Less than 100 kilometers from the planned site for Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, another alternative energy “first” has been planned. But this one promises high energy returns for low emissions without any threat of a nuclear meltdown. And by supplementing energy from natural gas with solar and wind energy, the plant will achieve record rates of efficiency.
One day after General Electric (GE) announced that(GE) had made a deal with eSolar allowing it to sell Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) technology worldwide, it was announced that the first power plant to use this design would be built in Karaman, in southern Turkey. The plant’s construction will be overseen by MetCap Investments, a Turkish investor and power project developer.
The Karaman plant will have a capacity of approximately 530 megawatts –enough to power over 600,000 Turkish homes — and should come online in 2015. Most importantly, it will convert 69 percent of all the natural gas it consumes into electricity. For comparison, the fuel efficiency of most natural gas plants hovers around 30 to 50 percent.
So how does GE’s Flex Efficiency combined cycle power plant achieve this remarkable efficiency?
In past projects that integrated solar energy into natural gas-powered turbines, the solar energy was concentrated in troughs to heat small pools of water, producing steam that contributed to the steam from the natural gas.
GE’s system, on the other hand, will focus sunlight on a central tower using a vast mirror display, heating the water inside the tower 200 degrees more than was previously possible. This aspect is one innovation that distinguishes the design from other large-scale integrated solar combined cycle plants, such as the ISCC Kuraymat in Egypt. But even without the input of renewables, GE’s Flex Efficiency system can achieve 61 percent fuel efficiency on natural gas alone.
The other factor that separates the GE plant from previous combined cycle plants is the fact that it incorporates more than one type of renewable energy. Although not part of the main integrated system, wind turbines will also be installed and connected to the steam turbine, and will kick in on days that are windy but not sunny.
While the new power plant in Karaman doesn’t make optimal use of Turkey’s incredible solar resources, it’s still a big improvement over the thermal power plants that Turkey’s government continues to build throughout the country. And hopefully it will provide a model for other countries trying to keep up with escalating energy demand while cutting back on fossil fuel emissions.
Read more about combined cycle technology across the Middle East:
Image via GE