An August 26 Bloomberg article, China Power Seen Doubling With Renewables as Coal Holds Sway, noted that China’s electrical generating capacity will more than double by 2030, with half coming from renewable energy sources.
This means that China will add 88 gigawatts of new power plants, or the equivalent of the UK’s entire installed generating capacity, per year until 2030.
And while renewables will represent half of all new capacity, coal-fired power plants will still provide the majority of the electrical supply.
China has moved ahead with new technologies, which significantly reduce the tons of pollutants emitted per megawatt hour generated. They are at the leading edge in implementation of ultra-supercritical (USC) boiler designs, which push the mechanical limits of equipment but provide higher thermal efficiencies than traditional pulverized coal or super-critical designs.
Ultra-super critical technology is also starting to appear in the US. In December of 2012, American Electric Power’s John W. Turk plant came on-line as the first US implementation of USC.
Many utilities are adding natural gas fired capacity to take advantage of low prices in the U.S. but USC technology offers a way to utilize abundant U.S. coal reserves and diversify a utility’s generation portfolio.
Only time will tell if we will see greater adoption of this approach in North America.