Comparison of power plants
Making a comparison of power plants used to generate electricity involves many factors. In general, the term is used to refer to large scale electric power generation.
Current world electricity generation
In the U.S. 4,055 billion KWh was produced in 2005 from these sources:
*Natural Gas 18.7%
*Other renewables 2.3%
*Other gasses 0.4%
Types of plants
The following types of electric generating plants are considered:
*Biofuel power plants
*Coal-fueled power plants
*Geothermal power plants
*Hydroelectric power plants - 20% of the world's supply of electricity, cheapest source of power
*Natural gas power plants
*Nuclear power plants
*Petroleum-fueled power plants
*Solar power plants
*Wave farms - Recently becoming more popular with new technologies
*Wind farms - Becoming more popular with mass production and scale, becoming more competitive with hydro
Experimental plants are not considered since they are still unproven and being refined.
Nuclear plants require radioactive fuel. Generally, the fuel used is uranium, although other materials may be used. Since 2003, uranium prices have been increasing. In 2005, prices on the world marked averaged 20 a pound (0.454 kg). In April 2007, prices reached US$113 a pound and are expected to increase, at least in the short term.
While the amounts of uranium used are an insignificant fraction of the amounts of coal or oil used in conventional power plants, fuel costs account for about 28 percent of a nuclear plant's operating expenses. The mercury mainly enters the fish when airborne mercury is absorbed by the fish as air dissolves into water.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), coal-fired electric power plants are the largest source of human-caused mercury air emissions in the U.S. These power plants account for about 40% of total U.S. man-made mercury emissions. Other large sources are industrial boilers (about 10% of U.S. mercury emissions), burning hazardous waste (about 5%), and chlorine production (also about 5%).
Safety and security
*cost per kW
*depreciation % per year
*Energy production range
Externalities - include negative and positive externalities. Wind farms, hydroelectricity, and solar panels all have positive externalities of their contribution to overall world wide technological development. For example, wind farms, hydro dams, and solar panels drive down the cost of technologies such as generators, electric motors, and solar panels that people can use at home themselves. Those benefits are not directly stated in the costs and profits of a power plant, but those benefits are real because only by their use positive technologies are being promoted for future benefits. Contribution to dependence on oil and accumulation of radioactive material are negative externalities. Other examples include: contribution to political instability, economical instability, and war. Negative externalities are generally not recorded in the construction and maintenance costs of a plant, but they are real. Other externalities of wind farms include aerospace and fiberglass technologies. Airplane manufacturers could benefit from those technologies if they use some of the same lightweight materials and aerodynamics research.