French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron launches GE 9HA gas turbine

Andrew J. Lammas VP of Engineering Power Generation in front of 9HA Turbine test rig

Andrew J. Lammas VP of Engineering Power Generation in front of 9HA Turbine test rig

Nicholas Newman 29 May 2015

It is designed to power a city the size of Birmingham with 400,000 households from its output of 397 MW for the turbine on its own or a whopping 570 MW in the combined cycle. Not surprisingly, the GE 9HA gas turbine is the size of a house; its technological component parts certainly impress the onlooker.Belfort – 28 May 2015-French economy minister Emmanuel Macron came to the launch of GE’S latest gas turbine, the GE 9HA gas turbine at its Belfort complex in South-Eastern France near the Swiss border. He said about the 9HA launch, “It is a great day for French industrial expertise and innovation.” This device is not only the latest but also the biggest new gas turbine of its kind in the world.

About GE’s  9HA Gas Turbine


Throughout the 9HA, there are hundreds of sensors, which enable real-time performance analytics and optimize its use conditions accordingly. GE claims that such features mean unmatched efficiency, easier maintenance, and lower operating costs.

In addition, Victor Abate, CEO, Power Generation Products at GE Power & Water says. “Our 9HA advanced technology helps to drive leading performance, lower emissions, and improved project economics.” He claims that the 9HA is nimble for such a large beast, able to achieve full output in a mere 28 minutes, compared to a similar sized coal turbine, taking up to one hour to reach full output. For a machine this size, this is a record. This means that it is not only ideal for base load generation, but also responding to rapid market changes because of the fluctuations in demand caused by renewable generation.


Victor Abate President GE Power Generation Products, said, “GE 9HA gas turbine took a team of 1800 employees three years of intensive development and €100 million to create on the assembly line and test bench capable of building and testing these giant turbines.” Though each turbine weighs as much as an Airbus A380 super-jumbo jet, it is constructed with a micron-level precision by specialized technicians and engineers with precision tools.

The market for GE’s  9HA Gas Turbine

“Already, there are nine confirmed global orders for the GE 9HA gas turbine, three from the US, 4 from Europe and Russia and 2 from Japan,” said Francois Cavin General Manager GE Products Finance. In addition, there is interest from Turkey for three turbine plants.

A second device is due to be delivered to THK-16 OAO gas power plant in Kazan, Tearstan  in Russia, as part of plans to improve power system reliablity,

The first production model 9HA leaves for northern France in a special convoy, leaving the Belfort plant on June 25th. It will be one of the largest road transport operations in European history. For the journey, the turbine will be mounted on a 100-meter long platform and travel first by road, then down the Escault River towards the North of France. It will take approximately two weeks of high-precision transportation to move this giant turbine from Belfort’s factory to EDF’s Bouchain power plant, near Lillie and the Belgium border.


The plant is located where Europe’s cross-border interconnectors serve not only the French, but also the Belgium and English markets, making it an ideal location to supply peak power in all those markets. The new-generation GE model will be installed at an existing plant at Bouchain by 2015 when an existing coal-fired thermal power plant is phased out. The plant will cost 400 million euros ($536 million), EDF Chief Executive Officer Henri Proglio has said. The project is part of a “strategic partnership” with GE and aimed at modernizing EDF’s thermal plants by 2023.

For more about the GE 9HA Gas Turbine

Specific Energy Production II – Wind and Solar PV

In one of my previous posts I took a closer look at the specific energy production of both nuclear and hydroelectric energy. We saw that there are significant differences between the two.

In the recent past other energy sources have continuously gained ground against them. In particular, wind and solar PV are considered to be production modes of the future, and maybe one day they may be the backbone of our energy-hungry society. However, for the time being, we are still far from this point. One of the reasons is that both of these renewable energy sources do not provide the necessary stability which is cruciall for running the power grid of a post-modern information society.

Now let us look into the details. First we consider wind energy which has seen breathtaking growth rates in terms of installed capacity. However, installed capacity is not the last word when is comes to the actual performance of a particular production mode. Fig. 1 shows the average figures for wind energy for the period 1996 to 2010.

