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Power plant to steady wind and solar with gas

What's the best way to ensure continuous power from wind and solar? A GE-supplied plant in Turkey will use a nimble natural plant coupled with wind turbines and concentrating solar power.

GE is building a power plant that uses a flexible natural gas power generator coupled with concentrating solar power and wind turbines.
GE is building a power plant that uses a flexible natural gas power generator coupled with concentrating solar power and wind turbines.

A power plant planned for Turkey will use a combination of energy sources--wind, solar, and natural gas--to deliver round-the-clock electricity service.

General Electric today said that it will supply the equipment for a 508-megawatt plant to developer MetCap Energy, which expects to complete the project by 2015. The plant in Karaman, Turkey, is projected to power more than 600,000 homes.

The project is unusual in that a single facility will draw on three sources to deliver "baseload" power, or the power needed to meet the continuous energy demand for the area. GE said that the plant's overall efficiency will be 66 percent, higher than a modern natural gas plant.

GE is touting the project as a showcase for its FlexEfficiency power plant system anchored around a natural gas turbine designed specifically to ramp power production up and down to accommodate variable wind and solar power.

The other main power-generating components are GE wind turbines capable of producing 22 megawatts and a 50-megawatt eSolar concentrating solar thermal plant. GE yesterday announced that it invested in California-based eSolar and has a license to use eSolar's solar technology for hybrid power plants. eSolar plants generate heat with thousands of sun-tracking mirrors to produce steam, which is driven through a turbine to make electricity.

MetCap Energy Investments chose the GE system because it's a relatively clean source of energy and is efficient with water as well. "In addition to record-setting fuel efficiency, this power plant will have zero liquid discharge, low emissions, and a rapid-response, 28-minute start capability," said MetCap Energy Chairman Celal Metin in a statement, adding the project will yield "attractive returns on our investment."

GE said it expects to see more interest for power plants that combine renewable energy with natural gas. Some power plant project developer are using energy storage, such as large batteries, to ensure a steady flow of power although batteries for bulk storage are expensive.