Second Life for Coal Plants – with Energy Storage

September 29, 2021

There are going to be a lot of coal, and eventually gas, turbine generators decommissioned in the coming years. Those facilities and the transmission lines that lead out of them are hugely valuable resources that are going to be rehabbed.

There’s no shortage of ideas for how to do it, primarily as energy storage.

15 Responses to “Second Life for Coal Plants – with Energy Storage”

  1. jfon Says:

    Bill Gates’ Natrium reactor is also designed to replace, and possibly reuse, retiring coal assets. The reactor uses liquid sodium, at up to 600 C but low pressure, to heat nitrate salts, also at low pressure, and non-radioactive, since they don’t pass through the reactor core. Nitrate salts are already in use for concentrating solar power thermal storage. As with solar thermal, the salt is pumped through a heat exchanger to boil steam for a turbine – by using similar temperatures to the original equipment, it may be possible to reuse coal plant turbines, but if not, the pre-existing power lines and cooling circuits will still save a lot of capital. The steam plant can be upsized from the reactor, which will run 24/7: extra salt storage is comparatively cheap, so the generator can kick in whenever local wind or solar flags. Excess power from renewables can also be used for resistance heating coils to heat the salts, which are pumped between low and high temperature tanks, all insulated. The current Natrium reactor is planned to have 2,750 MWh of thermal storage, and will replace a coal plant in Wyoming; it will be able to firm output from the large wind power plant also planned for eastern Wyoming.

    • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

      Sounds excellent. Sounds real. So why 2 thumb downies??

      • redskylite Says:

        The problem is some people are deeply worried and concerned about nuclear energy, despite assurances from the industry that it is a safe, low carbon emitting form of energy, not everyone is comfortable because of history, mistakes and warfare use. While I agree it could be a significant part of the solution for energy intensive nations, having good cooling and geo-stability, I would rather see fusion than fission. The physics of small particles is highly advanced and amazing, but still I am not convinced that disposal of waste has been satisfactory addressed. I am much more comfortable with wind, solar, marine, batteries than I am with fission. I initially gave a thumbs down, but decided in the interests of reducing climate change jfon’s post was sincere – I just worry that another crisis may be ahead in the far future caused by excessive fission – who would have predicted our current situation at the start of the industrial revolution, even Svante Arrhenius thought it would take a 1000 years or more before we would be in the mess we are now.

        And the post nuclear history still haunts us.


        “The research found the implications are more widespread and less understood – with potential for the release of nuclear waste and radiation, unknown viruses and other chemicals of concern.”

        • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

          Whatever the problems that may or may not happen with nukes, it would be seriously trivial compared to CAGW.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      At the minimum, retired coal-burning thermal power plants are useful for their existing connections to the grid, and would make an easy drop-in for a building full of battery storage. This E2S Hamster system has the much greater advantage (logistically), or preserving more of the non-FF portion of the power plant and the local familiarity with the system.

      I do wonder, though, how much of the local employment comes from the lower-skill work of having to resupply and move around the coal itself, and feed it to the boiler, while only the well-trained system operators and maintainers will keep their jobs.

      Ah, well. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

  2. redskylite Says:

    Meanwhile back in the coal supply change. .


    “West Virginia’s coal powered the nation for years. Now, many look to a cleaner future.”

    • redskylite Says:

      Seems demand for Chinese made goods is rising as the world begins to restart from Covid, China’s government are strictly controlling electricity prices and of course operators do not want to operate at a loss. Also relations with coal producing Australia are extremely poor. Simplistically, this should be a push for China to ditch coal as fast as it can, and hopefully an good opportunity for other countries to reinvigorate their own manufacturing capabilities.

  3. redskylite Says:

    Norway the country that has more electric vehicles per capita than any other country, will close its last Arctic coal mine.

    “Norway’s state-owned coal company will close its last mine in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago in 2023, it said on Thursday, causing the loss of 80 jobs and ending 120 years of exploitation.”

    • jfon Says:

      I’d be more impressed if they put term limits on their huge oil and gas industry, but they’re handing out more drilling rights. ‘The day before the policy paper was published, Norway’s state-owned energy company Equinor released forecasting which predicted that global oil and gas demand could be roughly the same in 2050 as it was in 2019.’

      • redskylite Says:

        Norway are a major player in oil and gas field, not so easy to give up their major source of income and prosperity. But getting rid of coal for energy is a start in the right direction. Maybe, you are more impressed with Sweden who already quit coal and doesn’t hunt for oil and gas. Not so many EV’s as Norway but they are on the right track. Not too many nations have managed to give coal up completely yet, we should be much further ahead at this point, but a thing to celebrate when any nation manages to quit.


        “The move means Sweden has become the third European nation to eliminate the polluting fossil fuel from its electricity production.”

        • jfon Says:

          Bit of a sore point there – New Zealand is supposed to be a green energy leader, but a dry hydro year has us importing Indonesian coal by the shipload. Britain had to restart coal plants as well lately, due to low wind and gas shortages. Sweden got rid of coal by building nuclear – hydro and uranium used to alternate as the largest power source there, around 45% each. Ontario cut coal out in the nineties by refurbishing some of their Candus. France would have ditched it in the eighties, but the stubborn Bretons and Angevins rioted so enthusiastically against having a reactor in their neighbourhoods, the government gave up and built Cordemais – 1.2 GW. They’ll close it when the new reactor at Flamanville starts up.

          • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

            Loss of hydro will put a big strain on the US Southwest’s attempt to electrify everything while weaning itself off of fossil fuel power.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: