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Power United States News Science Technology

Renewable Energy Shows Strong Gain In U.S. (arstechnica.com) 285

WheezyJoe writes: According to the US Energy Information Administration, solar, wind, and gas dominate new US generating capacity in 2016. This year is notable because it will see the first new nuclear plant brought online in 20 years, contributing 1.1 GigaWatts to the grid. But that contribution will be dwarfed by renewable power sources, which together account for nearly two-thirds of 2016's new capacity. Part of the boom in renewables came because the tax incentives for their installation were in danger of expiring, so utilities rushed to get projects through the pipeline ahead of the end of the year. 9.5GW of capacity is expected to come online from solar -- more than the past three years combined. Another 6.8GW is expected from planned additions of wind power, largely spread across the Great Plains. Of new fossil fuel plants, the vast majority are going to be burning natural gas; there are no planned additions of coal plants.
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Renewable Energy Shows Strong Gain In U.S.

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  • Of new fossil fuel plants, the vast majority are going to be burning natural gas; there are no planned additions of coal plants.

    Sure, natural gas produces less CO2 than coal, but doesn't it have smaller reserves? Also, I think natural gas is more useful.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "natural gas produces less CO2 than coal" It's more than that, coal also produces ash that ends up warming the snow it lands on by absorbing sunlight. Re: arctic.

    • Re:Why gas? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by skids ( 119237 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2016 @10:09PM (#51619357) Homepage

      The principle advantage I have seen claimed for natural gas other than the lower carbon content is that the generators used for natural gas in electricity production can be quickly ramped up and down to adapt to demand. A possible marginal benefit is that infrastructure for natural gas distribution in heating could also start mixing in biogas, perhaps even replacing it completely with a renewable. Also it is probably easier to get a PEM fuel cell to work on it.

      • A possible marginal benefit is that infrastructure for natural gas distribution in heating could also start mixing in biogas, perhaps even replacing it completely with a renewable.

        Pretty sure coal suppliers could also start mixing in simple solid biomass, too. Charcoal, in particular, comes to mind. So that's decidedly NOT an advantage of natural gas over coal.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        Exactly, which is why it was going used back when it was expensive. I've seen old jet engines that consume vast amounts of gas per MWh used in that role before there was much in the way of purpose built generators. Spinning reserves of windmills also fill that role and have a smaller unit size so can better follow demand so gas is no longer the only thing in that niche. It costs almost nothing per hour to have a windmill ready to engage the generator and come on line in under a minute.
  • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2016 @09:56PM (#51619319)

    Oh, so close. Just 110 megawatts short, Doc.

  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2016 @10:13PM (#51619371) Journal

    TFA tells us that in 2016, 18.1GW (9.5GW of solar and 8.6GW of wind) renewable energy is expected to come online in America

    Very good

    On the other hand ...

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/... [bloomberg.com]

    According to bloomberg's article

    ... China to add more than 20 gigawatts of wind power in 2016

    China eyes at least 15 gigawatts of solar power additions ...

    ... in the same year, China gonna have at least35GW of new renewable energy coming online

    We could do better

    In fact, we should do better

    • by skids ( 119237 )

      China has 4 times as many people.

      But yes, we can do better. Especially if we can get the obstructionists to step down.

    • Not to mention there is quite a bit more capacity already existing than what is added [eia.gov]. This addition is a few percent of the total out there... Also interesting to see natural gas lumped in with solar and wind...
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      We should be selling them the panels and the rest since most of it is American developed technology but ideology driven by donation drove the manufacturing offshore.
  • Not really dwarfed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2016 @10:39PM (#51619505)

    This year is notable because it will see the first new nuclear plant brought online in 20 years, contributing 1.1 GigaWatts to the grid. But that contribution will be dwarfed by renewable power sources

    Not really dwarfed.

    1.1 GW * 0.903 capacity factor [wikipedia.org] = 0.99 GW actual production by nuclear
    9.5 GW * 0.145 capacity factor = 1.38 GW actual production by solar
    6.8 GW * 0.25 capacity factor = 1.7 GW actual production by wind

    I mean we get it, renewables = good. But comparing based on installed capacity is like comparing farmland based solely on land area, not how much of that land is actually arable.

