Wobbly coal plants=snap outages

Old, dirty, unreliable.

Ped Xing is not talking here about a senior male citizen with unusually excessive reserves of hyper-active hormones, silly!

True, man and machine share many things in common—the most glaring of which is the diminishing capacity to deliver the goods or perform services – in the broadest sense of the term, that is.

But unlike men in their senior or twilight years, machines do not deteriorate into dirty, old geezers who make sex videos of themselves on YouTube.

Machines, like power plants, simply rust away or burn out eventually.

But before they do so, these plants first lose their efficiency, increase the frequency of downtimes, swell their maintenance cost, and ramp up their toxic emissions. (Come to think of it, some old men slide hopelessly down this slippery slope.)

But seriously, this diminishing state of being plagues most traditional power plants that run on filthy, finite, non-renewable energy sources or fuels like coal.

When burned, coal emits a lethal mist of chemical cocktail that is harmful to all living things as they either degrade or totally destroy ecosystems.

Ped Xing is not making this up as this piece is being written. Tomes of serially validated scientific and medical findings simply show consistent results a affirming this conclusion. (Go Google it, dude.)

Power plants whose “unplanned outages” are behind on-going rotational brownouts in Luzon share one thing in common: They all run on coal.

This information may come as a surprise for ordinary people who have been sold the line that coal-fired power plants are reliable generators of electricity, with the capability to run 24/7 for months on end without a hitch.

But check the list of the power plants that conked out, for instance, from April 15 to 16, 2019; all of them run on coal. They are the 647-megawatt (MW) Unit 1 of TeaM Energy Corp. in Sual, Pangasinan; the 420-MW Unit 3 of Pagbilao Energy Corp. in Pagbilao, Quezon; the 150-MW Unit 2 of SMC Consolidated Power Corp. in Limay, Bataan; and the 150-MW Unit 2 of Southwest Luzon Power Generation Corp. in Calaca, Batangas.

Other people may cling to the notion that old age is taking its toll on the problematic power plants. The argument is that the facilities become susceptible to outages as they grow old.

TEaM Energy’s Sual plant did start operating way back in 1999; but the three other stalled power plants are relatively new. Pagbilao’s Unit 3 went on commercial operation only in March 2018; SMC Limay’s Unit 2, only in September 2017; and Southwest Luzon’s Unit 2, in July 2016.

All three relatively new plants use what is vaunted as a modern power plant technology, called circulating fluidized bed (CFB). The use of this so-called modern technology, however, does not stop them from stalling due to problems often associated with coal as fuel. These include susceptibility to boiler room leaks and slagging.

Our prevailing sad experience with coal-fired plant reliability is nothing new. Back in October 2017, the grid also suffered from unplanned or forced outages of several coal-fired power plants.

The problem with coal-fired power plant outages is not exclusive to facilities in our country. Coal-fired power plants in other parts of the world -- even those using more advanced technology -- also conk out.

Last January, for instance, a 750-MW coal-fired power plant in Queensland, Australia unexpectedly tripped for several hours. Commissioned in 2007, the Aus$1.2-billion facility uses what is described as the “most efficient supercritical coal-fired power plant technology.”

The Independent of Australia said that the outage of the Queensland power facility is “neither particularly unusual [nor] even newsworthy,” because coal plants “regularly ‘trip’, even the newest ones.” The Independent added that the outage drives the point that coal power “is not necessarily all that reliable.”

Our exasperating experiences with these power plants highlight the need for the country to diversify our energy mix. Sad to say, we still rely heavily on coal-fired power plants, which are turning out to be unreliable.

This is not comforting. This has to change.

Behold God’s glory and seek His mercy.

Pause and pray, people.