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Quicker Coal Power

Greater agility in output may keep Old King Coal in place in a nonnuclear Germany

2 min read
Quicker Coal Power
Photo: RWE Power


Photo: RWE Power

NIMBLE COLOSSUS: Turbines in a coal-fired generator near Cologne can shed 500 megawatts in 15 minutes.

In January, an 18-wheeler truck was scheduled to pull into Mexico City, nearing the end of an international road show spreading the gospel of General Electric’s nimble new gas turbines. A key message was that GE’s FlexEfficiency natural-gas-fired power plants can complement fluctuating wind and solar energy far better than their coal-fired brethren. The latter clearly need their own PR road show to shake their reputation as laggards when it comes to boosting or throttling back electric power generation. That’s because engineering firms are improving the agility of coal-fired power plants, and the best are hot on the GE model’s heels.


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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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