    • by skids ( 119237 )

      I used to wish journalist wouldn't do this, and use the "enough to power X homes" energy measure, on principle (choosing that energy measure because it is easy enough for journalists to understand.) Now I wish they wouldn't do it just because of the number of replies it generates on Internet threads to point out the error.

    • Readers should note that nuclear decay means you want to use those fuel rods as much as possible so nukes are not something you turn off and use to cover only peak loads.

      The above poster should be ashamed of their idealogical driven apples vs oranges comparison. This is supposed to be a tech site and not a political cheerleading site.
    • Except for how you improperly applied capacity factor to power (GW) rather than energy (GWh), you're basically right.

      For your next assignment, though. consider the time of day the power is generated with the time of day the power is used. For example, it's all fine and good that a nuclear plant can produce 1.1GW with 90% uptime, but you generally don't need 1.1GW all the time anyway. The result is your nuclear plant spends a lot of time very under-utilized - a bad thing considering how expensive they are.

      On

    • Perhaps you like to explain to us what you actually want to express with that comparision of CFs?
      Right now your post is as pointless as pointing out that Toyota mostly sold red cars and Crysler mainly black ones, so what?

  • by sims 2 ( 994794 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2016 @10:41PM (#51619517)

    They are talking about the Watts Bar Unit 2

    They started building it back in 1973 then took a short lunch break in 1988 resumed work in 2007 and finished in 2015.

    Since it was 80% done in 1988 that means at least 80% of the reactor unit is at least 27 years old now.

    http://thebulletin.org/watts-b... [thebulletin.org]

    http://www.latimes.com/busines... [latimes.com]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    Still nice to see another plant online shame took 42 years to finish it especially since it was only given a 40 year operating licence.

    • Still nice to see another plant online shame took 42 years to finish it especially since it was only given a 40 year operating licence.

      This is a misleading statement. From the wikipedia article you linked:

      TVA declared construction substantially complete in August 2015 and requested that NRC staff proceed with the final licensing review; on October 22, the NRC approved a forty-year operating license for Unit 2...

      So the license wasn't issued 42 years ago. Also, while 80% of the plant may have been complete in 1988, it was likely parts of the construction that don't factor into the lifetime of the reactor.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      The good thing is since it's never got hot it's effectively new for everything out of the weather.
      The other thing is the "new" nuclear designs like the AP1000 are really 1970s tech anyway.
    • Does that mean its magical CF is only roughly 1%??

  • Great.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by the_Bionic_lemming ( 446569 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2016 @11:00PM (#51619579)

    I pass by a wind turbine on the way to work and it's been down for about six months now. It's Chinese built and the township can't get a part from the firm that built it.

    They have received an offer to purchase the site. And no, Enron isn't the company that offered to purchase it.

    • I hope you're not implying that, because of this one data point, wind turbines aren't a viable form of energy production. The lesson I'd tend to take home is that, as with anything else, buying junk from the lowest bidder may end up costing you more in the long run.

      Yeesh, what's the world coming to when a Republican is defending green / alternative energy production?

  • If my reading and math are good, this year will add 17.4 gigawatts of solar, wind, or nuclear. That's good, and it's also good that there will be no new coal plants this year. However, Wikipedia says that the United States uses 4 petawatt-hours of electricity per year. So I imagine we have a long way to go.

  • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2016 @02:56AM (#51620199)

    This year is notable because it will see the first new nuclear plant brought online in 20 years, contributing 1.1 GigaWatts to the grid

    How is THAT supposed to get us excited.... it's not even enough to power a single time-traveling DeLorean.

  • I for one welcome our new clean energy overlords...

  • This year is notable because it will see the first new nuclear plant brought online in 20 years, contributing 1.1 GigaWatts to the grid.

    That's a missed marketing opportunity. They could probably have doubled support for nuclear power in this country overnight if they could have made it to 1.21 gigawatts instead.

The decision doesn't have to be logical; it was unanimous.

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