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NTPC, the state-owned largest power producer in the country, has plans to build new units at existing plant sites and phase out the old ones. The government wants to move away from modernisation of old power plants and instead encourage investment in new and efficient capacity.
Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal said earlier this week the government did not favour modernisation because the plants were not efficient. “We should move to supercritical and ultra-supercritical technology,” he told reporters.
Conventional coal-fired power plants are less efficient than supercritical ones that operate at higher temperatures and pressure. An issue with new-age plants could be the cost of generation. Distribution companies would need to buy comparably expensive power from the new units, an expert said.
NTPC is studying its plants individually. The first two plants are at Talcher and Badarpur, two of the oldest NTPC units. JV Industrial Companies, an American firm, is studying the Talcher plant. “In Talcher, expansion is comparatively easy,” an NTPC executive said.
The plant has been working for 40 years and was the best performing plant in the country last year because of being a pit-head unit and the fact that it had an almost fully depreciated fixed cost. NTPC has sent a team to Japan, Europe and the US to study available technology and the retrofitting that can be done.
The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) estimates 10,180 MW of supercritical units can be installed in place of retired plants or those proposed for retirement with a total capacity of 5,228 MW. The CEA also reckons there is considerable capacity where viability for modernisation can be decided later. The CEA has calculated close to 4,800 MW can either be retired or replaced with supercritical units.
Some 32,830 MW of power were produced in plants over 25 years old by the states and the Centre till last year. Of this, 22,170 MW have undergone life extension or are programmed for it, according to the CEA. “Around 5,860 MW capacity can be retired in due course and some of the units can be replaced with supercritical units,” it said.
Renovation and moderation to be replaced by ramping up generation capacity at existing old power units
32,830 Mw of installed capacity is above 25-year old, till last year
Close to 4800 Mw can be either decommissioned or replaced with supercritical units
10,180 Mw of supercritical units can be installed in place of decommissioned or proposed for retirement of total capacity of 5,228 Mw
Of that, 22,170 Mw can be operated for considerable time as it has undergone R&M
NTPC to start the practice with two of its oldest units in Talcher and Badarpur
The new strategy is also part of NTPC’s plan to expand capacity. “After commissioning new units at existing sites we can decommission the old plants. This will give us the advantage of, say, having 3,000 MW capacity where we now have 2,500 MW,” Gurdeep Singh, NTPC chairman and managing director, told Business Standard in an interview.
Singh said the older plants were good on plant load factor because of their proximity to coal mines. He added it also indicated the “capability of the company’s engineers in operation and maintenance”.
“Talcher with 4x60 MW has a design that is relatively inefficient by today’s standards, so maybe at some stage we will put up a new unit there and once that is commissioned we can decommission the smaller units,” he said.
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