Investors Business Daily has an interesting article on power companies that are adding solar arrays to their natural gas plants. The result is a power plant that produces more clean power using less fossil fuel. Several case studies have shown that these hybrid power plants can save money, especially in a carbon tax environment. There are several advantages to the solar/natural gas combination, including already existing power transmission lines and turbines.
FPL Group (formerly Florida Power and Light) is in the middle of retrofitting one of their natural gas facilities with a 75 megawatt solar array. “With the sun, fuel is always free,” said Eric Silagy, FPL’s chief development officer. “Generating the same amount of electricity at this plant, we will not burn 41 million mmBtus of natural gas and 600,000 barrels of oil.”
Electricity won’t be generated using photovoltaic solar cells – the plant will use concentrated solar power (CSP) arrays to create steam, which will drive the turbines. Right now, most natural gas plants use waste heat to generate additional electricity – the solar power will supplement this waste heat to generate even more power.