The US Department of Energy (DOE) has proposed plans to develop small scale, modular coal plants that have been described as “power plants of the future.”
The DOE has submitted a request for information to receive further comments from stakeholders on developing the pilot plants that are due to be constructed by 2025,
The request said: “The coal-based pilot plant will be used as the basis for scaling up to a commercial offering that is highly efficient (40 percent or greater higher heating value), modular (unit sizes of approximately 50 to 350 [megawatts]), and economical for both international and domestic power generation.”
Although guidance states the pilot pants must be “carbon capture ready”, it marks a shift away from carbon capture technologies in coal plants to more efficient coal plants that are less reliant on carbon capture.
The proposals come as part of US President Trump’s pledge to revive the US coal industry, by pushing plans for small and modular plants forward.
Assistant energy secretary for fossil fuels and former coal executive Steve Winberg told the Naitonal Coal Council that the modular plants under construction could receive a funding opportunity from the DOE and discussed the possibility of taking the technologies to developing countries that are eager to gain widespread access to electricity.
The DOE first announced its plans to develop new coal technologies in its fiscal 2019 budget which pledged $175 million to higher efficiency coal generators, known as high efficiency, low emission (HELE) plants.
Winberg said: “If we’re successful with these small modular coal plants … that could be a paradigm shift.”