V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant Abandonment Spells Trouble for Future of Nuclear Power

The V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant in South Carolina, one of the first new Nuclear Power Plant projects in nearly 2 decades, has been abandoned partway through construction. Santee Cooper and SCE&G, partners on the project, decided to cancel the project due to significant budget overruns, the bankruptcy filing of Westinghouse (reactor manufacturer), and the significant change in economics of the power generation industry since the project’s inception.  After receiving bailouts from federal and state governments only a year ago, the nuclear power generation in the United States is stalled and unprofitable.

The Executive Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service was quoted saying:

“Nuclear power is failing despite the fact that it is already heavily subsidized. Canceling the Summer reactors proves that the industry has no future, but it only tells half the story. Nuclear generators are pushing for billions of dollars in subsidies and bailouts for their aging reactors, and those efforts are mostly failing, as well. Hoped-for momentum from 2016 bailouts in New York and Illinois did not materialize, as state legislatures rejected nuclear subsidy bills this year. With renewable energy now surpassing nuclear by widening margins, it’s clear that subsidizing nuclear is an expensive way to slow down the growth of clean, safe, affordable, job-creating energy sources.”


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Emergence of Reciprocating Gas Engines

Recent developments in the power generation industry have seen gas reciprocating engines being installed in increasing numbers on new projects as opposed to gas turbines. Improvements in technology have resulted in reciprocating engines that can rival the capacity of gas turbines and the ability to be brought to full capacity in as little as five minutes. There are many examples of new projects incorporating gas reciprocating engine technologies including Fairmont Energy Station in Minnesota, Sky Global One near Houston, and Rubart Station in Kansas. All of these facilities are located in regions where there is a large amount of installed or planned wind capacity where there is a need for dependable and dynamic support generation capacity that can quickly come online when wind generation fluctuates. The overall trend of increasing renewable resource capacity has created a shift in the industry and the development of modern gas reciprocating engines. It is anticipated that modern gas reciprocating engines will continue to gain popularity for the foreseeable future.



New York Regulators Approve Clean Energy Standard, Saving Nuclear Power Plants, to Achieve 50% Renewables by 2030

In a 4-0 vote, the New York Public Service Commission (“PSC”) approved the Clean Energy Standard to help keep nuclear power online. This decision will provide $965 million in additional revenue for the next 12 years to three nuclear power plants in upstate New York. The three plants eligible for the program are: Exelon Corp’s Ginna and Nine Mile Point Units 1 and 2, and Entergy Corp’s FitzPatrick. FitzPatrick is scheduled to close in 2017 but Entergy Corp. is in talks with Exelon about a potential sale.

This comes at a time where cheap natural gas has flooded the market, forcing nuclear plants to shut down—a risk PSC Chair Audrey Zibelman does not want to take saying, “We could not possibly replace those nuclear units if they were to shut.” Those units would most likely be replaced by carbon producing plants.

This alternative thinking to reduce carbon emissions and help the struggling nuclear industry could provide a model for the rest of the country.

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Wind Power Continues its Expansion

Wind Power Expansion
In another step forward for wind energy, on March 25, 2016 the Department of Energy (“DOE”) approved Clean Line Energy’s Plains & Eastern Line transmission project, which connects wind power generation facilities in Western Oklahoma to the customers of the Southeastern United States.  Construction is estimated to begin in 2017, and the project is expected to be completed in 2020.  The transmission line is expected to deliver 4,000 megawatts of wind energy to the southeast, and stretches approximately 700 miles.  The transmission line is estimated to cost approximately $2.5 billion and will create the opportunity for an additional $7 billion in potential wind farm development.   The approval of the Plains & Eastern Line transmission project is seen as another positive development for the wind power sector as it continues to increase its percentage of the energy mix across the United States.
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U.S. Supreme Court Temporarily Shuts Down the Clean Power Plan

On Tuesday February 9, 2016 the Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, ordered a stay of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan, if implemented, could transform the US electricity system forcing many coal fired plants to retire and would increase production of “clean power” (primarily wind and solar). All fossil fuel power plants would be impacted by the Clean Power Plan. As the Presidential process proceeds, the Clean Power Plans fate could lie in the hands of the newly elected President.

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The Cost-to-Capacity Method and Scale Factors


The cost-to-capacity method can be a very useful tool when developing elements of the cost approach in many valuations. It is a order-of-magnitude cost estimation tool that uses historical costs and capacity in order to develop current cost estimates for an entire facility or a particular piece of machinery or equipment [1].  The fundamental concept behind the cost-to-capacity method is that the costs of facilities of similar technology but with different sizes vary nonlinearly. More specifically, cost is a function of size raised to an exponent or scale factor [2]. The governing equation is as follows:

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