I recently listed a bunch of Best Available Control Technologies (BACT) for limiting CO2 emissions from new coal plants, following the landmark ruling by the EPA Environmental Appeals Board.
But a leading expert on solar
thermal baseload power points out that I left out one potential control technology. Under the auspices of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), two utilities have just announced they will test the use of solar thermal to add steam into the steam cycle of natural gas plants. And EPRI plans to "add solar thermal technology to coal-powered plants as well." Why?
In addition to reducing costs and greenhouse gas emissions, EPRI believes that solar thermal technology could also boost coal and natural gas power enough in existing plants to eliminate the need for new infrastructure.
Clearly this is not quite at the commercial stage that BACT requires — not as much as, say, co-firing coal with biomass is. So a high priority for the Obama EPA and Energy Department should be demonstrating solar plus coal.
In fact, we should have coal with solar baseload and biomass co-firing. And we should then pursue demonstrating solar plus coal/biomass gasification with carbon capture and storage. This wouldn’t be the cheapest power, but it would be carbon-negative electricity. And if we are ever going to get back to 350 ppm, as some leading scientists say we must, then we need to aggressively pursue all potential forms of energy that actually reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide.