GE Mag Says Natural Gas-Powered Turbines Could Be the Answer


Photos courtesy of GE

The world needs more green energy. It has to be reliable, too. How can we bridge the gap? The folks at General Electric's Txchnologist say innovations in natural-gas powered turbines could be the answer to meeting renewable portfolio standards in the U.S. Some of the arguments: The newest natural gas turbines can fire up rapidly and provide power to the grid when renewable energy falls short, that fire-up is more rapid than what can be achieved by a coal plant, and natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel anyway.

Another argument: They look really cool. Just kidding. The article repeats a common complaint, that the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine, and adds in that batteries to store large amounts of energy are too expensive to deploy.

But how does the cost of batteries compare to the cost of climate change adaptation, estimated at up to $510 billion a year?

The mag quotes a study by a (some say conservative) Washington, D.C., think tank called the Center for Strategic International Studies.

A CSIS paper titled "Developing America's Unconventional Gas Resources: Benefits and Challenges" concludes that nat-gas powered turbines could be "an essential partner to the development of renewables."

Don't be fooled into comparing these turbines with the ones that catch wind and don't have any emissions at all. These are the types of turbines used by traditional coal plants for backup power, when demand increases with the buzzing of air conditioners on a hot summer day.

GE's latest generation of turbines, pictured here, is called the 7FA, and can reach 75 percent of its peak output of 211 megawatts in 10 minutes.

This doesn't seem like the worst idea on Earth. It's an innovation. But let's not forget the impacts of harvesting natural gas in the first place, and the finite-ness of fossil fuels.

A CSIS rep says in an Americans for Energy Leadership article linked from the Txchnologist piece that recent shale gas discoveries have led to a "broad consensus that our nation has enough domestic supplies of natural gas to power the U.S. for generations."

It sounds like there's also some interest in making natural gas the new coal, which may not do much to advance the development and deployment of renewables. If this can be a way to support renewables, that would be better. Don't forget, GE makes wind turbines, too.


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Tags: Alternative Energy | Electricity