U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has opened the competition for
companies to begin designing a new type of energy facility that
could change the way people think about fossil fuel power plants in
the 21st century.
Called Vision 21, the new class of fossil fuel plants
would produce electricity, chemicals, fuels or perhaps a combination
of products in ways tailored to meet specific market needs.
Employing the latest in emission control systems, plus
potentially revolutionary breakthroughs in such technologies as gas
separation membranes, fuel cell-turbine hybrids, and carbon
sequestration, Vision 21 energy facilities would have
virtually no environmental impact outside the plant's immediate
The plants would also be among the first to be developed and
designed using advanced visualization and modeling software. Such
"virtual demonstration" technology might eliminate the
need for some of the expensive engineering and pilot facilities that
have been necessary in other large scale development efforts.
The Energy Department will offer up to $30 million for winning
projects, with each of the initial projects expected to receive from
$1.5 million to $2.5 million. Private industry will be required to
provide at least 20 percent of each project's cost.
The initial set of projects would run for up to three years and
would establish the design foundation and analytical capabilities
for future development efforts.
The key to Vision 21 will be to integrate the
'best-of-class' technologies from across the fossil fuel spectrum -
for example, the most fuel-flexible gasifiers and combustors, the
most effective way to remove pollutant-forming impurities, the
latest in fuel cell and turbine systems, and the most affordable
ways to manufacture liquid fuels and chemicals.
Individually, none of these technologies are likely to achieve
the increasingly stringent environmental and cost requirements that
energy companies will confront in the 21st century. Integrated
together, however, these advanced systems could provide consumers
with affordable power and fuels along with unprecedented levels of
The Energy Department's Federal Energy Technology Center is
issuing the solicitation and plans to accept proposals throughout
the coming year. Beginning around January 31, 2000, the department
will announce project selections every four months. The due date for
proposals for the first evaluation period is November 30, 1999.
Proposals are being requested in three areas:
Technologies that will make up the
"modules" of Vision 21 plants, for example,
in such areas as advanced gas separation and purification, heat
exchangers, fuel-flexible gasifers, advanced low-polluting
combustion systems, turbines, fuel cells, and chemical and fuel
Systems integration capabilities
needed to combine two or more of the modules;
Advanced plant design and
visualization software leading to a "virtual
demonstration" of a Vision 21 plant.
The Energy Department has set a timetable to have Vision 21
technologies and designs ready for use by private industry in
building commercial facilities by around 2015. Many experts forecast
that the next major wave of U.S. power plant construction will begin
around this time.
The Energy Department, however, expects the Vision 21
program to begin benefiting the energy industry well before 2015.
The program is expected to produce spinoff technologies - possibly
low-cost oxygen separation, better catalysts for the chemical
industry, lower cost manufacturing processes, and improved pollution
control systems -- beginning as early as 2005.