August 10, 2022

South Sudan News Agency

Complete English News World

In a twist, old coal plants are helping to provide renewable energy. Here’s how.

In a twist, old coal plants are helping to provide renewable energy.  Here's how.

Across the country, aging coal-burning power plants are gaining new life as solar, battery, and other renewable energy projects, in part because they have a decades-old advantage that is becoming increasingly valuable: they are already connected to the power grid.

The miles of high-tension wires and towers needed to connect power plants to customers on a large scale are often costly, time-consuming and controversial to build from scratch. So solar and other projects avoid regulatory hassles, and perhaps speed up the transition to renewable energy, by connecting to unused connections left behind as coal becomes uneconomic to keep burning.

In Illinois alone, there are at least nine coal burning plants that are on track to become solar farms and battery storage facilities in the next three years. Similar projects are taking shape in Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, North Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Maryland. In Massachusetts and New Jersey, two retired coal plants along the coast have been repurposed to connect offshore wind turbines to regional electric grids.

“An upside to having all these dirty power plants is that we now have fairly strong transmission lines in those places,” said Jack Darin, director of the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group. “That’s a huge credit.”

Over the past two decades, more than 600 coal-burning generators with a total capacity of about 85 gigawatts have been retired, according to the British newspaper The Guardian. US Energy Information Administration. (Single power plants can have more than one generator.) The majority of the country’s remaining 266 coal-fired power plants were built in the 1970s and 1980s, and are nearing the end of their nearly 50-year operating life.

Most of this retired capacity will not be replaced by coal, as the industry is pressured by cheaper renewable energy and stricter emissions regulations. At the same time, renewable energy producers face obstacles in connecting their projects to the grid. Building new power lines is Expensive and controversial Because neighbors are often opposed to transmission lines, which can disturb the scenic views or reduce the values ​​of nearby properties. In addition, it can take a long time to get power line projects approved by regulators.

This makes old coal plants an attractive option as locations for renewable energy projects. Not only do the old substations connect to the transmission system, but they also contain substations that help convert electricity into a source suitable for use in homes and businesses.

This was a major factor in choosing the Brayton Point Power Station as the grid connection point for a 1,200-megawatt wind farm 37 miles off the Massachusetts coast, said Michael Brown, CEO of offshore wind development company Mayflower Wind.

The coal-fired plant, with a capacity of 1,600 megawatts, was the largest in New England when it retired in 2017. The facility itself, located in the seafront town of Somerset, will be replaced by an undersea cable factory owned by Italy’s Prismian Group. . The offshore wind project will connect to the grid at Brighton Point, taking advantage of the substation located there.

In one of the most ambitious efforts, Vistra Corp. , a Texas-based power plant that also owns a variety of power plants in California and Illinois, said it will spend $550 million to convert at least nine of its coal-burning facilities in Illinois into solar panel and battery storage sites.

See also  Verizon will soon raise prices with higher management fees

The largest plant in Baldwin, Illinois, which is due to retire by 2025, will have 190,000 solar panels on 500 acres of land. Together, the panels will generate 68 megawatts of power, enough to power between 13,600 and 34,000 homes, depending on the time of year. You’ll also get a 9MW battery, which will help distribute electricity at peak demand or when the sun isn’t shining.

Vestra CEO Curtis Morgan said it had become clear that the energy company would need to “leave coal behind” and that it was keen to build new zero-emissions projects to replace some of the power from those plants. However, he said, the slow process of obtaining approval from grid operators, who coordinate and monitor the electricity supply, has been an obstacle to a number of proposed Vistra projects.

According to him, a surge in proposals for wind, solar, and battery storage projects has overwhelmed regulators in recent years. Analysis from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which overlooks the Berkeley campus of the University of California. In 2021, waiting times nearly doubled from a decade ago to nearly four years ago, and that doesn’t include the growing number of projects pulling out of the process entirely.

If every project currently awaiting approval were built, “we could reach 80 percent of clean energy by 2030,” said Mr. Rand, the report’s lead author. “But we will be lucky if a quarter of what is already proposed is accomplished.”

Three of Vistra’s battery storage projects in Illinois — at coal plants in Havana, Juba and Edwards — also benefited from an infusion of grants from state law, the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, which aims to support a “fair transition” for coal-dependent communities toward renewable energy. Signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker last fall, it also required all fossil fuel burning plants to cut their emissions to zero by 2045, which could lead to their closure, even though most Illinois coal plants were already on the verge of closing. Within a decade.

The Coal Storage Grant Program to Solar Energy What emerged from the legislation also supports two other battery projects, owned by NRG Energy, that will be built at coal-fired power plants in Waukegan and Will County.

See also  Oil prices jump as conflict in Ukraine raises supply concerns

Silvia Garcia, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which oversees the coal-to-solar conversion program, said the advantage of building renewable energy projects over older coal plants is twofold. First, projects take advantage of the ease of reusing an existing network connection. Second, it’s an effort to “try to reinvest in the communities that lost these coal plants” in the first place, she said.

While new projects will temporarily create construction jobs, operating a solar power plant or battery facility usually Does not require many employees. Baldwin’s factory previously employed about 105 full-time workers. Although Vestra hasn’t finalized the numbers on a site-by-site basis, the nine Illinois projects combined will create 29 full-time jobs annually, Miranda Cohn, the company’s director of communications, said in an email.

Coal plants are also usually located on a large piece of land, and redeveloping those sites into renewable energy projects is a way of putting something productive on a piece of property that might not otherwise be used.

“It really turns a very negative resource into a much more positive resource for society,” said Jeff Bishop, CEO of Key Capture Energy, which plans to locate a 20-megawatt battery storage project at a retired coal plant near Baltimore, Maryland. .

Julie Vitek, vice president of government and regulatory affairs for energy producer Engie North America, said elsewhere in Holyoke, Massachusetts. . After meetings with government officials, environmental groups and residents, she said, a solar farm emerged as the best way to “give new life to the industrial land of Mount Tom.”

Today, the property houses about 17,000 solar panels and a small battery installation that forms a community solar project operated by Holyoke Gas & Electric, a city-owned facility that gives customers the option to opt in to receive solar energy from the project. The panels produce about 6 megawatts of power, enough to power about 1,800 homes.

It’s not just solar, battery and wind developers who are looking to old coal plants for their infrastructure. TerraPower, a nuclear power project founded by Bill Gates, is locating an advanced 345-megawatt nuclear reactor next to a retired coal plant in Kemerer, UT. The location will not only allow the reactor to take advantage of the existing grid connection but will also allow it to take advantage of the coal plant’s cooling system, said Chris Levesque, TerraPower President and CEO.

“In a way, it would really be a shame not to take advantage of these coal plants,” said Mr. Levesque.