the US Commercial nuclear orders and most of the companies listed above. Sad. Now with the well accepted (but, not by the 1% that really know energy) Green Power Initiatives, I fear that similar carnage will continue with the American manufacturers of large steam generators, including HELE Plants. If a US Utility really wanted to buy one today and asked me, I would strongly recommend building another Turk replica. That is a fine plant and one of the best ever. The world continues to depend on Fossil Fuels for 80% + of our total energy for transportation, electricity & manufacturing. However, when you meet a well educated person from another professiona and get in a conversation, most think most of our electric power comes from wind, solar and hydro-electric. Even coal utilities brag in their ad’s about the Renewable Generation. My local Co-Op touts Renewables when over 90% of their Bulk Power is supplied by Coal and natural gas.
    My point is, our industry has failed in the education of teh public.

    • Thanks.
      Great comments.
      Your last point is very telling in that those who should know better are parroting the party line about renewables. They apparently think that by making nice and being politically correct they will not be attacked by the left. Appeasement is a failed strategy and the leaders of industry should fight back, not kowtow to the left.

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