STATCOMs and SVCs: leading companies?

This data file looks for leading companies in STATCOMs and SVCs by aggregating all Western patents that refer in their title, abstract or claims to “STATCOMs”, “Static VAR Compensators”, or similar.

We have aimed to evaluate the leading companies in these evolving FACTS opportunities, stabilizing the voltage and reactive power of renewables, especially wind projects.

Overall, the space is concentrated, with only a handful of companies have a diversified product offering here. Two pure-play Capital goods companies stand out as the leaders. A third Western company is close behind, growing via acquisitions.

Strong competition is also seen from Japanese, Korean and increasingly Chinese manufacturers. We also identified half-a-dozen relatively concentrated pure-play companies, some listed, some private.

Wind and solar: costs of grid inter-connection?

Costs of wind or solar grid connection

What are the costs of inter-connecting a utility-scale wind and solar project into the power grid, via a spur line, grid tie-in or feeder?

This data-file assesses twenty case studies of renewables assets in North America, based on published inter-connection documents.

Costs are highly variable. But a good baseline is to expect $100-300/kW of grid inter-connection costs, or $3-10/kW-km, over a 10-70 km typical distance (which includes the length of downstream lines that must be upgraded). Larger and higher voltage projects tend to have lower tie-in costs.

What is most surprising is how vastly the ranges can vary. The lowest-cost tie-in was $25/kW, tying in a solar asset to a 230kV power line with spare capacity that is a mere 1-mile away. Whereas the highest-cost tie-in was $1,250/kW (i.e., more than the 40MW solar project itself!) where the asset owner was asked to contribute an eye-watering c$50M to cover the costs of upgrading 500km of high-voltage transmission lines downstream of the inter-connection point.

Recent Commentary: to read more about costs of wind or solar grid connection, please see our article here. We are getting increasingly excited about opportunities in power transmission and power-electronics .

Synchronous condensers: the economics?

This data-file captures the costs and the economics of installing a synchronous condenser, downstream of a renewable power facility, in order to emulate some of the inertia, reactive power and short circuit power from more traditional, conventional generators.

Based on ten recent examples, which are reviewed in the ‘costs’ tab’, we find that an additional 1.0 – 2.5 c/kWh of costs may be added to the power supplies flowing out of the SC. Although the numbers and relative sizings are debatable.

Notes from technical papers are included in a backup tab. Leading providers of synchronous condensers include the usual suspects of capital goods companies, such as ABB, GE, Siemens, Eaton.

Geothermal power: the economics?

This data-file captures the economics of geothermal heat and power, built up as a function of drilling costs, pumping costs and power-cycle costs.

Our base case numbers are calculated both for geothermal hotspots and for the exciting, next-generation technology of deep geothermal power. You can stress test input assumptions in cells H6:H25 of each model.

Further industry data follow in the subsequent half-dozen tabs, including a breakdown of capacity by country and by supplier, patent filings, leading companies and our notes from technical papers.

Gas power: decline rates?

This data-file tabulates the power generation profiles of 3,000 US natural gas-fired power plants, which have reported data to the US EIA, aggregated using in-house web-scraping software.

Unlike wind and solar assets, which exhibit clear decline rates of 1.5% and 2.5% per year, natural gas assets run at c44% of their peak utilization rates on average, which does not change materially over time, flexing within an interquartile range that spans from 14% to 74%.

In other words, gas power plants provide flexibility and long-term reliability in a grid, as they are dialled up and dialled down over time to meet demand. This is also illustrated by looking at the underlying data of individual power plants in the file (chart below).

The data-file also presents a cautionary tale from California. To accomodate 40TWH of new utility-scale renewables generation, we show that 35TWH of gas generation has now been permanently shuttered and another 11TWH has been idled. These closures are equivalent to 30% of California’s baseload and 17% of its peakload power capacity, providing one explanation for the State’s recent rolling black-outs. Full details are split out in the data-file.

Coal-to-gas switching: the economics?

Switching coal- to gas-fired power generation is the single largest line-item in our models taking the energy system to net zero emissions and keeping atmospheric CO2 to below 450ppm. This model illustrates the economics.

Mathematically, the analysis works by deducting a model of a new coal-fired power plant from a model of a new gas-fired power plant, so you can easily stress-test the relative impacts of different coal prices, gas prices, CO2 prices, capex costs and efficiency factors.

CO2 prices accelerate coal-to-gas switching, under our base case, long-term pricing assumptions. For brownfield plants, which are already standing, a $10/ton CO2 price is required in the US, c$25/ton in Europe and c$40/ton in Emerging Markets. For greenfield plants, the US and Europe are already set to switch from coal to gas, due to relative capex costs, but in the emerging world, again a c$40/ton CO2 price is required.

Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells: CCS plus Power? The Economics?

Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells could be extremely promising, generating electrical power from natural gas as an input, while also capturing CO2 from industrial flue gases through an electrochemical process.

We model competitive economics can be achieved, under our base case assumptions, making it possible to retrofit units next to carbon-intensive industrial facilities, while also helping to power them.

Our full model runs off 18 input variables, which you can flex, to stress test your own assumptions.

Fuel Cell Power Project Economics

This data-file models the economics of constructing a new fuel-cell power plant; generating electricity from grey, blue or green hydrogen in a PEMFC, or from natural gas in an SOFC. The work is based on technical papers and past projects around the industry.

A dozen input variables can be flexed in the model, to stress test economic sensitivity to: hydrogen prices, power prices, carbon price, distribution costs, conversion efficiency, capex costs, opex costs, utilization and tax rates.

Indicative inputs, and sensible ranges, are suggested for each of these input variables in the data-file.

Economics continue to look more challenged for hydrogen power, compared with simply decarbonizing or carbon offsetting natural gas power. Economics are closest to commercialist for gas-fired SOFCs, and could be interesting with c50% deflation and greater reliability, particularly as renewables get overbuild.

Gas-to-Power Project Economics

This data-file models the economics of constructing a new gas-to-power project, using simple or combined cycle gas turbines, based on technical papers and past projects around the industry.

A dozen input variables can be flexed in the model, to stress test economic sensitivity to: gas prices, power prices, carbon price, gas distribution costs, conversion efficiency, capex costs, opex costs, utilization and tax rates.

Indicative inputs, and sensible ranges, are suggested for each of these input variables in the data-file.

Sensitivity to utilization rates is particularly interesting, as requisite power prices could be doubled if gas is marginalized as a ‘backup fuel’ to renewables; the model seems to support a role for gas in baseload generation.

Shipping in batteries: the economics?

What if it were possible to displace diesel from high-cost, high-carbon “island” electricity grids, by charging up large batteries with gas- and renewable power, then shipping the batteries?

This model assesses the relative economics and relative CO2 emissions of such a possibility. The model is sensitive to oil prices, battery prices, hurdle rates and alternative power prices.

Economics should improve as battery prices fall. But costs are already competitive for several island grids, while CO2 intensity can be halved. Our numbers have been informed by disclosures from Gridspan Energy, a leading company in this space.

Copyright: Thunder Said Energy, 2022.