National Grid to develop ‘superfast’ car charging network

UK utility, National Grid, has identified 50 motorway sites where it would offer rapid recharging facilities for electric vehicles.

FT reports that the company is planning to install a fleet of superfast charging points along Britain’s motorways that would feed directly off the electricity transmission network. The FTSE 100 utility company operates the country’s high-voltage power grid.

The plan would go some way to allaying range anxiety, the fear EV owners have of running out of charge on a motorway.

National Grid has mapped Britain’s motorways and transmission networks and identified 50 strategic sites, said Graeme Cooper, project director of electric vehicles at the group.

Those locations mean that more than 90 per cent of drivers would be able to drive in any direction from any location in the UK and be within 50 miles of an ultra-rapid charger. The chargers would provide up to 350KW of power and would allow a driver to charge their car in five to 12 minutes, a big improvement on the 20 to 40 minutes it currently takes. That would make electric charging comparable to the seven minutes it currently takes on average to fill up a petrol car. If 100 chargers were installed on each of the chosen motorway sites, it would equate to about 35 MW of electricity — enough to power 14,000 homes.

“It’s the critical infrastructure that’s key,” said Mr Cooper. “It’s about future-proofing the network so it has the capacity to charge cars as quickly and efficiently as possible. Range anxiety is listed at the top of [drivers’] reasons for not buying an electric car.”

National Grid, he added, was “engaging with various parts of government” and was offering this “scenario planning” as “a potential answer” to show “what’s possible”.

The grid infrastructure would cost between £500m and £1bn, or about 60p per driver per year if all motorists shouldered the cost, according to National Grid estimates.

Analysts also believe superfast chargers connected to the transmission network could also help prevent local power shortages.



UK firm wins $2m for nuclear decommissioning solution

A consortium led by engineering firm Wood has won £1.5m ($2.1m) in UK government funding to develop a new nuclear decommissioning solution.  

The company’s project and four others were selected as finalists by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) after a competition produced a shortlist of 15 proposals. Each finalist has received a £1.5m award.

According to Wood, its project aims to combine robotics with data and control systems to design a demonstrator system for cleaning and dismantling radioactive rooms at the UK’s Sellafield nuclear site, which is scheduled to be shut down by 2020.  

The company said it plans to apply new technologies developed in space exploration, automotive production and medicine for the project.

These technologies include new material handling solutions to reduce the risks of working at height, mixed reality headsets, a multi-fingered gripper allowing robots to grasp different objects, and a navigation system designed for missions to Mars that enables autonomous mapping where human access is impossible. 

Among the aims of the project are to provide rapid, real-time characterization of nuclear waste by bringing the laboratory to the disposal site; to reduce operations at height and remove the need for temporary platforms, scaffolds and man entry; and to create a suite of modular waste handling and processing tools to characterize, size-reduce, sort and decontaminate waste.

Also working on the project will be research partners Airbus Defence and Space Ltd, Clicks and Links Ltd, Damavan Imaging SAS, Digital Concepts Engineering Ltd, IS-Instruments Ltd, I3D Robotics Ltd, the University of Lancaster, the University of Salford, Kawasaki UK Ltd and TWI.

The X-2 ROV, designed by project partner Digital Concepts Engineering, is pictured here. The company said it can climb stairs when heavily loaded and turn on the spot. 

The competition was launched last year by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and innovation funding agency Innovate UK. It aims to find a solution for decommissioning Sellafield’s Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant and Magnox Reprocessing Plant, which are both due to close by 2020.

A first series of trials is set to take place over the next 18 months. Projects deemed to be viable will then progress to more rigorous trials in a radioactive environment and ultimately to approval for use by the nuclear regulator.

Bob MacDonald, CEO of Wood’s Specialist Technical Solutions business, said the company’s proposal for “a fully remote solution removes the operator from a hazardous environment and is adaptable enough to tackle different tasks, many of which present unique challenges”.

He added that Wood will function as an “innovation integrator, bringing together ingenious ideas from industry and academia to define a new approach to the nuclear decommissioning challenge”.

Melanie Brownridge, the NDA’s head of technology, said responses to the competition had been so promising that the total amount available to the five chosen projects was increased from £3m to £8.5m.

She added: “We’re hopeful that a number may be successful, and could be used in various different situations at our sites as well as in other hazardous scenarios, both here and overseas.”



Exergy inks new Turkish geothermal deal

Italy’s Exergy continues its progress in Turkey, inking a contract for a new geothermal power plant this week.  

The deal was signed with Turkey-based GCL ND Enerji, a joint venture formed in 2015 between Chinese energy company GCL and Dutch investment firm ND Group.

Under the terms of the contract, Exergy will build a 12.6 MW geothermal power plant in Manisa province in Turkey’s western Aegean region.  

The plant will use a medium enthalpy steam resource at approximately 150°C to generate power from Exergy’s Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) system equipped with its Radial Outflow Turbine technology and utilizing an air cooled condensing system.

Some of the plant’s components are planned to be manufactured domestically at Exergy’s Izmir workshop, while the generators will be supplied through an exclusive partnership with Italian power equipment manufacturer NIDEC ASI.

Made-in-Turkey production will allow GCL to benefit from an additional total incentive of $.02/kWh on top of the basic feed-in-tariff (FiT) rate of $0.105/kWh, an increase of 19 per cent in revenue.

