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DEKKER Vacuum Technology and Experience an Integral Part of Ivanpah, the 2014 Power Plant of the Year

February 11, 2015 09:22 AM

February 11, 2015

A prestigious honor in the power industry is casting part of the spotlight on DEKKER Vacuum Technologies, a world-class supplier of vacuum technology and a global leader in vacuum solutions. Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California, the largest solar thermal plant in the world, has been named by POWER as its 2014 Power Plant of the Year, the first renewable plant to receive this recognition.

DEKKER designed and manufactured six daytime condenser exhausters and three nighttime holding units for Ivanpah.

For more than 131 years, POWER Magazine has been a primary source of information for the power generation industry. Today, POWER resources include publications, trade events and conferences, and electronic media. “Power Plant of the Year” is POWER’s highest honor.


Producing Electricity From Sunlight

DEKKER condenser exhausters play a vital role at Ivanpah in the process of efficiently turning sunlight into electricity.

Located near Ivanpah Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert, Ivanpah uses nearly 350,000 mirrors to aim and concentrate sunlight at three Solar Receiver Steam Generators (SRSGs), located at the top of three, 459-foot towers. The sunlight heats the water in the SRSGs to generate superheated steam. The steam is piped to turbines that produce electricity. Condensers then recover the steam for reuse.

The DEKKER condenser exhausters are vacuum pumps that are used on the air-cooled condensers to remove air leakage. Reducing leakage improves turbine and condenser efficiency, reducing operating costs, and therefore, the cost of electricity. As Jan Dekker, founder of DEKKER, said, “Air leakage is an enemy of efficient turbine and condenser operation.”

The capacity of Ivanpah, which became operational in December 2013, is 377 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 140,000 homes. Using solar instead of fossil fuels will reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by more than 400,000 tons per year.

At DEKKER, Knowledge is Power

POWER presented the Power Plant of the Year award to Ivanpah “For overcoming numerous obstacles to build the world’s largest solar thermal plant.” DEKKER also put its problem-solving acumen on the job.

“The project was a challenge, but taking on challenges is exactly what DEKKER is known for,” said company president Rick Dekker. The project management team, with many years of experience in the power generation industry, responded with insight and innovative thinking. The team included George Harding and Jim Freeman, well-respected veterans of vacuum technology.

One innovation was needed to counteract an unusual aspect of the harsh environment – not the heat of the desert, but the cold. The pumps would occasionally face freezing winter temperatures, which can drop below zero Fahrenheit in the Mojave. Heat trace was proposed to prevent water in the pumps from freezing, but the insulation would be exposed to the elements, creating maintenance problems. Also, insulation would create additional thermal load that would make the units less efficient.

DEKKER proposed instead the unique use of enclosures on the vacuum units with an internal, thermostat-controlled heater. This eliminated both “hot” and “cold” performance concerns.

The DEKKER team also surprised the Ivanpah project engineers with a proposal to use 100 horsepower units. The specs had recommended 125 HP (and some bids proposed up to 150 HP). “At first, the engineers thought we had made a mistake,” said Harding. But it wasn’t a mistake, it was expertise at work. Harding, drawing on vacuum pump studies as far back as the 1930s, made corrections for elevation (about 2,600 feet). And Freeman recognized that the leakage rate on Ivanpah’s air-cooled condensers is less than typical condensers.

The smaller, more economical models could handle the load, the team said. The project
engineers ran the numbers, concurred, and gave DEKKER’s proposal the green light.

Powering Up With DEKKER

The DEKKER team unanimously agrees that Ivanpah’s Power Plant of the Year award is well-deserved. “We’re proud to contribute to the success of Ivanpah, and we’ve certainly added to our knowledge base as a result,” Dekker said. “They were very pleased with our team and our approach. The project shows our capabilities in providing applications-based solutions for our clients in the power generation industry.”

Established in 1998, DEKKER Vacuum Technologies manufactures vacuum pumps and systems for markets such as plastics, packaging, pharmaceuticals, laboratories, metal processing, food processing, chemical, power generation, aerospace and many others. DEKKER is a privately held, ISO9001 certified company with more than 50 employees, operating in a 45,000 square foot manufacturing, distribution and warehouse facility in Michigan City, Indiana.

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