Kyoto – A Perspective. (Part 7)

Posted on Mon 04/07/2008 by



Before we go on, some of you might be concerned that I can find out so much about electrical power plants in Pennsylvania. Here in Australia, I can obtain the same information for all our Australian power plants, and the same can be done just as easily for all you people in the US.
The website for all your US power plants is as follows.

For the State where you, the reader, reside, just click on your State at the left of the map in centre screen and a list will come up showing every power plant in your State. As to the question of the efficacy of something like this, these plants being major State infrastructure, I’m sure you’ll all share with me the belief that in a democracy, we have nothing to hide.

As for Pennsylvania, I said in the previous article that there are 177 power plants, and here’s a breakdown.

Plants producing more than 1000 MW.                                15 (These are the base load plants)
Plants producing between 10 MW and 1000 MW.                108
Plants producing less than 10 MW.                                     54

An important thing I’d like to point out here as you view these long lists for each State, the totals in Megawatts (MW) you see for each plant are the maximum rating.
When you get into your car, and drive it, you don’t run the engine flat out all the time. You cruise along at a comfortable speed with the engine running at around two thirds of it’s maximum speed. The same applies here for these power plants. The numbers you see are the maximum rating. Power plants, be they large, medium or small run at around 60% of their maximum rated capacity, which is where they are at their most efficient.

For the sake of the numbers alone I’ll use the maximum ratings here.

Those 15 large base load plants produce around 65% of the total power in the State. Six of them are rated at greater than 2000 MW each. One third are nuclear and they would produce around one third also of that base load power. The Nuclear plants have two large generators each and the coal fired plants in the main have three generators, and as a guide for these huge plants, see those ‘fat’ round towers bowed in the centre. That’s a general indicator as to the number of large generators at that plant, as these are directly over the turbine and dissipate the steam used to drive those turbines. Incidentally, the plant at Three Mile Island was one of these huge base load plants around 1800 MW , but one turbine, generator, and the reactor have since been removed in totality, so now there is only around 900 MW at maximum rating, which also brings into play the fact that plants around that size are still huge and still in the class of base load plants.

Those mid range plants with power from 10 MW to 1000 MW will undoubtedly have some plants that are in the base load range but this large number of plants would provide peak power for spikes when those times arise. The base load plants in this range of plants will hum along constantly at their most efficient speed, and the smaller ones will be just be ticking over waiting for the peak periods when they can be quickly run up to come on line. Being smaller, the turbines and generators have less inertia and can vary the speed more easily, hence produce more electric power more quickly to the grid as the load rises over a short period of time. As that peak period subsides, then they can be run down to just ticking over, still connected to the grid, but used mainly in waiting.

The smaller plants producing less than 10 MW will add not very much to the overall total, and this would be where those manufacturing plants that produce their own electrical power onsite from smaller power plants come into play.
This lower than 10 MW level is also where alternative sources of power production are at the moment, because the technology to provide larger amounts in the mid range have not yet been developed, let alone alternative power in the base load category of power plants, still decades into the future.

Let’s look again at the situation in Malawi. Remember, I only picked this country for similarities of area and population.
Until recently, total power generation in Malawi was around 2000 MW. However in the last couple of years that has risen to around 7000 MW.
More than 90% of this power is generated by hydro electric plants. It has gone up due to mining exploration Companies, looking for Oil, Uranium and other minerals within Malawi. I won’t go into the ethics of this, but the Country gains as well as the Company doing the exploration. Malawi will gain immense amounts of money from the royalties arising from the discovery of anything in that Country. Long term jobs for residents of Malawi are also generated, and in this case, the Company needed vast resources of electrical power, so part of the contract required the construction of large hydro electric plants to supply power to operate the exploration and to also provide infrastructure and power to the people of Malawi, which has water in excess, the third largest lake in Africa wholly within its Country.

Why I picked Malawi was for contrast and here it is.

Malawi now has a total electrical power rating of 7,000 MW at maximum production.

Pennsylvania is rated at 52,000 MW of electrical power at maximum, just on seven and a half times as much, and 26 times as much as before the mining exploration Companies built the new hydro plants.

In Pennsylvania there are three plants that produce as much electricity as for the whole of Malawi. Those three plants are the Bruce Mansfield plant at Beaver, the Homer City plant in Indiana PA, and the Peach Bottom plant in York. However, those three large plants would be unrealistic in Malawi, because as I mentioned they provide base load power only, and what is realistically needed is a range of generators.

For the sake of comparison also, I would like you to again look at Australia. Remember I said that the area of Australia is the same as for the whole of Mainland US minus Alaska. The Australian population just recently passed through 22 Million.
The total electrical power produced at maximum rating in Australia is exactly the same as for Pennsylvania, 52,000 MW, and Australia has almost double the population of Pennsylvania.

That’s why I wanted to show a comparison of the three Countries, because like this, you can see that electricity in Western society has become a staple of life that we really do take for granted. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just a fact of life.