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February 1, 2011
The energy technology breakthrough the media won't tell you about
Cheaper electricity ought to be a topic of interest, you might think. But because the media is pushing uneconomical "green" technologies, you probably haven't heard of the discoveries which promise to make electricity generated by natural gas cheaper.
Since 1992 the U.S. DOE has "invested" hundreds of millions of dollars into clean-burning, efficient "combined cycle" natural gas turbines made by GE and Westinghouse to power dynamos in central electricity generation stations. From this U.S. DOE Webpage:
"The H System is GE's most efficient gas turbine combined cycle product and is the first platform designed with the capability to reach 60 percent thermal efficiency. The H System's higher fuel efficiency provides power producers and end users lower cost of electricity through fuel conservation while adhering to strict environmental requirements for natural gas fired power plants. The revolutionary H System was funded in part through the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Turbine System Program."
Unlike Jimmy Carter's disastrous Synfuels Corp., this project looks fairly successful. By the year 2000, the full-scale demonstration units achieved 60% energy-conversion efficiency, which is quite good for a "heat engine." By way of contrast Fuel Cells convert hydrogen to electricity with approximately 70% efficiency. Similar to a giant aircraft jet engine, this relatively compact yet power dense electricity supply technology can easily be turned on and off, so it is well suited today for Peaking Power applications in order to augment much larger coal-fired or nuclear installations. Time from ordering to installation is vastly shorter than nuclear and coal plants. And in the long ranger range, with wider-spread use, the economics of gas-turbine generated electricity might improve to the point where it is able to supplant both nuclear and coal in larger installations.
Federal investment began in the Clinton administration, a time when it was expected that future US natural gas supplies would increasingly depend on imports by liquified natural gas tanker. Today this scalable clean electricity generation technology is vastly more significant to national strategic energy needs given the recent discovery and rapidly growing development in New York, Pennsylvania and across Appalachia of the "super giant" domestic Marcellus natural gas fields. At a time when turmoil in the Middle East threatens global energy supplies, the discovery and means to exploit vast new domestic natural gas energy resources and technologies should be good news.
But in homage to the gods of anthroprogenic global warming, all we hear about are "windmills" and "solar shingles" -- technologies ill-suited to meet our rapidly-changing strategic energy needs.