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Hybrid Power Plants Spread the Load

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Julian Jackson's picture
Staff Writer, Energy Central BrightGreen PR

Julian Jackson is a writer whose interests encompass business and technology, cryptocurrencies, energy and the environment, as well as photography and film. His portfolio is here:...

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  • Dec 20, 2022

Within the industry, hybrid power plants are on an upsurge. Co-locating storage and generation is good business sense, especially where renewables are concerned. Managing renewable loads has operational benefits if all the systems are in one place.

There is no particular definition of a “hybrid power plant” other than it combines two or more power systems in one site. Research groups that track these assets and compile deployment data, such as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, note that hybrids involve two or more generation sources, but the size and scope of hybrids can vary widely so there is not a rigid definition. A common type is the Solar+Wind+Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) which enables the power plant to supply electricity to consumers even if the sun is not shining and the wind is calm.

At the end of 2021, there were nearly 300 hybrid plants of over 1 MW operating across the United States, totaling nearly 36 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity and 3.2 GW/8.1 GWh of energy storage. Solar and storage plants are by far the most common type, making up 140 units, storage capacity (2.2 GW/7.0 GWh), storage:generator ratio (53%), and storage duration (3.2 hours). But there are nearly twenty other hybrid plant configurations as well, including several different fossil hybrid categories (each dominated by the fossil component) as well as wind+storage, wind+solar wind+solar+storage, geothermal+solar, and others.

The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is predicted to support development of hybrid projects, and already has spawned some U.S. installations. The financial support it offers will incentivise utilities to create hybrid power plants in appropriate locations. As the cost of batteries falls dramatically, it makes sense to add these to wind or solar onshore arrays as they come on stream.

It looks like storage is going to be a significant factor in utility capacity management going forward. In sunny California, new renewable powerplants are almost always gong to be deployed with BESS and this makes cost-effective sense in other locations too.

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Dec 21, 2022

Thanks for helping us get informed about the evolution of these different configurations of power supply. 
If I understand correctly, there are sizable systems in operation in the US that are comprised of renewables plus battery, without the need for fossil fuel standby?



Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Dec 21, 2022

The batteries can supply limited short-term energy. However, they are not a substitute for generation assets able to reliably and consistently meet the energy demands of an advanced civilization.

Xisto Vieira Filho's picture
Xisto Vieira Filho on Dec 26, 2022

I fully agree with Michael ´s comment !!!

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Dec 21, 2022

There is a hybrid technology that combines nuclear, fossil, and renewable technologies into one power plant. The technology involves a number of U.S. patents.

In simple terms, an advanced passively fail-safe high-temperature helium gas reactor is used to drive the decoupled main air compressor of a combustion turbine. The combination essentially doubles the electrical output of the combustion turbine, which yields massive economic advantages. Both nuclear and fossil needs are massively reduced, as are spent nuclear fuel and CO2 emissions. Electrical energy is produced by the combustion turbine and a steam turbine.

Green energy comes into play by way of providing surplus renewable electrical energy for high-temperature steam electrolysis to produced hydrogen for use by the combustion turbine and boiler that uses waste heat (for steam production) from the combustion turbine’s exhaust. The hydrogen gas stores surplus green energy instead of batteries. The approach is viable for large and long term energy storage and is not affected by the intermittent nature of green energy, unlike batteries.

A recent (November 2022) associated patented innovation employs supercritical CO2 and steam turbines to more efficiently use combustion turbine exhaust heat. The innovation stems from the ever hotter firing temperatures of combustion turbines and the inherent temperature limitations of steam turbines.

The patented hybrid-nuclear technology can efficiently use all fuels (including coal) while readily supporting the intermittent nature of green energy.

Christopher Neely's picture
Christopher Neely on Dec 30, 2022

It seems to me that all power plants of the future should take on this hybrid model. We're seeing many solar + battery projects taking off now, but why can't there be solar panels added where natural gas plants exist? Or wind farms on oil fields? It's unlikely that we are going to see the widespread decommissioning of fossil fuel plants any time soon. Best, in my opinion, to begin making them hybrid plants to boost reliability and an easier transition when the fossil fuel part eventually goes dark. 

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jan 3, 2023

From a purely economics and operational standpoint, better to run the most efficient plants, with lowest debt cost, at base-load.

Using green energy and batteries to cover peak load conditions would be ruinously expensive. Further backing off the most reliable and economic base-load assets just for green energy makes no economic sense. However, that is precisely what the politicians are mandating because they get huge amounts of re-election money from the green energy mafia.

But back to your hybrid power plants, thermodynamic and economic considerations are pretty formidable challenges for hybrid renewable energy facilities.

Also, thermal power plants are quite reliable. Turning them on-and-off makes them less so.

Green energy plants are inherently unreliable. Therein lies the “elephant-in-the-room” fundamental problem facing the wildly unrealistic green energy crowd. Excessive reliance on green energy is incompatible with modern civilizations. A balanced approach is required.


Julian Jackson's picture
Thank Julian for the Post!
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