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Avangrid Brings Clean Energy to New England

Coal-fired

Build to Order

Engineers and constructors adapt to serve an industry in transition.
From gas pipelines to PV arrays, the nation’s contractors are seeing growth in utility infrastructure. Fortnightly talks with executives at engineering and construction firms to learn what kinds of projects are moving forward, where they’re located, and what lies over the horizon.

Defying the Odds

Reports of coal’s demise are exaggerated. This summer, Dominion cleared the regulatory gauntlet to start up a new coal plant. Whether the example can be replicated might hinge on state incentives—and the forward price of natural gas.

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Figure 1 - Coal-Fired Emissions Progress
One of very few coal-fired power plants commissioned in recent years, the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center uses air-cooled condensers (the green-topped structures) to reduce water consumption to one-tenth that of a comparable coal-fired plant.
A wood tipper delivers wood waste to the Virginia City circulating fluidized bed plant, which can burn up to 20 percent biomass along with coal.
The Virginia City plant’s fluidized bed boiler produces a much larger volume of solid waste than a most comparable pulverized coal plant would, due to the higher ash content of the coals used and partly because of the limestone sorbent mixed with fuel during combustion. At Virginia City, solid waste is stored onsite in a specially designed, 158-acre landfill.
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Coping with Carbon at Virginia City
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The Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center was already under construction when EPA issued its proposed rule regulating carbon dioxide at new sources, and therefore it isn’t subject to those restrictions. This facility is, however, well situated to deal with its carbon dioxide emissions, and the station’s owner, Dominion Resources, has supported research to establish a viable means of capturing and storing CO2.

While plans for the power station were proceeding and the permitting process was underway, carbon sequestration research funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy was being undertaken near the Virginia City site. This work was conducted by the Virginia Center for Coal & Energy Research at Virginia Tech, and led by the Center’s Director Dr. Michael Karmis. It was coordinated by Southern States Energy Board and was part of the Southeastern Carbon Sequestration Partnership (SECARB). Dominion Resources provided matching funds for the investigation.

Karmis and his team succeeded in establishing the feasibility of sequestering carbon dioxide in un-mineable coal seams in central Appalachia. Estimated capacity of nearby seams to sequester carbon dioxide far exceeds the production of this gas over the lifetime of the Virginia City facility. The Virginia Tech team now is working to demonstrate using CO2 injection to enhance production of coal-bed methane from the area, while also sequestering the carbon dioxide.

Carbon capture technologies haven’t yet been tested at the Virginia City site. But to position the facility to take advantage of its proximity to coal seams that have proven suitable for sequestration, Dominion designed the plant with carbon capture in mind, and space has been set aside for installation of such equipment when it becomes commercially available—and upon approval by the Virginia State Corporation Commission.–HW

Author Bio: 

Herbert Wheary (haggiscat@live.com) is a private consultant on energy policy in Richmond, Va. The opinions in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the Commonwealth of Virginia or Dominion Resources.

Virginia brings a new coal-fired plant online.

Multi-pollutant Emissions Control

Conflicting demands for complying with EPA’s MATS rule favor a single control technology to deal with multiple types of power plant emissions.

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Technology Corridor
Author Bio: 

Kevin Crapsey is vice president of corporate strategy and development at Eco Power Solutions.

MATS compliance now, with flexibility for the future.

Gas Without Regrets

Gas-fired generators and suppliers alike can each share risk and reward from historic low prices with contracts that blend market and fixed prices

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Figure 1 - Coal and Natural Gas Generation (January 2005 through October 2013)
Figures 2 - 4 - Fixed, Collared, and Hybrid Agreements
Figure 5 - Maximum Regrets for Electricity Generators and Gas Suppliers
Figure 6 - Potential for Locking-In Affordable Gas-Fired Power
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Energy Risk & Markets
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Presuming Prudence
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In 2010, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signed the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act, which, among other things, explicitly encouraged long-term gas supply contracts. The law specified procedures for commission approval and discouraged subsequent look-back by future commissions.

In April 2012, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission approved a competitive procurement rule that created new opportunities to enter long-term contracts for natural gas and other fuels. The rule created “an open, transparent, fair, and nondiscriminatory competitive bidding process” that would enable Oklahoma utilities to obtain a presumption of prudency for approved agreements.3

A report recently released by the National Regulatory Research Institute noted the proactive measures taken by Colorado, Oklahoma, and Oregon to promote long-term natural gas contracts, while the majority of state commissions provide little guidance.4 – GS and PB

Author Bio: 

Gregory C. Staple (gstaple@cleanskies.org) is the CEO and Patrick Bean (pbean@cleanskies.org) is an energy policy advisor at the American Clean Skies Foundation.

How suppliers and generators can each gain from today’s historic low prices.

Cleanup Time

Ongoing litigation over EPA rules raises compliance risks and costs. North Carolina utilities, however, benefited from the state’s forward thinking.

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Op Ed
Author Bio: 

David Hoppock (david.hoppock@duke.edu) is a research analyst and Sarah Adair (sarah.adair@duke.edu) is an associate in research at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions in Durham, N.C.

Retrofitting early protected North Carolina ratepayers.

What Price, GHGs?

Renewable portfolio standards and other green energy rules put a price on environmental benefits. Calculating this price can help clarify the social value of GHG reductions.

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Figure 1 - Implied CO2 Externality Values of Carbon Reduction Policies
Figure 2 - Ranges of Implied CO2 Externality Values
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Business & Money
Author Bio: 

Philip Q Hanser is a principal with The Brattle Group, and Mariko Geronimo is an associate with the firm. The views in this article are theirs and not those of The Brattle Group or its clients.

Calculating the implied value of CO2 abatement in green energy policies.

Mitt Romney and You

The Republican nominee’s energy plan doesn’t say much about electricity or natural gas. But what it does say should sound familiar to anyone who’s followed energy policy for more than four years.
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Frontlines
Author Bio: 

Michael T. Burr is Fortnightly’s editor-in-chief. Email him at burr@pur.com

Bold plan for independence, or more partisan overreach?