Cascade Power Plant Project (CCGT)
Alberta is prepping to begin the construction of its first energy-efficient power plant in the Town of Edson, which would provide electricity to 900,000 homes in and around the municipality. So, what makes it different from other natural gas-based power plants which already exist in Alberta — and, by the way, continue to account for a good deal of the electricity production in the province? Is CCGT good for consumers? How will the Cascade Power Plant impact the Alberta electricity grid?
Whenever a new project this large is approved in the province, questions tend to rise here and there, so we at EnergyRates.ca have brought you this complete guide on everything you need to know about the Cascade Power Plant, how combined cycle gas turbine projects work and how energy consumers in the province could benefit from this CCGT plant.
What is the Cascade Power Plant?
The planned Cascade Power Plant Project would be in Yellowhead County, 12 kilometres southwest of Edson, and will be constructed in two phases of 450 MW each. The first phase of construction is expected to be over by October 2022 and the second phase is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of that year. So, we can expect to see the Cascade Power Plant start generating energy at its full potential by mid-2023.
What is a combined cycle gas turbine plant, and how does it work?
Combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants are slightly different from regular natural gas power plants, where there is a linear process of burning natural gas to generate electricity and some heat is released, known as waste heat or exhaust heat. CCGT plants, however, use this exhaust heat to generate steam, which can further generate more electricity. The Cascade Power Plant will do exactly that. This CCGT plant in Alberta will maximize electricity generation by using heat that would normally be wasted in the process.
This heat is similar to the heat that you would feel when standing close to the rear side of the functional refrigerator or the car exhaust when the engine is running, and the car is parked.
In addition to that, any water lost from the steam engine cycle will be procured from Edson, which makes this project quite energy-efficient in comparison to traditional natural gas-powered electricity plants.
What to expect from the Cascade Power Plant in Alberta?
The Cascade Power Plant will be running like other power plants in the region but unlike the traditional power generation, this power plant would be more economically and environmentally responsible, as well as socially profitable. How? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this CCGT project in Alberta, and learn how it may impact the province’s electricity grid.
Economic benefits of combined cycle gas turbine plants
Let’s look into the economic benefits first. On average, the efficiency (amount of energy generated per unit of fuel burnt) of a coal or traditional natural gas power plant varies from 23% to 38%. Taking an average efficiency number for the world at 33%, this simply means that only 33% of the total coal or natural gas that goes in the system at once converts to energy or electricity that is generated at the generator’s location. In such a scenario, 67% of the unused coal in the system is lost as heat that stays in the system or gets released as waste heat.
On the other hand, in the case of CCGT projects, this waste heat is put back into the system to generate more electricity. This means you get more energy per unit of natural gas or coal.
When it comes to the Cascade Power Plant, this efficiency would go up to 58%. This means for one unit of natural gas used in the system used in the Cascade Power Plant, 42% would be used to generate energy and only 50% will go unused, thereby reducing the fuel wastage up to 25%. Therefore, the generator saves money in fuel purchases. And since less heat is released in the atmosphere, it also requires less legal environmental paperwork.
Is CCGT renewable energy or low carbon?
Like most combined cycle gas turbine plants, the Cascade Power Plant is a low carbon project operating on fossil fuels. At this point, you may be asking yourself: “So, how does that work if fossil fuels are infamous for releasing greenhouse gases and boosting global warming?”
Well, CCGT plants are highly energy-efficient, meaning that, once operational, they tend to be the most energy-efficient technology running on fossil fuels. With an efficiency of 58%, it is expected that the Cascade Power Plant will produce approximately 62% less carbon dioxide than a regular coal power plant. How cool is that (pun intended)!
The project will also curb toxic emissions (hazardous air pollutants that may cause serious health effects), which are common in traditional fossil-based power generation projects.
So, no, CCGT projects are not renewable energy, but, yes, they can be low carbon and more environment-friendly than traditional natural gas plants.
Social benefits of the CGGT plant in Alberta
The Cascade Power plant will have an important role in improving the local economy by generating jobs and business opportunities for local, indigenous communities, businesses and suppliers, as well as additional tax revenue to Yellowhead County.
Reports suggest that the project will employ more than 500 people for the construction and because this plant will be running for at least 20 years, it will be providing secured long-term jobs for Albertans.
Learn more about the Alberta energy market
- Compare Your Energy Options in Alberta
- Understanding Your Energy Bills in Alberta
- What is On-site Generation, and How Does it Work?