Exergy said its expansion is focused on high growth potential markets such as Turkey, Southeast Asia and North and South America.



A ‘reality check’ for renewables

Optimistic predictions about a ‘tipping point’ when renewables will become the dominant global source of energy have received a “reality check” from new research.  

In a survey of 800 professionals working in the renewables field as well as traditional energy companies diversifying into renewables businesses, Lloyds Register (LR) found that 58 per cent believe renewables won’t become the dominant source of energy until at least 2025.

Reasons for this include high development costs, which 62 per cent of respondents said was the top argument against pursuing renewables in their country. And more than 45 per cent, including 55 per cent of respondents based in Europe, said resistance to onshore wind turbines in their countries is too strong for the sector to grow significantly.

While 36 per cent of respondents identified policy uncertainty as a barrier to renewables development, 71 per cent said advances in technology will be more important in the next five years than policy or regulatory changes. But 42 per cent of respondents agreed that reaching grid parity will not be enough to produce a sustained increase in renewables investment, and that subsidies are critical to support development in most markets.

One reason respondents rated technology advances as more significant than policies is that problems with grid connection, transmission and storage have limited the impact of individual renewable projects, LR said. According to 37 per cent of respondents, the slow development of energy storage is the most important factor inhibiting the growth of renewables, as a lack of storage limits what renewables can offer to, for example, national utilities.

In technology terms, respondents believed that small advances and process improvements will have a bigger impact on renewable power’s performance and cost-effectiveness than dramatic breakthroughs. The industry is looking to digitalization for much of this progress, LR noted, with predictive analytics, demand management and AI promising to boost economics.

According to the survey, the industry expects grid parity for solar power to be achieved first in China in 2022-23, and for wind first in Germany in 2024. Collectively, renewables are predicted to overtake fossil fuels in energy mixes in Europe and North America by 2025, in the Middle East by 2028, and in Asia Pacific and Africa in 2033 or later.

Karl Ove Ingebrigtsen, director of LR’s Low Carbon Power Generation business, said he was “heartened by the optimistic outlook and by the measured and realistic approach” the research showed.

Although the report noted that ‘tipping point’ predictions must be viewed somewhat sceptically, Ingebritsen said the findings highlighted “the technologies that are expected to deliver the greatest impact, especially in grid transformation which must be based on a sound understanding of each country’s individual ecosystem; it is clear that this is advancing alongside technology, policy and investment.”

“We are seeing a real shift in thinking by the oil and gas majors as they increase their renewable energy portfolio and diversify their offering in the market,” he added. “The halcyon days of high oil prices scuppering renewable energy growth and development is a distant memory; the energy industry is on a new low carbon growth and efficiency drive which will change the source of our energy supply forever.”

The full report is available here.



MHPS tests gas turbine using hydrogen fuel mix

Mitsibishi Hitachi Power Systems has announced that a large-scale gas turbine it is developing has successfully passed a firing test using a 30 per cent hydrogen fuel mix.

MHPS said that the test results confirmed that by using its proprietary burner, which was specially developed to burn hydrogen, stable combustion can be attained even when hydrogen is mixed with natural gas.

“Using a 30 per cent hydrogen mixture, a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 10 per cent was achieved, compared to natural-gas-fired power generation,” the company said.

The hydrogen-mixed firing test was carried out at MHPS’s Takasago Works, using actual-pressure combustion testing facilities, as part of a project of Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) aimed at developing technologies for realizing a ‘hydrogen society’.

The firing test conditions called for a turbine inlet temperature of 1,600℃, equivalent to 700 MW of output, using the premix combustor of the natural-gas-fired J-Series gas turbines, which provides power generation efficiency above 63 per cent.

MHPS said with a hydrogen mix of 30 per cent, stable combustion was demonstrated while satisfying operable threshold values in relation to nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and combustion oscillation.

The stable hydrogen-mixed firing technology applied in the large-scale gas turbine uses MHPS’s proprietary dry low-NOx (DLN) combustor developed for this project as an improved version of the company’s natural-gas-fired combustors.

The combustion method is premixing, a field in which MHPS has experience through its use of DLN combustors. The combustor’s fuel nozzle creates a rotational airflow that enables the formation of a more uniform premixed gas, leading to low NOx. Other than the combustor, the equipment currently in place can be used without modification, thereby curbing the potential costs of converting a natural-gas-fired power plant to a hydrogen plant.

In Japan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Cabinet Office re driving efforts to develop hydrogen as one of the nation’s core energies.MHPS tests gas turbine using hydrogen fuel mix

Research and development of gas turbines fueled by hydrogen currently focuses on small and medium-size gas turbines for small-scale thermal power plants suited to distributed power generation or area cogeneration.

However, MHPS says that with successful testing towards the use of hydrogen fuel in a large-scale gas turbine for large-scale thermal power plants, expectations are focusing on the new technology making a major contribution to easing the burden on the global environment during power generation.

Following the successful test, MHPS said it will accelerate the development of hydrogen-fueled gas turbines and encourage hydrogen use by thermal power plant operators.

This will happen alongside Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Group’s work in developing carbon capture and storage technology. MHPS said: “By linking these technologies, the group is poised to lead the development of an international supply chain spanning hydrogen supply, transport and storage, thereby contributing to realization of a hydrogen society.”

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