GE moves to correct the California record on capabilities of its gas turbines

General Electric (NYSE: GE) made the unusual move on Nov. 20 of defending the “rapid response” characteristics of its combustion turbine technology in a case where the California Energy Commission is considering a sharply revamped version of a power project in Palmdale that is going from using the originally-planned GE turbines, to turbines supplied by Siemens.

The Nov. 20 GE filing was in reference to Palmdale Energy LLC’s Revised Petition for Amendment for the Palmdale Energy Project. “A review of the Revised Petition has revealed a number of inaccuracies related to the General Electric (‘GE’) power generation equipment upon which the original permit was based,” said GE. “It is certainly the prerogative of the new owners to select the equipment of their choice for this project. However GE believes that statements made in the public domain concerning our products and equipment should accurately represent GE’s product characteristics.”

It noted the following inaccurate statements:

  • The revised application refers to replacement of the GE gas turbines with new Siemens SCT6-5000Fs to meet need for “Flexible Resources” to support integration of renewable energy. GE responded: “The implication being the GE gas turbines are not flexible. The GE gas turbines are at least as flexible in the GE Rapid Response combined cycle plant as proposed as compared to the Siemens gas turbines.”
  • The revised application says: “The ‘Flex 30’ fast start plant concept offered by Siemens Energy, the supplier of the Modified Project’s combustion equipment, allows for faster starting of the gas turbines by mitigating the restrictions of former HRSG designs.” GE responded: “The GE Rapid Response originally proposed allows completely unrestricted starting of the gas turbines. The HRSGs provided in Rapid Response have been designed and analyzed to be suitable for daily fast start service for the life of the plant.”
  • The revised application says the Siemens Flex 30 will allow the CTG to reach base load more quickly, reducing startup emissions. Since emission rates are higher during startup, than during normal steady-state operations, the Flex 30 design will facilitate the modified roject’s compliance with air emission requirements, the application said. Said GE: “The GE Rapid Response plant allows the gas turbine to reach base load completely unimpeded by the combined cycle plant. The startup emissions generated by the gas turbine are thus absolutely minimized.
  • In explaining why higher total plant emissions with Siemens equipment should be allowed, the revision states: “These emission changes are necessary to provide the flexibility necessary to integrate renewable energy resources….” Said GE: “As stated previously the GE equipment originally proposed is fully capable of providing renewable energy backup.”

GE concluded: “In summary, the contention of the revised petition that the change in permit is required as Siemens equipment caters to the new project’s need for flexible generation suitable for renewable backup is inaccurate. The GE Rapid Response plant proposed in the original petition is fully capable of providing this service. Since the petition is a document in the public domain, we request that the new petition wording be corrected to eliminate the impression that GE equipment as originally proposed cannot equally accomplish what is desired for the Palmdale Energy project.”

California Energy Commission staff filed a Nov. 3 report with the commission identifying potential issues and a preliminary schedule for review of this major amendment to a 2011 approval for the Palmdale Hybrid Power Project (PHPP). The Nov. 3 report is a preliminary scoping document that identifies issues that staff believes will require careful attention and consideration or could cause delay in processing the petition to amend.

The revamped version of this project is called the Palmdale Energy Project (PEP). The PHPP was originally licensed as a nominal 570-MW hybrid facility utilizing combined-cycle gas and solar trough technologies located in the city of Palmdale. That version of the facility, originally to be built by the city of Palmdale, was not constructed.

In April, Palmdale Energy, a solely owned subsidiary of Summit Power Project Holdings LLC, filed for this amendment, saying it had taken over the project from the city. The amendment application requests primary modifications to the PHPP to eliminate the solar component, to incorporate newer, fast start, “flexible” natural gas turbine technology, and to replace the water cooling tower with an air-cooled condenser (ACC). The proposed PEP would have a nominal capacity of 645 MW.

Primary equipment for the generating facility would include two natural gas-fired combustion turbine-generators (CTGs) rated at 220 MW each, one heat recovery steam generator (HRSG), one steam turbine-generator (STG) rated at 232 MW, and one auxiliary boiler. The plant would have a maximum overall gross output of 699.4 MW (net) with HRSG duct burners in-service. Changes include:

  • Replacement of the GE gas turbines with new Siemens SGT6- 5000Fs to meet pending need for “Flexible Resources” to support integration of renewable energy;
  • Elimination of the solar components of the approved project;
  • Elimination of brine concentrator/crystallizer systems; and
  • Replacement of the wet cooling towers with an ACC.
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.