Fig. 1  Sspecific energy production in MWh/MW inststalled for some selected countries.

Fig. 1 Sspecific energy production in MWh/MW installed for some selected countries.

Germany, one of the countries with the largest installed capacity, is doing significantly worse than the other countries shown in the picture. Overall we observe that  the specific production figures are well below the ones we calculated for hydroelectric energy (Specific Energy Production – Nuclear and Hydro).

Fig. 2 provides the same data for some countries which recently have done a lot of effort to promote the use of solar PV. Again, Germany is the performing worse than its competitors which in this case does not come as a surprise since sunshine hours are much more abundant in Spain and Italy. The data represent average values for the period 1990 – 2010.

Fig. 2  Specific energy production for solar PV

Fig. 2 Specific energy production for solar PV

Solar PV is no match for wind in terms of specific output. To produce the same amount of energy in MWh one has to install a much larger capacity of solar PV than wind mills, since the former ones have an average specific output corresponding to only 54% of wind energy plants.

Similarly, the specific output of wind mills is equivalent to roughly 58% of the one for hydroelectric plants. Quite astonishingly, a similar relationship exists between hydro and nuclear with the specific output of hydro corresponding to about 50% of the one for nuclear plants.

In a nutshell, in order to obtain the same production figures as nuclear power installations one needs to install almost seven times as much capacity of solar PV and more then three times as much capacity of wind generating power.


Are Europe’s gas power generators turning into zombie companies?

“Gas power is losing money hand over fist”

By:Nicholas Newman 12 March 2013

It appears that Europe’s gas generators are in danger of turning into zombie companies, [i]suggests Hugh Sharman Owner, Incoteco (Denmark) ApS. [ii] They finding it increasingly difficult coping with the market created by uncontrolled expansion of “free” but heavily subsidised renewables and the dumping of cheap imported coal from the United States. Unfavourable market conditions and negative gas power generation are forcing companies to lose money hand over fist, suggests Guido Custer Managing Director at Delta Energy.

Gas plants in crisis

This is particularly the case in both Holland and Germany which is full of zombie gas power plants. It is not surprising we are hearing about gas power plants like Dong Energy idling its brand new Rotterdam plant for most of the time. It is cheaper for Dong Energy to buy imported German wind and coal generated electricity at €45 per megawatt hour than produce it themselves at €50 per megawatt hour. Throughout Europe, we are seeing plans to moth ball gas plants by major utilities such as E.on, Statkraft, GDF Suez SA and Centrica Plc. Whilst, Gabrielle Seeling-Hochmuth, head of gas strategy at Vattenfall’s gas competence centre, suggested, “that the company is unlikely to invest in new gas capacity until the 2030s”. [iii]

An oversupply of conventional power

Currently, in both in Germany and the Netherlands, both countries are facing a dire oversupply of conventional power capacity. [iv] In Holland, this is due in part to a gas power plant building boom by investors keen to take advantage of the countries natural gas resources. Their ambition was to turn the Netherlands into a major exporter of power to the rest of Europe. As a result, the country is facing an oversupply of conventional generation capacity made worse by the country’s encouragement of biomass, wind and solar power.

At the same time in Germany, the policy of giving renewables the highest priority in supplying the market when it comes to despatching power, and the very success of the €4 billion a year subsidies to promote renewables, has drastically shrunk the market for gas power stations. On sunny and windy days, onshore wind and photovoltaic meet over 85 per cent of Germany’s mid-day electricity needs reports Renewable Energy World. This is despite Germany closing nearly a third of its nuclear power plants reactors in spring 2011, it exports electricity to its neighbours – and indeed sold more abroad in 2012 (23 gigawatts) than ever before. [v]So industry analysts are suggesting Germany is dumping its power on its neighbours.

