DOE calls for comment on energy technology program

The US Department of Energy Thursday issued a draft of a new fast-track program to demonstrate advanced power plant technologies and asked the industry for comment. The formal solicitation to be issued early in 2001 will offer up to $95 million for advanced coal-based technologies that can improve the reliability of the US electric power system.


The US Department of Energy Thursday issued a draft of a new fast-track program to demonstrate advanced power plant technologies and asked the industry for comment.

The formal solicitation to be issued early in 2001 will offer up to $95 million for advanced coal-based technologies that can improve the reliability of the US electric power system. Eligible projects could include technologies that boost the efficiency of operating power plants�generating more megawatts from the same amount of fuel�or lower emissions and allow plants to stay in operation in compliance with environmental standards. The program is also open to technologies that improve the economics and overall performance of coal-fired power plants.

Technologies proposed in the new program must also advance the performance or cost-competitiveness of coal-based capacity well beyond today's power plants or those that have been demonstrated to date.

Private sector proposals must at least match the government funding. The DOE said proposed technologies must be mature enough to be commercialized within the next few years, and the cost-shared demonstrations must be large enough to show that the technology is viable for commercial use.

DOE is asking technology developers and others to comment on the draft solicitation by Jan. 5, 2001. Congress directed the department to issue the final solicitation by early February 2001. The first project selections could be made by later September or early October 2001.

The power plant improvement initiative is an outgrowth of Congressional direction provided in the fiscal 2001 appropriations to the Energy Department's fossil energy research program. Funding was added for the program because of growing concerns about the adequacy of the nation's power supplies.

Several parts of the US, including the West Coast and parts of the Northeast, have experienced rolling blackouts and brownouts in the past 2 years caused in large part by sharp rises in demand for electricity and lagging construction of new power plants.

While most new power plants will use natural gas, coal is expected to supply more than 50% of the nation's electric power needs for well into the future. Since existing coal plants extract only 33-35% of the usable energy value of the fuel, the DOE says there could be "considerable" opportunity to boost the output of these plants through technological improvements.

Also, technology could cut environmental damage associated with air pollutants, carbon dioxide, water usage, and solid waste generation, potentially bringing older plants into compliance with more stringent environmental standards and prolonging their useful life.

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