RWE Generation SE applied to the district government in Arnsberg for the approval of a combined cycle power plant. Construction is planned on the site of the Gersteinwerk power plant in Werne and electricity output would be up to 1,300 megawatts. In this kind of plant, natural gas of the kind used in regular homes is used to generate electricity. In the first step of the approval process, the prior notice of construction and water management permits were sought. For the prior notice of construction, the authorities settled with binding effect the key requirements of the approval, as well as the basic compatibility of the project with the law. The legal requirements involved, for example, full planning permission, noise regulations, water and air pollution control and the protection of nature. The general public was fully involved in this central point of the approval process.
Questions about the Gersteinwerk combined cycle power plant
What are these power plant plans about?
How does a combined cycle power plant work?
The planned facility will very efficiently use the energy from natural gas in a combination of gas turbines and steam turbines. First of all, the natural gas is combusted in a gas turbine that powers the first generator. The hot waste gas from the gas turbine is used to convert water into steam, which is then also used to generate electricity in a steam turbine linked with a generator. The huge advantage of a system like this is the high degree of efficiency of around 59 %, as well as its environmental friendliness. The potential suppliers can provide the power plant in two forms. The final choice has not yet been made and will only be made once the prior notice of construction has been received and the contractual negotiations with the manufacturers are underway. In the next process, the authorities will check all of the environmental aspects. As a precaution, they base this assessment on the version covering the largest area, even if RWE Generation then opts for the smaller version.
Why was Gersteinwerk chosen as the site?
The Gersteinwerk power plant is particularly well suited for the planned combined cycle facility for various reasons. First of all, the highly qualified staff at the existing power plant already have plenty of experience in the operation of gas-fired power plants. Secondly, the Gersteinwerk site has a good infrastructure, which can be used for the new plant, for example a natural-draught, wet-cooling tower. Thirdly, the site is already perfectly connected to the natural gas supply grid. This therefore assures the secure supply of fuel to the new combined cycle plant. Gersteinwerk is also very well integrated in to the European high-voltage grid.
What impact will the new power plant have on the environment?
With its efficiency of around 59 %, the planned combined cycle facility uses fuel much more efficiently than the existing systems on the site, burning less fuel to generate a kilowatt-hour of electricity. As a result, the carbon dioxide (CO₂) and nitrogen oxide emissions are lower. These emissions are already lower when it comes to the combustion of the relatively clean fuel natural gas than with other fossil fuels. An extensive environmental impact analysis checked whether the planned facility could have any negative consequences for the environment – including as a result of waste gas or noise pollution, or the cooling water run-off into the river Lippe. Naturally, the emissions limits will comply with the future BREF LCP requirements.
Why is the new combined cycle power plant a partner to the renewable energy industry?
Energy from wind, the sun and biomass take priority in the German electricity grid, and their share in Germany’s energy mix continues to grow. Wind and solar power are not constant, but vary in output due to natural fluctuation. If the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining, for example, other types of power plant have to fill the gap and make up for the missing electricity from wind or solar power. Gas-fired power plants are very well suited to this because they are highly flexible due to the characteristics of natural gas as a fuel and their technical design. When necessary, they can be started up or powered down within minutes and they can start, increase or reduce their generation output quickly as required. This makes it easy for them to balance out the unavoidable and unpredictable variations in the renewables supply, making a significant contribution to maintaining security of supply. For this reason, combined cycle power plants will continue to play a major role in energy supply in the future.
What significance does the project have for the region?
RWE Generation wants to invest up to €600 million in the construction of the new combined cycle power plant. As is the case for other RWE projects, similarly qualified suppliers from the region will be given priority in the commissioning process. During the construction phase, which will last between two and three years, up to 700 people will be employed on site at the same time. Over the long term, the plant will safeguard the Gersteinwerk as an energy-producing location, and thus also its jobs and traineeships.