Healthier Future

Each year in our Handbook, we feature reports on the state of the industry which include forecasts for the coming year. According to both sources, the outlook is healthier for the gas turbine (GT) sector as a whole.

In the cover story, Bill Schmalzer of Forecast International slices and dices the numbers surroundingGTs.Most notable is a surge in sales from 1,099 units ($12.185 billion in revenue) in 2010 to 1,335 units ($15.375 billion) in 2013.While not as spectacular as the late nineties boom, that is still an impressive jump.

It is also noteworthy that just about every number in the latest forecast is greater than in the prior year. That Forecast International’s estimates are about 10% higher this year bodes well for the industry.

Schmalzer states that revenues are expected to stay in the $15 billion or so range through 2020, though unit production should fall to below 1,200 by the end of the decade. To understandwhy, it is necessary to break the market down into its various size categories. By doing so, it becomes apparent that all size strata above 10 MW stay relatively flat from 2013. Microturbines and models below 10 MW, on the other hand, are the reason for the decline in number of units – according to the Forecast International prediction.

Speaking of small turbines, the analysis highlights the importance of that sector to the industry as a whole. Yes, larger models garner all the glory and yes, they account for the bulk of revenue. However, turbines below 10 MW, as well as microturbines, comprise over half the unit volume each year. This area certainly merits more coverage in the trade press. Therefore, look for features on small turbines andmicroturbines in upcoming issues.

End the renewable whining

Just about every event you attend, and in every other editorial it seems, you hear a steady grumble concerning the renewable onslaught: renewables are intermittent, solar doesn’t work at night, wind is seasonal, renewables get too much subsidy, they are hard to integrate with the grid, the power is just too expensive, on and on.

But Industrial Info Resources’ (IIR) U.S. Power Industry 2012 Forecast drives home a stark reality: Renewables account for about 65% of all generation projects scheduled to kick off in the 2012-2016 period.Take a look at the graph on page 17. There is no escaping the dominance of renewables for the next decade at least.

This doesn’t mean that bad times are afoot for fossil fuels.While IIR notes GT’s comprise a modest 18% of new generation for the next five years, that number can be expected to swell due to a couple of factors. Firstly, the “nuclear renaissance” appears to have stalled, so expect some of the 13% attributed to nuclear generation projects to fall off the table and drift over to the GT column.

In addition, such frantic renewable construction is sure to necessitate more GT and combined cycle plants. Utilities demand power reliability. As more wind and solar comes onto their grids, they are going to make very sure they can cope with any sudden drops in output by having plenty of “alternative” power available. And that will almost all be GTs. Finally, as older coal plants succumb to ever stricter emissions constraints, they will be phased out in favor or combined cycle, gas, wind and solar, as explained in the IIR findings.

In the meantime, carping at renewables is largely wasted breath. Many of the above criticisms are valid – though a little overstated at times. But there is no stopping the renewable wave.

Let’s put this in some historical context: When the age of steamemerged in the 1700’s and 1800’s, no doubt there were many who complained about the noise, the emissions, the smoke, the havocwrought on inner cities, the upheaval in the prevailing social pattern, the rape of the rural landscape, the rise of Robber Barons, and so on. Like whistling in a hurricane, it was all for nothing. Progress happened for better or for worst.

What the complainers fail to comprehend is that there is simply no point on battling on about the rights and wrongs of renewable generation. The war has been fought – in terms of public and political opinion. It doesn’tmatterwhether or not that is the best outcome. It doesn’t evenmatter to many policymakers if it is the cheapest power. The decision has been made and the victory parade is already underway as shown in the IIR report.

It is time, then, for utilities and independent power producers to come to terms with this new reality, count to ten and put their attention on providing solutions to the various problems that wind and solar pose to the grid. These new power sources are springing up everywhere. But so, too, will new non-renewable plants. They are destined to be neighbors in the Brave New Energy World. Let’s end the whining and learn to get along.