Cheap coal in Europe has dramatically increased the output from coal generation dramatically. As a result, this is drastically reducing the demand for gas generation in many states. This has resulted in numerous gas plants operating in the red in France, the Netherlands, Spain and the Czech Republic, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In Britain, gas generation is barely breaking even. It is not surprising operators are making a dash away from gas; after all, they are not charities.

The creation of zombie power companies?

“In fact, most of Europe’s major generators are turning into zombie companies, saddled with huge debts and heritage assets that are fast turning into liabilities,” suggests Hugh Sharman. Unfortunately, this dash away from gas is causing a problem for Europe’s energy leaders concerned about such issues as competition, stability and security of power supplies. Since if there is not adequate conventional reserve backup capacity to deal with lack of wind or sunshine for several days, then Europe faces the threat of continent wide blackouts.

Need for reform?

It has been suggested by various energy leaders, including Guido Custer that something must be done to end this cycle of zombie failure for gas generation and ensure that there is an adequate supply of reserve conventional capacity available. Guido Custer has proposed at Flame a series of measures to ensure adequate investment in maintaining current capacity and encourage new investment when it required. Certainly his proposals for a minimum price for the emissions trading system and widening the scope of members of European emission trading system sound reasonable.

A solution?

However, it is expected that many European governments will look not look kindly at lobbying efforts by the power sector for further subsidies known as capacity mechanism, given the current recession. [vi] Instead it would be more politically practicable for policy makers if government’s reduced subsidies for renewables and fixed the European emissions trading system so that gas is on a more equal footing with coal, renewables and nuclear. Unless something is done, the prospect of zombified European power companies could be a serious prospect. Even so, it looks like the size of Europe’s gas generation portfolio will be in future years, considerably reduced.

[i] Zombie Company is a media term for a company that needs constant bailouts in order to operate, or an indebted company that is able to repay the interest on its debts but not reduce its debts. There are several types of zombie companies. The term regained popularity in the media during 2008 for companies receiving bailouts from the U.S. Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). A 2002 New York Times article about Japanese companies kept on “life-support” with loans include a headline that stated, “They’re Alive! They’re Alive! Not!; Japan Hesitates to Put an End to Its ‘Zombie’ Businesses

Specific Energy Production – Nuclear and Hydro

Here are some considerations on the specific energy production of nuclear and hydroelectric power plants (MWh produced per MW installed). The data are based on IEA publications comprising the top producers within each sector (2010 data).

Specific output of nuclear power plants

Fig.1 Specific output of nuclear power plants

The figures for nuclear vary between 6 and 8 GWh per MW installed capacity. Fig. 2 shows the situation for hydroelectric plants.

Fig. 2  Specific production hydro

Fig. 2 Specific output hydro

Again, the figures refer to the top producers in the world. The variations in specific output are much more pronounced for hydro than for nuclear. This variability may be due to varying water levels which tend to have a strong impact on production levels. In absolute numbers nuclear is the clear winner, outperforming even the top hydro producer Brazil.



Contradictory policies – buying votes vs. saving the climate

The Austrian government plans to increase the subsidies for commuters. People who live at least 2 km away from their working place have, in principle, the possibility to obtain a tax discount on their fuel expenses.

The current level of subsidies is shown in the following table:

Distance           EUR/year

2-20 km           373

<40 km             1476

<60 km             2568

>60 km             3672

For the sake of completeness we have to say that the above-mentioned subsidy level applies only if there is a) no means of public transport available, or b) using public transport would lead to an extensive traveling time.

Let us examine the case of a commuter living 60 km from his/her place of work. He travels 5 days a week, the car consumes about 6 l/100 km and the current price of gasoline is about 1.50 EUR. The total gasoline expenses will therefore be around 2400 EUR per year. The expected tax benefit compensates his entire travel costs.

In case the commuter has the option of using a different means of transport the subsidy levels are somewhat lower as shown in the table below:

Distance          EUR/year

20-40 km        696

<60 km             1356

>60 km             2016

This is the current state of affairs. The government is now to increase the subsidy by 1 EUR per km. Thus, the tax benefit for our example will climb up to 2628 EUR, making it even more profitable to use the car for going to work.

