Architecture of the Power Generation System

The backbone of the power generation system (as well as nearly all transport systems) is rooted in one of two basic thermodynamic cycles: The Rankine, or vapor power cycle, and the Brayton, or gas power cycle (combined cycle, combustion turbine, steam turbine boiler, and nuclear components depicted in Fig. 10.3). Improving the efficiency of these cycles is one of the key steps to achieving CO2 reductions in the near term. Together, these two cycles are responsible for about 80% of the electricity generated in the United States. In France, where nuclear power comprises 70%+ of the electricity, the Rankine steam cycle is still the primary basis of power generation. Since these two processes are the heart of most power generation, improvements here are probably the best place to start with a strategy for carbon mitigation at the source. Improving efficiency, especially of those facilities that have the greatest carbon intensity, requires that the energy conversion processes

2008 U.S. Operating Plant Capacity by Technology Type

2008 U.S. Operating Plant Capacity by Technology Type"/>
Fig. 10.3 Breakdown of the US power generation fleet (PS photovoltaic solar, HY hydroelectric, CT combustion turbine, CC combined cycle, STB steam turbine boiler) (Source:

operate at extreme thermal conditions, and that typically means operating at higher temperatures and pressures (or both) to achieve maximum thermal efficiency. Today, the United States coal turbine fleet (thermal steam) currently averages about 33% efficiency when weighed across all coal types and all plant designs.

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