NETL working toward developing coal-fired plants for the future

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is developing strategies to make existing and future coal-fired power plants more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.

Coal is a fossil fuel and has been relied on by humans for more than 100 years; however, because it is a fossil fuel, it poses a lot of risk to the environment and people. NETL, which is under the Department of Energy (DOE), is working to overcome this obstacle through the DOE’s Coal Flexible, Innovative, Resilient, Small, Transformative (FIRST) initiative.

This is according to a NETL press release that states plants developed through the Coal First initiative will be smaller than traditional plants, cost less to build, be located strategically to provided extra stability to the grid and produce near-zero emissions.

“Fossil energy as a whole makes up a huge portion of our energy portfolio and landscape and coal is an important part of that,” Jimmy Thornton the NETL associate director for the Computational Science and Engineering directorate.

Thornton continued.

“Ensuring that we can extend our existing fleet as well as develop new technologies that would be more efficient and more environmentally or just as environmentally responsible is something that we should do as a nation to maintain our energy independence as well as our ability and reliability of our energy grid and needs across the board.”

Thornton, as his title suggests, focuses on engineering and computational science, which he uses to help make power plants of many varieties more energy efficient. His work uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help with energy problems.

According to a NETL press release, a recent example of Thornton’s work in action was at an Idaho nuclear waste cleanup facility run by the DOE.

In the end, the facility saved tens of millions of dollars as a result of running simulations and evaluations on the existing design as well as new ones to see which one would work best.

“We do complex computational engineering and use our supercomputers and advanced computing platforms at the national laboratory here to advance technology and those play a key role in the overall in the advancement of technology and the success of the program,” Thornton said.

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