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.
Solar Power part 1
Solar Power part 2
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