Critics say that this move by the two governing parties is due to the upcoming elections later this year. There may be some truth in it, as it is common practice to distribute benefits during the electoral period. In that context it may be worthwhile to mention that Austria has about 1 million commuters. This is a non-negligible part of the electorate given that the total population is about 8 million.

There is, however, one more striking issue which should not be overlooked. Austria has committed herself to strict carbon emission targets. Now the policy of making car use even more beneficial is in stark contrast to these environmental goals which are never missing in public statements by the very same politicians.

These subsidies which have a long-time tradition are supposed to compensate people for their extra expenses for going to work at a distant location. It goes without saying that, over the time, commuters have got used to this kind of state subsidy. Nevertheless, there is no real justification for this sort of tax benefit. People always have to choose between options. And the alternative to commuting is moving to a location which is closer to the place of work. In an ideal world the higher cost of living in a city would more or less be equivalent to extra expenses for travelling to and from the job.

Now as the subsidies come into play the choice between living in the city or in the countryside is distorted by the simple fact that people who do not have to commute have to pay higher taxes in order to compensate for the cost of traveling of the commuters.

This is not only a waste of public money, it also creates more traffic, thus more energy consumption, more carbon emissions, more accidents etc.  And it reveals the true priorities of the political class.

Multi-functionality and multiple use: important features for sustainable cities

I want to write again on a topic that highly interests me. I wrote a blog ‘A sustainable city needs to be smart’ in May 2012. The topic I want to discuss this time builds on this subject.

I did some studies about making urban areas more sustainable during my work as a researcher at Wageningen University (The Netherlands). Together with a colleague with a background in spatial planning, I performed a study on the diversity of urban areas. We wrote a paper on the subject. We discussed the importance of a multi-functional urban area. It is important to see the chances the different urban functions have to offer in reaching a sustainable future.

In that way, having an industrial area in the vicinity of a residential area could be advantageous. Think about the concept of ‘Industrial Ecology’, with the case of Kalundborg in Denmark as example. Industrial Ecology can be seen as an example of park management: the companies within the borders of an industrial area try to find ways to re-use materials, to create new products from residual resources and to limit waste. A way of dealing with empty space in industrial areas and allowing other companies to build an industrial facility in that area, could be to use the local characteristics and available resources as restrictions. In that way, only a company that can be part of the chain is allowed to start its activities in the industrial area.

Park management is a good start, but it is not enough to make a complete urban area more sustainable. Therefore, we used the term ‘urban management’ (Leduc & Van Kann, 2013), in which we propose to broaden the scope and to look for options outside the borders of the industrial area. Often these industrial areas are close enough connected to residential areas or office space were, e.g., waste heat can be very useful, or residual resources from industry can be used to build houses, roads. Empty space in industrial areas can be used to collect water or to produce energy. It is very important to find synergy, so collecting water and energy can go together.

In order to create a sustainable urban area, we need to know how the area looks like. So, it is very important to perform a thorough check of the area first. Use this check to find out which functions are available in the area, at which locations, at what distances, what type of energy, materials and water is used and how much. Try to answer which type of energy, materials and water is needed at which quantity, at which location and when. An answer to these four questions can help to find better, more efficient ways to use energy and other resources, and to re-use resources.

The idea is to transform the urban area from a linear, resource-to-waste, metabolism to a more circular metabolism. In such a system resources can be used multiple times, more efficiently and effectively, and waste is not seen as waste, but as a residual resource. Any resource – energy, water, material – can be seen as a resource with still some remaining quality after use. When producing energy, lots of heat is produced that is mostly thrown away. This waste heat can also be seen as a residual resource that can be used by other urban functions for industrial processes or heating purposes. A similar idea can be found for water and materials: certain tasks in the household or industry need clean water, which after use will be ‘grey’ water and is usually eliminated via the sewer. If that ‘grey’ water is seen as a residual resource and not eliminated immediately, it can be used for other purposes like toilet flushing or gardening. An example for materials could be wood: it can be used immediately to be burned and produce energy, but it could be used more effectively. The wood could first be used to build a house, after the lifetime some of the beams could probably still be used to make furniture and in the last phase the wood could be used to produce energy. By following this chain, the same piece of wood would still produce the same amount of energy, but its qualities are used more effectively.

