And the winner is... Modern Power Systems – BRICS Edition Awards

16 December 2013

Welcome to the inaugural Modern Power Systems – BRICS Edition Awards, honouring the best and brightest in the industry. In this issue, we announce the winners in key categories that have shown their ability to drive the field forward, thanks to their technological innovations and market-leading know-how.

Power plant optimisation technology of the year

Winner: maxDNA

Optimising a power plant will improve its efficiency, power output and economic performance, all without impacting on safety. That is the role of Metso's maxDNA system, which puts plant automation system hardware at the heart of this process.

Metso can offer maxDNA systems to all types and sizes of power plant. The system uses the highly evolved D-E-B coordinated control philosophy. As Metso puts it, "The D-E-B system is a proven control strategy that is designed to meet the number-one objective of the power plant - match generation to demand, under all conditions. Now in its fourth generation, D-E-B has been proven in more than 900 large fossil-fired power plants around the world."

With such a large number of plants using maxDNA, across at least 37 countries, the numbers really do speak for themselves.

Transmission & distribution innovation

Winner: Hybrid HVDC Breaker

High-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission systems are more compact and effective, require lower maintenance, are more environmentally sound and, most importantly, suffer lower losses than traditional transmission technologies. ABB has been quietly funding R&D in this field for a number of years, stealing a march on its rivals and coming up witha breakthrough hybrid HVDC breaker.

Capable of blocking and breaking hundreds of thousands of volts and thousands of amperes, the breaker, according to ABB's Magnus Callavik, "combines mechanical and power electronics switching that, within 5ms, enables it to interrupt power flows equivalent to the output of an entire nuclear power station".

ABB cannot rest on its laurels though, as General Electric and China's XD Electric, as well as Toshiba and Tokyo Electric Power, have all recently announced plans for developing and marketing HVDC technologies.

Environmental initiative of the year

Winner: Algae-based CCS

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies for coal-fired power plants have been heralded as a possible solution to the huge environmental impact of thermal power-generation for some time, but the technology has yet to receive widespread uptake.

Sequestration of CO2 underground is not always possible at many existing coal-fired power plant sites, hence research undertaken by the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) to instead use algae to absorb carbon dioxide.

By allowing algae to absorb CO2 and then exposing them to sunlight via a photobioreactor, the algae grow very quickly. Once grown, they are removed from the system, dried and pressed, and can then be used for a number of different products, such as renewable diesel fuel.

Researchers at CAER expect that, if conducted on a large enough scale, the sale of the dried algae sheets could be profitable, making it a much more attractive CCS option than underground sequestration technology.

Renewable technology of the year

Winner: Self-cleaning solar PV cells

Current solar photovoltaic (PV) technology can achieve power efficiency of up to 47%, but much of the sun's energy is still lost by being reflected back into the air, due to the high reflectivity of solar cells. New self-cleaning PV cell technology, developed thanks to research undertaken at Changchun University of Science and Technology, Xi'an Technological University and Cardiff University, could provide a big efficiency boost.

By adding a nanoscopic relief pattern to the surface of solar cells, they are made much less reflective, converting more sunlight into electricity, while also making them hydrophobic, non-stick and self-cleaning. This will reduce efficiency losses that result from dust and rain residues.

The team says the patterned surface acts in a similar way to a lotus leaf, a surface renowned for being highly water repellent.

Safety initiative of the year

Winner: Agnice Fire Protection

Agnice Fire Protection is a leading engineering, procurement and construction company in the field of fire protection systems for turnkey projects. Working from concept to commissioning, Agnice has in-house engineering, a large project team, and a dedicated erection and commissioning team all under one roof, allowing it to provide fully conceptually integrated systems without the need for outsourcing.

Since being founded in 1995, the India-based company has designed and installed more than 250 turnkey fire protection systems at home and abroad. Agnice is renowned for providing custom-built fire protection systems for a host of conceptually challenging situations, including those posed by power plants.

With more than 25 systems provided to power plants across India, Agnice has proved itself a true bastion of fire safety, with its dedication to uncompromising quality control ensuring the well-being of workers and citizens alike.

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