TEP boosts power at power plant with solar

TEP boosts power at power plant with solarAs solar becomes more of a household term for energy, the multitude of uses is continuing to grow, too, from photovoltaics to solar hot water, to concentrated solar power (CSP)—it’s even being used in fracking applications. But now it’s being used to boost the generation capacity of an existing fossil-fuel-powered generating plant for Tucson Electric Power.

The 156-megawatt H. Wilson Sundt Generating Station in Tucson will get a 5-megawatt boost from the Sundt Solar Boost Project.

The project will use AREVA Solar's Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector system to superheat water into high-pressure steam that will boost the generator’s capacity up to 161 megawatts of production, according to TEP spokesperson Joe Salkowski.

“It’s essentially serving the roll of a boiler,” he said.

The boiler provides the steam that pushes the turbine generator, producing electricity in such a system.

“It’s an exciting technology for us because it gives us an opportunity to leverage existing resources in a new way,” Salkowski said. “It looks to be cost effective, and it allows us to site it on our own property at an existing power plant. We’re excited to see this get started.”

The generating station, which can be powered either with coal or natural gas, has primarily used natural gas for fuel because it’s been low-cost, according to Salkowski.

“The same unit has been involved in another renewable energy project for a decade. We’ve got a methane generation system; we capture methane from a local landfill and pipe it in. It burns alongside the natural gas,” he said.

That system provides up to 5 megawatts of power but, since it’s burned with the other fuel, does not add additional generating capacity to the plant.

The system will provide enough power for about 600 homes in the region.

By using CSP to boost production instead of fossil fuels, the company is reducing the amount of fuel it would need on an annual basis. It’s saving 46 million cubic feet of natural gas, or 3,600 tons of coal, which would produce 4,600 or 8,500 tons of carbon dioxide, respectively.

The CSP system will help the utility meet its needs during peak usage.

“It will be boosting output at the time when our customers are consuming the most energy,” Salkowski said.

Based on the project’s performance, TEP may consider such technology at some of its other plants. The addition should come online in early 2013.

Image courtesy of AREVA.