Renewable Power Versus Coal Fired Power – And The Winner Is

Posted on Thu 05/05/2011 by


Coal Fired Power.

In fact, it’s actually no contest, and while that sounds a somewhat bold statement to make, it is in fact quite an easy thing to prove.

For that proof, let’s look, not in isolation at a solitary plant, but for a whole Country.

For that we need go no further than the U.S. which currently has the second highest number of Renewable Power plants on Earth, and in this case nearly all of them are Wind Power Plants, where the U.S. also has the second highest Nameplate Capacity installation of these Wind Towers.

China has the highest Installed Nameplate Capacity, and while the data there is accessible, I have chosen the U.S. for a specific reason.

In China, they are Industrialising at a monumentally huge rate, and to achieve that, China is constructing power plants of every variety. Foremost among them are large scale coal fired power plants, and China currently has a greater Installed Nameplate Capacity of coal fired plants than the U.S.

China in fact is bringing on line one large scale coal fired plant every week, and will continue to do so, for quite a while yet.

However, why I have selected the U.S. is because that Country has been using coal fired power for a lot longer than China. While China’s total power consumption is higher than the the U.S. this is something that has only been achieved in the last year or so.

For context here, while those totals are similar, the population of the U.S. is 309 Million, the population of China is 1.34 Billion, which is 4.34 times higher than for the U.S. so it’s easy to see that power has nowhere near the availability in China that it does in the U.S.

So, while China is constructing those large scale coal fired plants at almost an exponential rate, the U.S. already has a similar number of coal fired plants which have been providing a steady reliable source of electricity for many decades.

In recent years the U.S. has been constructing renewable power plants, mainly Wind Towers at a huge rate.

In fact, right now, the U.S. has an installed Nameplate Capacity for Wind Power of 41,000 MegaWatts. (MW)

This is the equivalent of 22 large scale coal fired power plants, and here a large scale coal fired power plant has an average Nameplate Capacity of 2000MW.

Currently in the U.S. there are 70 large scale power plants that average out at around 2000MW.

So, while there is a Wind Power equivalent of 22 large scale coal fired plants, then, because of that, how many large scale coal fired power plants have closed in those last two years following the ramping up of construction of those wind towers.


So, while we are told that the intent of Renewable power is to replace coal fired power, it’s obviously not doing that at all.

We are also told that the introduction of those Renewable plants is imperative to reduce emissions of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) greenhouse gas.

Well, has the exponential introduction of Renewable power plants led to a reduction in the emissions of CO2?


In fact, emissions of CO2 have increased over those last two years.

So, Renewable power has failed to achieve the two things it was supposed to do, and not only failed, but failed miserably.

It’s an easy thing to say this, but I can show you incontrovertible proof, and then explain that data so that even the most green eyed supporter of Renewable power would have to believe.

This first link is to the total power consumption from every source in the U.S.

Note the total power consumed in the U.S. for the year 2009 from January to December. (Far right column Total 2009) That total was 3,950,331 Thousand MegaWattHours (MWH)

Now, note the total power consumed for 2010. (Again, far right column total 2010) That total was 4,120,028 Thousand MWH.

That increase in total power consumption comes in at a percentage increase of 4.3%. It would seem from that figure that the call to reduce consumption of electricity for the sake of the environment is falling on deaf ears.

Note also from that same page of data that the power provided from Coal fired power, natural Gas fired power, and Nuclear Power also increased, and that is actually remarkable for Nuclear Power because no nuclear plants have been constructed for decades now.

So, from that data it is easy to see that coal fired power is in fact supplying more power to the grids than it did two years ago, increasing for both of those years.

While Renewable power is in fact also supplying more power to grids, it has not led to the reduction in coal fired power at all.

Let’s then look at CO2 emissions, and that happens on two main fronts, from coal fired power and also from Natural gas fired power as well.

This link shows the total consumption of coal to produce the electricity that this sector provides.

Note the total for 2009 there, 934,683 and that is expressed in thousands of tons, hence almost 935 million tons of coal.

Now see the total for 2010 which is 979,555. Again in thousands of tons, so that is almost 980 million tons.

That increase is 4.8%, and refer that back to the overall increase in total power consumed, that being 4.3%.

So, while overall power consumption is increasing the amount delivered from coal fired sources is also increasing, but at a greater rate.