The ideas are based on research performed by the author and described in a published paper:

Wouter R.W.A. Leduc and Ferry M.G. Van Kann. Spatial planning based on urban energy harvesting toward productive urban regions. Journal of Cleaner Production, 2013, 39, pp. 180-190.

Available by author on request.

Wouter Leduc

By wouterleduc Posted in General

Book Review: Energy Innovation – Fixing the Technical Fix

The energy policy of our time is a mess. What can be done about it? Lewis Perelman addresses the problem by first analzsing its various roots and subsequently pointing towards possible solutions. Not surprisingly, the roots are manifold comprising technical as well as political sources. In a nutshell: there are very good reasons to go “away from emissions regulation and toward technology innovation”.  The ultimate goal is to “make clean energy cheap”.

Clean energy, however, does not become cheap by subsidising a particular branch of industry (as is currently the case in Germany with detrimental effects to the economy) but rather by providing the appropriate technology which is competitive against conventional energy sources.

Needless to say that there is a lot of effort put into R&D as well as innovation programs funded by countries and/or international organisations. In spite of that the great breakthrough is still lying ahead of us. Nevertheless, technology is the ultimate answer to our energy problems. Clearly, there are clean technologies, but so far none of them is cheaper and/or equally practical as the conventional carbon-based ones.

Perelman is convinced that governments have an important role to play in that game. I wonder why the market should not be able to create its own viable (and sustainable) solutions without regulators interfering. Nevertheless, also the role of government has its limits as Perelman acknowledges.

Thus the only way out from the current state of affairs is a big technology breakthrough. But how do we get there? There are clearly new ways needed to stimulate innovation in the energy sector. Thinking out of the box is paramount.  Going beyond conventional mechanisms to promote innovation may open new possibilities. Perelman discusses various ways to overcome the traditional path of innovation management, like new financing models, prizes, the role of philanthropists etc.

All in all, Perelman’s book offers a great insight into the complexity of the energy problem as well as into the even more challenging complexity of how to overcome it. Technology can save us – it has to!

Energy Innovation – Fixing the Technical Fix

by Lewis Perelman


Germany´s Energy Future – part 2

One year ago Germany decided to quit producing nuclear energy by 2022. Since nuclear power plants are a central pillar the German energy mix, contributing some 22.5% to the entire electricity output in 2010, this means that until 2022 the equivalent of 140.6 TWh (2010) has to be replaced by other sources. This is a minimum estimate ignoring increase in consumption.

Already at this moment Germany begins to face the consequences of last year’s decision. As nuclear plants are successively being phased out, more strain is put on other sources, in particular renewables. In addition, the power grid is experiencing severe tensions as more controllable sources of energy are being replaced by less controllable (and predictable) ones. Especially the latter is a constant, or rather growing source of trouble.

One the one hand, it’s a clear goal of German policy to increase the share of renewables substantially. On the other hand, it seems implausible to be able to replace the entire nuclear bloc by wind and solar capacities only. Thus, it appears inevitable to commission a number of conventional, i.e. thermal power plants which are supposed to act as a backup for the fluctuating input from e.g. wind farms.

In my view, it is pretty obvious that wind will be the main source of renewable energy in the future, considerably outnumbering all other renewable sources taken together.

In 2010 the total capacity of German wind farms amounted to some 27190 MW which produced some 36.5 TWh. Taking into account the average specific output of wind farms as calculated in one of our previous postings we may estimate the extra capacity needed in order to fill the gap. Then we could show that the average output of wind power installations amounts to some 1600 MWh annually per MW of installed capacity.

