20 years ago, forced outages were frequent as the lack of analytics and predictive maintenance tools left power plants vulnerable to equipment failure and unit trips. Today’s O&M toolkit routinely includes advanced sensors and software that empowers maintenance professionals to be proactive in scheduling and performing needed maintenance work. Topics covered in this track include Plant Upgrades/Life Extension; Efficiency Improvements/Boiler Optimization; Plant Conversions; Heat Rate Reductions; Outage Budgeting and Planning; and Plant Decommissioning.
Legal issues led the list of environmental concerns 20 years ago as rules related to the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act began to be written, adopted, and implemented. Today, much of the equipment required to meet federal and state environmental rules is in place and operating, and issues typically focus more on compliance and equipment performance. What’s more, the Trump Administration has moved to rethink and roll back a number of environmental rules. The impact on power plant operation remains very much in flux. This track considers not only policy measures, but also the operation of equipment and systems to meet environmental rules. Topics include CCR/Ash Disposal; Water Discharge; Air Emission Controls; Nuclear Waste Disposal; and SCR, NOX, FGD, ELG, CEMS, NSPS, MATS, and related issues.
20 years of technology advancements have led to major efficiency improvements among gas-fired turbines. New alloys allow for greater pressures that enable more electricity to be generated for each unit of fuel consumed.
The past 20 years have seen multiple efforts aimed at improving operating efficiencies and better enabling coal-fired units to meet the challenges of intermittent generating resources. Pressures continue as natural gas challenges coal in the dispatch order. This track focuses on operational and equipment improvements to help keep these assets viable.
Wind turbines now boast generating capacities that could only be imagined two decades ago. Likewise for solar, PV panel costs have plunged and efficiencies risen to a point where significant distributed generation resources are reshaping conventional utility systems and furthering the notion of “democratized” energy generation.
Although nuclear power is one of the few carbon-free electricity options available to address climate change concerns on a large scale, some plants are finding it difficult to compete against natural gas-fired generation and renewable energy resources. Cost overruns and delays have made new construction a risky proposition. Can advanced nuclear technology, such as small modular reactors, save the industry? Will markets pay for some of the attributes of nuclear energy that are currently not valued? This track focuses on the latest technology developments and potential options to keep nuclear energy in the mix.
The plant manager’s role over the past two decades has expanded to include financial awareness, community relations, operational flexibility, and market insight, in addition to the demanding job of keeping the power plant running and available as needed. This track focuses on critical skillsets that plant managers must have and aims to help mentor new managers who are advancing their careers in the power generation sector.
20 years ago Y2K wasn’t even a buzzword, and few if any electric power professionals were worried about mass retirements and a new generation of professionals who would be so digitally savvy. Operational improvements and digital technology are reducing demand for power plant workers even as those forces are helping to rewrite the job descriptions of new hires. No less critical, cybersecurity has emerged as a serious HR topic as managers worry about system security that can compromise a plant’s integrity. This track considers workforce issues that include the Multigenerational Workforce, Crisis Management, Cybersecurity, and Safety.
Analog controls were standard in power plants 20 years ago, and field devices were few and far between. Now the power plant is more connected and digitally enabled, with sensors increasingly used to enable preventative maintenance and optimal machinery performance. More broadly, the power plant is an integral part of smart grid and smart city concepts, capable of sending and receiving actionable information from the device level on up. Increasing numbers of utilities are looking to microgrids to enhance reliability and further integrate renewable energy resources. This track considers the digital power plant and its role in an increasingly electrified and digital world.
Combined Heat & Power was little more than a niche application 20 years ago. Operational efficiencies and flexible technology make the approach cost effective for many industrial plants, enabling them to squeeze even more productivity out of every ounce of steam. This track considers CHP applications, cost justification, technology options, and more.