New US power plant to use record-setting natural gas turbines

Louise Davis

The history of Guernsey County, Ohio, USA is entwined with glass. Glassware produced by the Cambridge Glass Company made this corner of Ohio world-famous and turned the plant into “one of the most prosperous glass companies the world had ever known,” according to a company history. At one point Cambridge “operated its own coal mines and consumed 50 tons daily producing raw gas to fire its furnaces.” The company closed in the 1950s, but if it were still around, it might be able to tap another source of energy that’s plentiful in the area: natural gas. Guernsey County sits in the heart of the Marcellus and Utica shale regions – vast subterranean deposits of natural gas that have been unlocked through fracking.

Investors are paying attention to this new bounty. The privately held producer Caithness Energy recently announced it would open a large, 1,875MW power plant in Guernsey. Three record-setting gas turbines from GE will serve as the beating heart of the facility.

Impact of natural gas turbine power plant to be far reaching

According to Caithness, the new combined-cycle electricity-generating facility will power at least 1.5 million homes in the “PJM region.” This regional transmission zone, once known as the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection, now includes all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia, and stretches from Maryland to Michigan.

All three turbines in the plant will be GE Power’s 7HA.02 gas turbines, which are part of a platform that has been recognised for powering the world’s most efficient power plants in both the 50 and 60Hz energy segments. They boast a simpler configuration compared with some other gas turbines, meaning they can be installed considerably faster. And they are among the fastest turbines in the energy industry to get to work, reaching full load just 10 minutes after being turned on, according to GE.

Natural gas electricity power plants will play a crucial role

Gas-powered plants fill a crucial role in bridging current energy needs with the expansion of renewable energy as a necessary step to counter climate change and air pollution. Because they can start up quickly, they’re able to level out natural fluctuations in solar and wind generation. Such is this industry’s promise that more than 1,500GW of gas-fired generation capacity is expected to be added worldwide by 2040, according to a 2018 GE analysis of the gas-fired generation market. Having amassed more than 388,000 operating hours, GE’s fleet of HA gas turbines have a proven track record in the field – Caithness itself already uses two at a power plant in Pennsylvania.

“We look forward to working with GE again and are proud to deliver this state-of-the-art electricity generating solution for cleaner, more efficient power into the PJM market,” said Ross Ain, Caithness Energy’s president. “Through the benefits of this technology, we look forward to better serving our users with flexible, reliable, efficient and low-cost electricity.”

This news follows a series of deals the HA turbine has secured in 2019. In Ohio, the Long Ridge Energy Generation project will use HA turbines, as will the Hill Top Energy Center in western Pennsylvania. In Michigan, the Indeck Niles Energy Center will integrate two 7HA.02 turbines into its 1,000MW power plant project. The HA fleet is also growing rapidly outside the USA: Israel will deploy its first GE HA turbines for the Orot Rabin modernisation project, which will result in the largest and most efficient gas facility in the country. In Taiwan, GE secured its third HA project with the selection by Taiwan Power Company of four HA turbines for its DaTan 8&9 power project.

Recognition for GE

Taken together, turbine business earned GE recognition as a leader in gas turbine capacity and turbine units greater in size than 10MW in a McCoy Power Reports update on gas turbine segment performance for the first six months of 2019.

Caithness will also install GE’s heat recovery steam generators and steam turbine generators for each HA unit. These units capture heat energy from the turbines that otherwise would be wasted and use it to make steam that spins steam turbines and produces yet more electricity.

GE Power will also service the Guernsey plant under a multiyear agreement and provide a digital system that harvests data from sensors on the turbines and runs it through predictive analytics - specifically, GE’s Asset Performance Management (APM) software. The goal of the system is to spot potential problems early and boost the plant’s long-term efficiency and reliability. For example, it will allow Caithness to better know when to perform preventive maintenance and how to operate the plant at maximum efficiency under various demands and environmental conditions.

Dave Ross from GE Power said his business is excited to be a part of the project, which is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2022. “Caithness Energy is an incredibly important and long-standing GE customer and we are proud that they have chosen our HA technology to be the heart of their Guernsey Power Station,” Ross said. “The technology and services that will be utilised by Caithness Energy will provide the residents and businesses in Ohio and the surrounding region with highly efficient, low-cost and reliable electricity, while being flexible to support renewables and the stability of the grid.”

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