Electricity + Control

Back in the early days of electricity, power frequency — the rate at which alternating currency (AC) fluctuates per second — was all over the place. Distribution systems operated at frequencies ranging anywhere from 16Hz to 133Hz. Then, in 1891, the leading German utility set the standard in Europe at 50 Hz. Meanwhile, the United States opted for 60 Hz, as did parts of Japan when GE installed a 60 Hz plant in Tokyo in 1896. And, thus, an inconvenient legacy was born.

GE turbine delivers second world record1

Chubu Electric Power’s Nishi-Nagoya plant Block 1 in Japan.

The two frequencies have, however, enabled GE to help deliver not one, but two Guinness World Records for combined-cycle power plant efficiency. Last month, Chubu Electric Power’s Nishi-Nagoya plant Block 1 in Japan — which uses an advanced GE turbine known as the 7HA — converted 63.08 percent of its fuel energy into electricity to earn the title of world’s most efficient combined-cycle power plant. In 2016, EDF Energy’s plant in Bouchain, France, earned the same title in the 50 hz category using GE’s 9HA turbine model, coming in at 62.22 percent net efficiency. Thus GE’s HA turbines are now recognised for powering the world’s most efficient power plants in both segments.

Even more valuable than a spot in Guinness history, Nishi-Nagoya will generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of approximately 2.7 million homes in Japan.

GE turbine delivers second world record2A GE 7HA gas turbine on a test stand in Greenville, South Carolina

The plant achieved full online status towards the end of 2017, after Chubu Electric replaced a 40-year-old power station with the latest GE turbines, capable of running on liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is lighter and cheaper to transport.

Powered by four turbines — three GE HA gas turbines and a Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions steam turbine — the new plant packs a serious punch. At full capacity it will deliver 1,188 MW to the grid.

Additionally, the 7HA’s ability to ramp up quickly is also a key factor, as Japan continues to diversify its electrical grid. The country has invested heavily in renewable sources, doubling the amount of solar used for electricity in recent years. Nishi-Nagoya’s fast turbines allow the plant to not only supply ‘base load’ power to slake Japan’s thirst for energy, but also to nimbly pick up the slack when there is no sunshine or wind. “We believe that our constant quest for innovation led to this Guinness World Record achievement,” said Satoru Katsuno, president and director of Chubu Electric Power.

GE really wants is to make the world record-inspiring efficiency of Bouchain and Nishi-Nagoya commonplace, thus delivering clean and affordable energy to more corners of the world. With 21 HA power plants fully commissioned around the world and several more coming online this year, it appears that the company is well on its way to achieving this goal.