|Egypt, an ancient land along the fertile Nile,
awakens to solar technology. Why not build
solar/fossil fuel hybrid-design power plants?
Editor’s Note: Before we had hybrid cars we had hybrid power plants. Solar/thermal power relies on heat from two sources, the sun and fossil fuel, to heat a steam boiler which drives a steam turbine which turns an electric generator. These hybrid designed power plants get far more kilowatt-hours (or megawatt-years) per unit of fossil fuel than their conventional counterparts that rely 100% on fossil fuel for their energy input.
In the early 1980′s a pioneering 354 megawatt powerplant was built in the vast Mojave desert in California. Relying on a gas-fired steam boiler for backup power, this hugely successful powerplant gets most of its heat from water heated in tubes by the sun. Known as solar-concentrator technology, the key to the water getting to boiling temperatures is by using curved mirrors to focus onto the water-carrying tubes many times normal sunlight. Like a leaf heating into flames beneath a magnifying glass, the sun heats the water to boiling in these tubes.
The shape of the solar concentrator mirrors is that of a trough, with the length of the trough on a north/south axis. The parabolic curve of the trough is designed to focus all of the sunlight strking the inside of the mirrored trough onto a water-carrying tube that extends above the length of the trough at the focal point of its mirrored surface. The trough rotates from east to west along one easily maintained axis each day. The tube is designed to withstand the high pressure of superheated steam.
Parabolic trough solar concentrators used in a commercial scale hybrid power plant didn’t break ground again until 2003 in Rajasthan, India, when a 140 megawatt station went on line. This power plant also relies on natural gas to power a backup steam turbine.
Now one of the world’s sunniest nations, Egypt, has declared a commitment to building commercial scale solar power stations using a hybrid design. Since the 1980′s solar thermal technology has developed significantly. For example, the pressurized tubes that carry the super-heated water across the solar focal point of the parabolic troughs are now able to withstand much higher pressure and tolerate the daily extremes in temperature variation much better than the components built 25 years ago. There is no reason solar thermal power plants can’t significantly increase the efficiency of fossil fuel power plants. – – Ed “Redwood” Ring
|Since 1967, up to 2.1 gigawatts of electricity has been
generated from the Aswan High Dam. How soon will
solar power match and exceed this prodigious output?
To ensure adequate provision of electricity, the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company now projects requiring on average about 1,500 MW of new capacity each year.
To ensure adequate provision of electricity, the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (EEHC) — a near-monopolist responsible for generation, transmission and distribution of electricity — now projects requiring on average about 1,500 MW of new capacity each year. The government says that renewable energy projects should play a part in Egypt’s generation plan. Indeed, 145 MW of wind-turbines have already been installed and are operational, performing well at an average capacity factor of 42%.
Egypt’s fast growing demand for electricity requires significant investment in generation capacity each year (the increase in demand for electricity in Egypt averaged about 7% during 1997/98-2003/04 and is expected to remain in the 6%-7% range over the next 10 years). Installed capacity of electric power was 18,119 MW in 2003/04, of which 84% comprised thermal power (8% of which is provided by the private sector through 3 Independent Power Producers, IPPs). The remaining capacity was attributed to hydropower (15%) and wind (1%). Peak load reached 14,735 MW, and about 90% of the thermal power production was based on natural gas. Initiatives are underway to better understand customer consumption patterns and loads to ultimately implement demand-side management measures to reduce the overall consumption and the growth in demand.
World Bank assistance is being provided to enhance energy efficiency in the power sector under the El Tebbin Power Project. This covers pricing as well as load management planning, The Government’s strategy is to continue to implement gas fired power plants, with a long-term view to increase the share of combined cycle gas turbine technology in the generation mix. In addition, the Government has a target of meeting 3% of its primary energy needs from renewable energy sources by 2010. The New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) has the responsibility to develop renewable resources in Egypt and implement the government’s strategy on renewable energy. Until 2001, most of NREA’s activities have been in the research and development field, and since then its activities have increasingly turned to the production of renewable energy.
The New & Renewable Energy Authority’s strategy is to capitalize on Egypt’s abundant wind and solar natural resources to meet the renewable energy target set by the Government. For this purpose it plans to install an additional 400 MW of wind by 2010 and considers the construction of the proposed Solar Thermal Hybrid Power Plant (151 MW) a key development towards improving and diversifying its institutional and technical capacity in the area of renewable energy.
The primary objective of the new World Bank-funded project is to increase the share of solar-based power in the Egyptian generation mix thereby contributing to the Government’s aim of diversifying power production. The key performance indicators for the development objectives of the project include:
-Total electricity generated from solar field (GWh/year)
-Solar output as a percentage of total energy produced by the hybrid plant.
-Total electricity generated from the ISCC power plant (GWh/year)
The global impact is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from anthropogenic sources by increasing the market share of low greenhouse gas emitting technologies.
The project will finance the construction of an Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) power plant, to be located in Kureimat, about 95 km south of Cairo, on the eastern side of the river Nile.
