Kyoto – A Perspective. (Part 9)

Posted on Fri 04/11/2008 by



What will it mean to take a 15% slice out of total power production in the US.
There’s a lot of information available, and the trouble is most of it is technical stuff that is not easily understood, so it doesn’t get read by many people.
Something that is concerning is that total power generation in the US is staying virtually static, and in some States, it is actually decreasing. In the same breath, consumption is gradually increasing. What is happening is that a lot of those power plants that were scheduled to come on line over the next four to five years, and then even further out, to 2016 and beyond, are actually being cancelled before they get off the drawing board, and most of those getting canned are coal fired plants. Between 2000 and 2007, only one eighth of the proposed number of plants were constructed. Currently there are around 50 plants in the construction phase, and that’s for the whole of the US. None is in the over 1000 MW size, although a dozen or so are in the mid range base load size, the rest in the smaller range.
Again, you’d think that solar and wind power plants would be booming, but there’s just no proof that is happening at all.

What is already known is that within the next year, there might be several regions of the US that will have inadequate peak summer power. The US Government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) calculates that for adequate power consumption demands, then 12,000 MW of new power will be needed by 2016. Construction of new power plants is nowhere near this scale. More plants are being retired and taken out of service than are being constructed, and net capacity remains relatively static, actually falling in some States.

Keeping that in mind, look at the consequences of taking a 15% slice out of the electricity production pie chart.

Stay with me during this Math phase. It might seem complex, but I’m trying to keep it so that it’s easily understood.

Using figures from the EIA’s annual report from October of 2007, Net Capacity of all plants in the US is 986,000 MW. If we take out 15%, that’s around 148,000 MW. Now, because this is the net total, and remember that I told you the plants just hum along at around 70% to 80% of their rated capacity, then Maximum capacity converted from that last figure goes up to around 180,000 MW. Using the average percentage formula of large base load plants to the total, then the Base Load element of that total is 100,000 MW. This equates to 50 of those huge Base Load power plants, (just coal fired plants only) those averaging out at around 2000 MW each. That is what is mooted to be removed from the system. Considering the remaining 80,000 MW of medium range and low range plants would also contain probably as many as a hundred smaller base load coal fired plants as well, that’s a lot of power removed from the US total.

Look at the link that lists power plants by State.
I’ll do that. You can check, but anything you find will mostly agree with what I found.
Some States are smaller than others, and of the 20 smallest States, only 5 of them have plants of 2000 MW size, (2 of those being Nuclear, so the figure is only 3) so in effect that means for each of the other 30 States, around two of those huge base load coal fired plants should be removed, and another two or three from the medium ranges as well.

Let’s look a little more closely at this consequence.
Draw that line down the centre of the US, roughly down the line of the Missouri River. The largest States to the West and South are these.
Texas. Oklahoma. Arizona. California. Oregon. Washington.
That leaves 11 smaller States, roughly between a third and a half of the total US land mass. Major Base load power in all of those States is, in the main, coal fired. You take out their power plants and that’s it. There won’t be just isolated pockets of people without power, but whole States.
Why not connect them up to the rest of the US grid.
This is something environmentalists blithely say without knowing how it can be done.
It would entail monumentally huge infrastructure to construct huge, and I really mean huge, power transmission lines from the source of the electricity to end user consumers.
Again the environmentalists say, with their can do outlook, then get to it and spend that monumental amount of money to construct that huge infrastructure, anything to protect the environment.

However, here’s the thing about that.
It can’t be done. The losses of power over those vast distances means there would be nothing of that electrical power left at the consumers end, because power is lost over distance travelled, especially distances as vast as these, even using really high voltage transmission lines. So, what they are advocating is expenditure of billions of dollars on something that will provide nothing ………….. literally.

Look at the map. That’s a huge area to go without power except for some localised areas around those smaller remaining generators.
Smaller States in the East might be able to connect into the grid, but remember, we’ve removed huge base load power from those other larger States in those regions also.
So what you’re effectively doing is denying vast swathes of people access to electricity.

I’m including a link to a US Government website. This is for the Energy Information Administration (the EIA I mention) and is the report for the previous year, issued in October of last year.
Now I don’t want any of you to read it, because that would take you weeks, and you probably would not understand most of it.
After you take the link, you’ll see the front page. There will be a pie chart similar to the one in my last piece, only this one for last year.
However. Look down the right side of the document. It’s the menu, and each line takes you to two, three more pages. It all looks similar to a Company annual report, but this is decidedly more complex than that.
Most electricians would be hard pressed to decipher it.
This is where I’m taking my information from, and my task is to try and make it understandable for you guys, so even though I’m here in Australia, the process of explanation is something that has been of immense interest to me