Having these figures at hand we may easily estimate how much extra wind capacity is needed in order to replace nuclear in its entirety. Thus if wind power is supposed to be the only substitute (which is certainly an oversimplified approach) it would mean that Germany needed almost 88000 MW of additional wind power by 2022, thus an extra three times as much as was installed up till 2010. This in turn would mean that the country needed more than 115000 MW in wind turbines by the time the last nuclear power station is decommissioned.

Between the year 2000 and 2010 an average of 2000 MW was commissioned annually, in total some 20000 MW of wind power. Extrapolating this trend to 2022 implies that some 24000 MW of new capacity could be added to the grid until D-day. However, what is needed is almost four times as much. Thus the annual growth rate should be close to 7800 MW. Even if we assume that wind will only replace half of the nuclear output, a growth rate of about 4000 MW annually would be necessary, i.e. twice as much as has been the case during the boom period 2000-2010.

The figure below shows two different scenarios for Germany´s wind power capacity. The business-as-usual scenario (BAU) is based on the assumption that wind capacity will grow at a rate of 1900 MW per year, which is equivalent to the increase in 2010. The Target scenario on the other hand assumes an annual growth of 7800 MW which would theoretically be sufficient to replace Germany´s entire nuclear production as seen in 2010.

Total installed wind power in Germany.

Given that there is considerable resistance among the population against onshore wind farms, it is indeed hard to see how this can be achieved. In addition, as  subsidies for renewable energies are becoming a serious burden for consumers, they are likely to be reduced in the future. This in turn may jeopardize further investment in wind power, and thus even the more conservative BAU scenario may, in fact, be too optimistic. As a consequence, other energy sources are desperately needed if Germany wants to maintain her standard of living. We will come back on this issue in another posting.

Fuel Poverty in the UK

This time I would like to cover a very different aspect of energy and its usage in everyday life. So far there is  no apparent lack of energy, technically speaking. Energy is available in abundance, and the only restriction to using it is the price we are asked to pay for it. Thus big users will eventually find themselves paying a huge bill. But it´s not only big consumers who might face a hefty burden from their energy bill. More and more people are using a substantial amount of their available income in order to  buy the energy they need. In particular, this is true for heating which is also one of the biggest parts of private energy consumption.

The UK statistical office is collecting data on fuel poverty. The term refers essentially to energy needs for heating purposes and the relative amount of household income people have to spend in order to “maintain a satisfactory heating regime”, i.e. 21 °C in the main living area and 18 °C for other rooms. In particular, people are considered to suffer from fuel poverty if they have to spend more than 10% of the household income on fuel for heating.

The figure below gives a sketch of the situation in the recent past (2003 and 2009).

Number of fuel poor households in millions. Abbreviations: dc – dependent children, hh – household.

The first observation we make is that the number of fuel poor households has apparently dramatically increased between 2003 and 2009. During that period the number of households concerned has, on average, more than doubled. Thus, fuel poverty in the above sense is definitely increasing and showing a severe social impact. Energy is becoming a scarce and to some extent even luxurious commodity.

Another observation is that specific groups are particularly hit by this phenomenon. People without dependent children are more likely to suffer from fuel poverty than those having kids. Moreover, persons older than 60 years are also facing a greater risk of getting fuel poor. The same is true for single persons when compared to couples.

The causes for this are manifold. Energy prices are on the rise. They climb faster than the average income, especially for retired people. Another factor is certainly the economic crisis which hit a number of European countries in 2008. So far we are still far from a sustainable recovery. Therefore, we may well assume that the situation has aggravated in the meantime.

Yet another factor coming into play is related to economic circumstances: Many elderly people may not be able to afford refurbishing their houses such that they consume less energy, especially for heating. Renovating old houses is a costly undertaking which may simply go beyond many people´s financial capabilities.

Fuel poverty is a critical issue not only in the UK. Also other countries like Germany encounter the same problem. However, most of those countries do not collect the respective statistical data as is the case in the UK. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to assess the severity of fuel poverty for other countries. Taking into account that energy is of critical importance to the functioning of our societies, it would be highly desirable to collect those data in order to tackle the problem as soon as possible.