The main innovation of an ISCC plant is the integration of steam generated by solar energy into a combined cycle power plant, which will require a larger steam turbine to generate electrical energy from the additional solar-generated steam.
|Supplying the fossil fuel, Egypt’s EGAS Co.|
The plant will have a capacity of about 150 MW, combining a conventional fossil fuel portion of about 120 MW and an input from solar sources of about 30 MW. When own consumption of 5.3 MW is deducted, the net overall plant capacity becomes 145.7 MW. The total net energy produced by the plant is expected to be 984 GWh per year, which includes the solar contribution of 64.5 GWh per year. This corresponds to a solar share of 6.6% percent of the total annual energy produced by the plant operating at a full load. The primary fuel for the conventional fossil fuel portion will be natural gas supplied at the site by the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company.
The project will be implemented through the following components whose costs are estimated inclusive of import taxes on equipment and contingencies:
Component 1: The design, construction and operation of the proposed Integrated Solar Combined Cycle Plant include two sub-components:
–The solar portion of the power plant will include one contract for engineering, procurement, construction, testing, commissioning and five years operation and maintenance (O&M).
–The Combined Cycle portion of the plant will include one contract for the EPC aspect of the power plant financed by JBIC and a one 5 year O&M contract financed by NREA.
Component 2: Comprises the consulting contract to provide construction management services during the construction, testing and operation of the plant.
Component 3: Comprises the Environmental and Social Impact management component to be financed by NREA.
The project’s financing will be structured in this fashion (USD – Millions:
Government of Egypt, $59.12
World Bank’s Global Environment Facility $50.00
Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), $92.33
Total Financing, $201.45
The Government of Egypt’s commitment to renewable energy resource development is strong as evidenced by its declared objective of diversifying energy sources, including having 3% of installed capacity represented by renewable energy by 2010 and the establishment of the “petroleum fund” which provides economic incentive to renewable energy producers.
Most of the higher capital cost of the hybrid plant will be offset by the World Bank Global Environment Facility (GEF) incremental cost grant, Furthermore, NREA has declared its willingness to finance incremental cost above US$50 million, recognizing the cap on GEF grant support to the project.
Finally, the integration of the solar field with a CCGT ensures that the hybrid will provide the required electricity contribution to the system regardless of solar radiation conditions. For these reasons, the hybrid power plant is expected to operate sustainably as an integral part of the Egyptian power system. The incentive structure for the solar and CCGT O&M operators will ensure efficient operation of the plant and optimal design for integration of the solar thermal with the gas-fired plant and maximize solar output from the plant when in operation.
NREA has gained significant experience in designing and implementing wind energy projects with international loan and grant financing. The lessons drawn from this experience include: the importance of transparent and well-managed competitive bidding processes, which have contributed to attracting the interest and comfort of major international suppliers of wind technology with business transactions in Egypt.
Furthermore, through the development of these projects, NREA has operated under Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with Egyptian Electricity Holding Co. and has gained significant experience in structuring and negotiating such agreements. This experience will be very useful for the proposed project, in which a PPA will need to be put in place as well as a Gas Purchase Agreement (GPA).
No large-scale solar thermal power plants have been built in developing countries to date, however several small-scale projects are under construction around the world. At the moment, GEF-supported projects are also in preparation in Mexico and Morocco. The most significant solar thermal installations are in California where 354 MW of parabolic troughs, with back-up gas fired steam boilers have been generating electricity and selling it to the utility since the 1980s.
|California’s Kramer Junction Power Station
uses arrays of parabolic troughs with
natural gas fueled backup boilers
To meet the cost reduction objective of the project, it will be necessary to move beyond the trough/backup boiler design upon which the California plant is based. The purpose is to permit higher thermal efficiencies, improve the dispatchability of the plant and to encourage greater competition in the design and supply of equipment. Such a plant would be more attractive to utilities, thus increasing the market size.
The political system in Egypt can be characterized by stability and continuity. A comprehensive reform program was adopted in 2004 when significant change took place in the cabinet and several new officials were appointed to key ministerial positions. This new government has made economic reform its key objective, notably in areas such as finance, investment, trade and industry. It has also stated its keen interest in expanding public-private partnerships and undertaking public sector reforms aimed at enhancing the provision of public goods and services, including physical and social infrastructure. The latter includes the power sector.
The investment needs in infrastructure remain substantial. It is estimated that approximately 4-6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) needs to be invested annually in infrastructure sectors in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to satisfy new investment requirements as well as maintenance and replacement spending. The decline in investment in the MENA region, including in Egypt, is reported to have compromised the infrastructure base, which is further challenged by the high growth in demand for modern infrastructure services.
About the Author: Gordon Feller is the CEO of Urban Age Institute (www.UrbanAge.org). During the past twenty years he has authored more than 500 magazine articles, journal articles or newspaper articles on the profound changes underway in politics, economics, and ecology – with a special emphasis on sustainable development. Gordon is the editor of Urban Age Magazine, a unique quarterly which serves as a global resource and which was founded in 1990. He can be reached at GordonFeller@UrbanAge.org and he is available for speaking to your organization about the issues raised in this and his other numerous articles published in EcoWorld.