Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why Biomass Energy is Important (Part 2) -- CO2 Emissions from Coal Use in Generating Electricity

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has an excellent technical paper explaining why CO2 emissions associated with coal-fired generation are significantly higher than the use of natural gas.

EPRI's comparison basis is called the "carbon intensity" ratio and reflects:

  • The higher carbon content of coal versus natural gas and oil, and
  • The lower energy efficiency of existing coal power plants versus generation technologies that use natural gas (e.g., combined cycle).

  • Fossil Carbon Intensity
    (lb. Carbon/MBTU)

    Many Environmentalists (and apparently Policymakers also) believe that in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that the key is just to develop more solar and wind energy generation resources -- and its just that simple.

    The problem is that in the "Real World", there is more to the story -- based on something called the integrated resource dispatch grid.

    Generally, wind and solar power generating resources are considered either peaking or intermediate units and on the "dispatch grid" will displace natural gas generation resources.

    Generation options such as nuclear, geothermal, and biomass energy resources are typically classified as "base load units" and most often will displace coal units.

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