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POWER Digest [March 2024]

News briefs curated by POWER’s editors for January and February 2024.

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Dominion Secures Final Approvals for 2.6-GW Offshore Wind Project. Dominion Energy on Jan. 30 said it received the last two major federal approvals needed to kick off construction of its 2.6-GW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). BOEM provided its final approval of CVOW’s Construction and Operations Plan (COP), which green lights construction of the massive project’s 176 turbines and three offshore substations 24 nautical miles off Virginia’s coastline. The project directly supports the goals of a 2020 law passed by the Virginia General Assembly, the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which envisions up to 3 GW of offshore wind power by 2028. European Transmission Operators Launch Plans for Offshore Wind Transmission Development. The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), an association of 40 European transmission system operators (TSOs) in 36 countries, on Jan. 24 released its first Offshore Network Development Plans (ONDPs), a significant effort that highlights the financial and technical needs for grids to be developed and upgraded to accommodate additional new generation capacity from European offshore territories. The European Council anticipates the integration of 300 GW of offshore wind generation capacity into the energy system by 2050. According to ENTSO-E, “The magnitude of this transition will raise new challenges for the European electricity system: accomplishing the necessary connections and grid development at least cost; keeping the system secure; accommodating a complete redefinition of power flow patterns; considering key constraints linked to spatial planning, environmental protection, and public acceptance; achieving an integrated perspective over time, space, and sectors; ensuring flexible resources to keep the power system balanced.” TSOs, it notes, are responsible for selecting the most appropriate connection point to shore, considering potential onshore congestion, expected future generators’ connections, and necessary network development or reinforcements. The ONDPs, which are part of ENTSO-E’s Ten-Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP) for 2024, highlight that the development of the offshore network infrastructure “should take place in synergy with the protection of the marine environment in order to achieve a sustainable energy system coexisting with biodiversity.” The ONDPs are designed to ensure that offshore systems remain at the “center of energy planning.” UK Nuclear Plant Garners Consent to Begin Construction. Sizewell C, a 3.2-GW EPR nuclear plant that is under development in Suffolk, UK, on Jan. 15, secured a Development Consent Order (DCO) from the UK government, opening the path for formal construction. While the UK government granted project stakeholders permission to build in July 2022 and preparatory works have begun, the project needed to satisfy many obligations before construction could commence under its DCO. The DCO activates a£250 million package for local communities. In November 2022, the UK government said it intends to become a 50% partner with EDF, a company owned by the French government. In September 2023, the UK government, Sizewell C, and EDF launched an equity raise process to attract private investors into the project. “While triggering the DCO and entering the construction phase is not dependent on a final investment decision (FID), constructive discussions with qualified potential investors are continuing, and a final investment decision is expected later in 2024,” the project website notes. In January, the UK government announced£1.3 billion ($1.7 billion) of additional investment in Sizewell C. So far, the UK has committed£1.2 billion of investment to support Sizewell C’s development, which began in 2012. The UK government’s Civil Nuclear Roadmap, launched in January 2024, suggests that the UK will make a FID on the power plant by the end of the current Parliament (which culminates in December 2024). If approved, Sizewell C could begin operations in the mid-2030s. Origin Approves Construction of 300-MW Battery Storage System. Australian integrated energy company Origin Energy has approved the construction of a Fluence lithium-ion large-scale battery at the Mortlake Power Station, a 566-MW open-cycle gas-fired power station in Victoria. The AU$400 million Mortlake Power Station battery, expected to be commissioned in late 2026, will have a capacity of 300 MW and is expected to deliver an output of up to 650 MWh. Origin said the facility will help the Mortlake peaking power plant “firm variable renewables supply and maintain reliable power for customers.” The peaking power station is powered by gas from the Otway Basin. The project has been awarded conditional grant support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as part of its Large-Scale Battery Storage Funding Round. “Origin’s strategy is to accelerate renewable energy and storage in our portfolio, and we expect large-scale batteries and other storage technologies to play a vital role in Australia’s energy transition,” Origin CEO Frank Calabria said on Jan. 29. The announcement follows Origin’s decision in April 2023 to approve its first large-scale battery at Eraring, which is currently under construction. The AU$600 million Eraring project involves the construction of a 460-MW lithium-ion battery storage system with a dispatch duration of two hours, anticipated to come online in the final quarter of the 2025 calendar year. The latter stages of the battery will have a potential peak generation output of 700 MW for up to four hours, or lesser loads for longer periods (such as 200 MW over 14 hours). French Nuclear Waste–Consuming Microreactor Gains Jacobs’ Backing. Global engineering giant Jacobs will support NAAREA’s (Nuclear Abundant Affordable Resourceful Energy for All’s) molten salt microreactor concept, which uses long-lived nuclear waste. The French start-up’s concept, XAMR, is a fast reactor that operates at close to atmospheric pressure and is salt-cooled, “in which an inherently auto-regulated fission reaction takes place at a high temperature (around 700C),” the company says on its website. “The inherent dynamic of molten salt reactors is more favorable from a safety point of view than that of a solid fuel reactor,” it says. NAAREA was one of the first companies to receive funding support from the France 2030 investment plan, a government initiative that seeks to reinvigorate the country’s nuclear industry. NAAREA says it is developing a production facility that could produce the first microreactors by 2027 and increase production gradually over five years. “NAAREA’s microreactors are also designed to be installed close to consumers to best meet their needs, thus enabling the decentralization of energy production,” it notes. Jacobs is expected to assist NAAREA with nuclear safety as well as several engineering disciplines, including control and instrumentation, mechanical, and process. Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor.