Energy Round Up

I hope that over the past couple months I’ve helped you’ve gained a greater understanding of all the ways that we make electricity. To sum things up, I’ve put together a little chart to help compare and contrast the various energy sources we use.

current % in USA potential supply based on current use $/kWh cost of power plant average lifespan notes
conventional fossil fuel 67% known coal reserves will last ~200 years 0.02-0.05 $1 billion per plant 30-40 years produces ~40% of total CO2 emissions
clean coal / carbon sequestration 0% known coal reserves will last ~200 years 0.08-0.12 $5 billion per plant 30-40 years long term storage of CO2 has many unknowns
nuclear 20% 230 years with current technology at current production rate 0.03 $5-6 billion per plant 50-70 years containing and cooling radioactive material is an ongoing challenge
hydro 7% 16% 0.03-0.05 $2-3 billion per plant 50-100 years low cost and low mantenance, but disrupts ecosystems and communities that rely on the river
geothermal less than 1% 7% 0.01-0.03 $2-4 million per MW 30-40 years location matters; deep drilling is difficult and expensive; earthquakes
wind 4% 20% 0.04 $1-2 million per MW 25 years wind can be unreliable; best location is rural, but requires good transportation of electricity
solar 0.2% all of it forever and ever, or at least until the sun explodes 0.12-0.17 $4-6 million per MW 20-40 years efficiency, cost, and waste need to be improved

Just about 2 weeks ago the EPA released it’s preliminary regulations for CO2 emissions for electricity production. These regulations will be a good step in the right direction for America, one of the top most countries producing CO2. Making the changes necessary to cut our emissions will come with growing pains for sure. There is no one right answer to slowing or halting global climate change. Instead we need to use all of our tools, and that means it is important for us to know what tools we have.

The fastest way we can cut the CO2 emissions that come from electricity production is to use less electricity, and use it more efficiently. In that vein, in the coming months I’ll be exploring energy efficiency, and in particular passive design. Stay tuned!

For an introduction on sources of electricity, look here.
For an explanation of how we make electricity, look here.
Clean Coal
Nuclear Energy
Wind Power
Geothermal Electricity
Solar Power part 1
Solar Power part 2

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