Sunday, June 2, 2013

Hybrid solar-gas power plants

Natural gas is becoming increasingly popular energy option because of its recent low prices, mostly due to the recent shale gas discoveries. In this sense, there are many ongoing talks about ageing coal power plants to be replaced by new natural gas fired power plants, mostly because natural gas fired power plants emit significantly less greenhouse gases as compared to coal fired ones.

The further reductions in natural gas fired power plants can be achieved by involving solar energy in the whole story. The latest study by the Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has proved that natural gas fired power plants can use about 20 percent less fuel when the sun is shining by injecting solar energy into natural gas with a new system that converts natural gas and sunlight into a more energy-rich fuel called syngas, which power plants can burn to make electricity.

What this means is that by using this new system, the existing power plants would use less natural gas to produce the same amount of electricity they already make and the another benefit is that at the same time, the system lowers a plant's greenhouse gas emissions at a cost that is said to be competitive with the traditional fossil fuel power.

The United States is becoming increasingly reliant on inexpensive natural gas for energy, and this system can have its practical use in reducing the carbon footprint of power generation. The recent DOE estimates say that natural gas will make up 27 percent of the nation's electricity by 2020 and making it cleaner would certainly account for much greener economy. These new systems would be best suited for power plants located in areas with plenty of sunshine such as the American Southwest.

By installing this new system in front of natural gas power plants turns these plants into hybrid solar-gas power plants. The system uses solar heat to convert natural gas into syngas which is a fuel that contains hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The generated syngas has significantly higher energy content, meaning that a power plant equipped with this system needs around 20 percent less natural gas to produce the same amount of electricity.

This reduced fuel usage is made possible with concentrating solar power, which uses a reflecting surface to concentrate the sun's rays like a magnifying glass. The tested system used a mirrored parabolic antenna to direct sunbeams to a central point, where a specially developed device absorbs the solar heat in order to generate syngas.

The next step for researchers is to keep the system's overall cost low enough so that the electricity produced by a natural gas power plant equipped with the system would cost no more than 6 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2020. Achieving this price would make hybrid solar-gas power plants lot more competitive with conventional, fossil fuel-burning power plants while in the same time reducing the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Its funny how stories like this pop up since information has been leaked that solar & wind farms have natural gas pipelines going to them. Follow the money everyone. If there's no profit then none of these green endeavors would exist. They are mostly funded by tax payers to line politician's & the elite's pockets, so they can leave a larger carbon footprint in their mansions, sports cars, yachts & jets. The science behind this has been around since the 1800s. Natural gas is very clean, as long as, its burned & not released into the atmosphere unburned. Caring for the environment is the job of the individual not of fascist governments.