Power Electronics

EPRI to Evaluate Adding Solar Thermal Energy to Coal Plants

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has launched the second of two projects to help electric power companies add solar energy to fossil-fueled electric power plants, reducing fuel costs and plant emissions. Tri-State Generation & Transmission Assoc. (Westminster, Colo.), Progress Energy (Raleigh, N.C.) and Southern Co. (Atlanta) are participating in the project. The case study analyses will be performed by Sydney, Australia-based WorleyParsons Group.

Both this project and a parallel study launched in October 2008 at natural gas-fueled facilities involve adding steam generated by a solar thermal field to a conventional fossil fuel-powered steam cycle to offset some of the fuel required to generate electric power. As part of the coal project, case studies will be conducted at Tri-State's 245-MW Escalante Generating Station in Prewitt, N.M. and at Progress Energy's 742-MW Mayo Plant in Roxboro, N.C.

“These projects will demonstrate a near-term and cost-effective way to use large amounts of solar energy at commercial scale to provide clean electric power,” said Dr. Bryan Hannegan, vice president of generation and environment at EPRI. “These ‘hybrid power plants’ will combine the low-cost reliability of existing fossil power plants with the environmental benefit of renewables, and help companies meet federal and state mandates to reduce their emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases with renewable energy.”

The projects will provide a conceptual design study and two detailed case studies. Design options to retrofit existing plants will be analyzed, and new plant design options will be identified. EPRI will rely on its expertise in solar technologies, steam cycles and plant operation, as well as past solar and fossil plant studies. EPRI holds two patents in solar steam cycle optimization.

Currently, 27 states in the United States have enacted renewable portfolio standard (RPS) policies. Some include specific mandates that a percentage of the requirement be met with solar energy. However, most current solar applications are not cost-competitive with other power generating options. Using solar to augment coal or natural gas potentially is the lowest-cost option for adding solar power to the generation fleet, as it uses existing plant assets. Furthermore, because the highest-intensity solar energy typically is within a few hours of peak summer loads, it makes solar augmented steam cycles a particularly attractive renewable energy option.

Global Semiconductor Sales Down 2.8% in 2008

According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, global sales of semiconductors were severely impacted by the worldwide economic turmoil in 2008, resulting in the first year-on-year drop in sales since 2001. Total sales for 2008 were $248.6 billion compared to $255.6 billion in 2007, a decrease of 2.8%. Sales fell from $22.3 billion in December 2007 to $17.4 billion in December 2008, a decline of 22%. December sales declined by 16.6% compared to November 2008, when sales registered $20.9 billion.

“The global economic recession severely dampened semiconductor sales in the fourth quarter of 2008, historically a strong quarter for the industry,” said SIA President George Scalise. “Weakening demand for the major drivers of semiconductor sales, including automotive products, personal computers, cell phones and corporate information technology products, resulted in a sharp drop in industry sales that affected nearly all product lines. Once again, the steepest revenue declines were in the memory sector where price pressure more than offset significant growth in total bit shipments.”

Scalise continued, “As consumers worldwide drive over 50% of demand for semiconductors, the fortunes of the chip industry are increasingly linked to macroeconomic conditions such as GDP, consumer confidence and disposable income.”

Scalise also noted that sales of electronic products held up reasonably well during the first nine months of 2008, but fell sharply as turmoil in the global financial industry unfolded.

“The memory content of cell phones and PCs continued to increase dramatically driving large increases in total bit shipments,” he added. “Over the past 12 months, DRAM content of the typical PC grew by 44% to an average of 1.8 GB, while the NAND content of a typical cell phone increased by 244%. However, severe price pressure resulted in significant declines in revenues for these product lines.”

According to Scalise, “The industry is currently facing an unprecedented period of uncertainty. A resumption of sales growth will depend in part on the effectiveness of various measures now under consideration by the Federal government to restore consumer confidence, improve liquidity, and stimulate economic growth.”

TAGS: Solar
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