By Miranda Green
May 8, 2018 - The Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking comment on plans to invest in the development of small-scale, modular coal plants they are deeming the "power plants of the future."
DOE submitted a request for information Tuesday to gather input from stakeholders on developing pilot versions of the plants, for construction by 2025.
"The coal-based pilot plant will be used as the basis for scaling up to a commercial offering that is highly efficient (40 percent or greater higher heating value), modular (unit sizes of approximately 50 to 350 [megawatts]), and economical for both international and domestic power generation," according to the request.
The request marks a shift for the government from investment in carbon capture technologies to reduce emissions from coal plants to the development of more efficient coal plants without the capture technologies. The guidance though does say the pilot plants must be "carbon capture ready."
It's more common for the words "small" and "modular" to be applied to nuclear reactor technologies. The U.S. is largely known for behemoth coal plants that are hard to turn off.
The DOE's push toward developing smaller scale plants indicates President Trump’s desire to revive coal, despite the industry seeing revenue drop.
The Energy Department first indicated its interest in developing new coal technologies in the administration's proposed fiscal 2019 budget. It gave $175 million to develop new, higher efficiency coal generators.
Steve Winberg, assistant Energy secretary for fossil energy told Axios in early March that the department was preparing to ask companies to help develop the new technology.
"If we’re successful with these small modular coal plants … that could be a paradigm shift," he said.
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