Flexible Coal: An Example Evolution from Baseload to Peaking Plant (Presentation): NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

Research output: NRELPresentation


Twenty-first century power systems, with higher penetration levels of low-carbon energy, smart grids, and other emerging technologies, will favor resources that have low marginal costs and provide system flexibility (e.g., the ability to cycle on and off to follow changes in variable renewable energy plant output). Questions remain about both the fate of coal plants in this scenario and whetherthey can cost-effectively continue to operate if they cycle routinely. The experience from the CGS plant demonstrates that coal plants can become flexible resources. This flexibility - namely the ability to cycle on and off and run at lower output (below 40% of capacity) - requires limited hardware modifications but extensive modifications to operational practice. Cycling does damage the plantand impact its life expectancy compared to baseload operations. Nevertheless, strategic modifications, proactive inspections and training programs, among other operational changes to accommodate cycling, can minimize the extent of damage and optimize the cost of maintenance. CGS's cycling, but not necessarily the associated price tag, is replicable. Context - namely, power market opportunitiesand composition of the generation fleet - will help determine for other coal plants the optimal balance between the level of cycling-related forced outages and the level of capital investment required to minimize those outages. Replicating CGS's experience elsewhere will likely require a higher acceptance of forced outages than regulators and plant operators are accustomed to; however, anincrease in strategic maintenance can minimize the impact on outage rates.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages17
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NamePresented online for the Innovations in Flexible Generation Webinar, 29 May 2014

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-6A20-62125


  • coal
  • cycling
  • flexibility
  • high penetration renewable


Dive into the research topics of 'Flexible Coal: An Example Evolution from Baseload to Peaking Plant (Presentation): NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this