Energy | Renewable energy | Ecotrope

Energy trade-offs: Why we're still burning coal

Ecotrope | Nov. 30, 2010 5:06 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:44 p.m.

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The Electric Power Research Institute has published this reference card to illustrate the trade-offs associated with various electricity generation technologies – wind, solar, hydro, coal, geothermal, biomass, natural gas and nuclear. It shows their relative benefits or impacts in terms of construction costs, electricity costs, land-use, waste products, availability and flexibility. Looks like hydro, geothermal and natural gas come out on top with the most favorable marks.

Look how many wind turbines and solar photovoltaic installations it takes to equal the amount of electricity produced by a nuclear or coal-fired power plant 2,000 to one and two, respectively). This may help explain why 46 percent of our power still comes from coal. Also, note the trade-offs in the number of days per year each power source typically operates (69 for solar?):

EPRI Reference Card

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