This link shows the consumption of Natural Gas to produce the electricity that sector provides.

Note the total for 2009, which is 7,121,069 and that is expressed in thousand mcf. Here the term mcf is one thousand cubic feet of Natural Gas.

Now note the total for 2010 which is 7,633,469 also thousand mcf.

That increase is 7.2%, well in advance of the 4.3% increase in overall total power consumed.

So, lets convert those two totals (coal burned and natural gas burned) to CO2 emissions.


For coal, the average multiplier is one ton of coal burned producing 2.86 tons of CO2.

So the total CO2 emissions for 2009 comes in at 2.67 Billion tons of CO2, and yes read that again ….. BILLION.

For Natural Gas the multiplier is 122 pounds of CO2 for every mcf of Natural gas burned.

So the total CO2 emissions from the Natural Gas fired power sector comes in at 427 million tons of CO2.

Add the two totals together and the CO2 emissions from both sectors comes in at 3.1 Billion tons of CO2.


Same multiplier for coal, hence CO2 emissions from the coal fired sector come in at 2.8 Billion tons of CO2.

Same multiplier for Natural gas, hence the CO2 emissions from this sector come in at 466 Million tons of CO2.

Add those two together and the total CO2 emissions come in at 3.27 Billion tons of CO2.

The percentage increase in CO2 emissions now comes in at 5.5% which is also well above the overall increase in total power consumed of 4.3%

Now so as not to look disingenuous, lets look at the increase in power supplied from the Renewable Power Sector, most importantly, those two favoured forms of generating power Wind Power and Solar Power.

This link shows that data.

The total for Wind and Solar has increased by a whopping 28.3%, and expressed as a percentage, that seems huge, but what needs to be taken in context is that it is coming from such a low base, meaning that any increase appears to be quite large.

For some perspective in that let’s refer that to the smaller percentage increase of the CO2 emitting power sources, coal fired power.

Renewable power (28.3% increase) increased the actual power delivered to all grids by 21,189 thousand MWH

Coal fired power (4.8% increase)  increased its delivery of power to all grids by 94,846 thousand MWH, almost 4.5 times as much power, so you can see that the percentage increase here is anomalous if you just refer to that.


It is quite obvious from this data that while the construction of those Renewable Power plants, especially those Wind towers, is failing to achieve what we were told was going to happen.

They are patently NOT replacing those large scale coal fired power plants, and they are patently NOT leading to a reduction in CO2 emissions.

Why is that?

It is because Wind power plants cannot deliver their power on the absolute required basis, where 60 to 65% of all electrical power being consumed is required absolutely on a 24/7/365 basis.

Let’s work it out for the end of year 2010 total.

41,000 MW of Nameplate Capacity Wind plants will give a theoretical total power delivery of 359,400 thousand MWH if they could operate at their 100% capacity.

In actual fact, all they did deliver was 94,647 thousand MWH.

This gives them a Capacity Factor (Efficiency of power delivery) of 26.3%.

While ever that fan at the front is rotating these towers are delivering their maximum power, so that means onn average, these towers are only running for 26.3% of each day or around 6 hours and 20 minutes each day.

If electrical power is required on a 24/7/365 basis, then these wind towers can NEVER provide that.

Solar Power is even worse, averaging just 15% Capacity Factor, or around three and a half hours a day.

So, if power is required on that ‘all the time’ basis, then Renewables just cannot provide that.

What that means is that if power is required on that basis, then it has to be provided from sources that can actually deliver that.

Large Scale Coal Fired Power.

So, quite obviously when it comes to a contest, Renewable Power versus Coal Fired Power, then it just is no contest.

Coal Fired Power has won already.

You can construct all the Renewable power plants you want to, at enormous expense, and place them all across the landscape as far as the eye can see.

They will never deliver the power that is needed.

Renewable have patently failed to replace even one large scale coal fired power plant, and CO2 emissions have increased.

I have said this often, and I will not stop repeating it.


For those who question that there are 70 large scale coal fired plants in the U.S. even this link at Wikipedia confirms it.

It shows 38 plants in the 1500MW to 2000MW range, and 29 plants greater than 2000MW. The total Nameplate capacity amounts to 140577MW, and when that is divided by those 67 plants the average comes in at 2100MW.