Ontario’s IESO uses wind and solar to reduce the carbon intensity of its electricity system

October 15, 2019

By: Donald Jones, retired nuclear industry engineer, 2019 October 15.

Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) power plants produce electricity very efficiently with steady state baseload and intermediate load overall efficiencies of over 60 percent for newer units. Most presently operating units would have somewhat lower efficiencies. Unfortunately on most power grids with significant wind and/or solar generation they rarely operate at steady state (reference 1).

Operating CCGT plants at part load and stopping and starting the gas turbine(s) leads to lower plant efficiency and increased emissions of greenhouse gases per megawatt-hour generated as well as wear and tear on the units. Every time a CCGT is warming up gas is being burned while the gas turbine is slowly increasing power and warming up the heat recovery steam generators (HRSG), and the steam turbine when steam becomes available. This increases the heat rate giving higher kg GHG/MWh. If a CCGT had a bypass stack the gas turbine could be delivering power very quickly but at high heat rate (low overall efficiency) since it would be operating simple cycle and giving higher kg GHG/MWh. When increasing power (manoeuvring/ramping) in the operating range the HRSG and steam turbine metal have to be warmed up which takes away gas for no useful power output, increasing kg GHG/MWh.

Ontario has a very low carbon intensity electricity grid averaging 40 g CO2e/kWh. In 2018 more than 93 percent of the electricity generated in Ontario came from non-GHG emitting resources, predominantly nuclear and hydro with some wind and solar. Nuclear provided 61 percent of generation in 2018. There is about 10000 MW of gas-fired and oil-fired generation connected to the transmission grid mostly CCGTs burning natural gas and just under 5000 MW (nameplate capacity) of wind and solar. CCGTs are used to meet peak load demands and provide operational flexibility. Read the rest of this entry »