Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Energy Emissions Comparisons: Renewables vs Coal

No energy has zero emissions but clearly some sources of energy are better than others.  To help identify power sources that have the lowest energy requirements the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released an analysis that lets users compare, contrast and better understand what a lifespan of emissions means for project permitting, environmental impacts and future policy. Here are the lifetime carbon emissions of a clean source of energy compared with fossil fuels.
According to the NREL research greenhouse gas emissions over the life of a solar and wind projects are about 5 percent of those of a coal plant. One of the findings that might surprise some who are against nuclear energy is the fact that nuclear power rates about as well as renewable energy;

To get to these numbers, the researchers at NREL applied their modeling to more than 2,000 studies across energy technologies like bio, solar, geothermal, hydropower, ocean energy, wind, nuclear, natural gas and coal. Then they set up a database that allows viewers to compare the differences between, say, concentrated solar power trough installations and emerging ocean wave technology.

According to this research coal has 1,001 grams of carbon dioxide emitted per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated. PV generates about 45 grams of carbon dioxide emitted per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated and wind energy has a range of 3 to 45 grams with a median 11 grams. Nuclear had a very large harmonized range of 4 to 110 grams, with a median of 12.

“As a society, we need to better understand what the effects of our energy choices are. Greenhouse gases and climate change are a part of the discussion. As we try to envision what our future energy system will look like, we need an accurate picture of what that transition will mean,” said Garvin Heath, a scientist with NREL and a leader of the project. “This methodology allows you to arrive at a better precision, so you can say with more certainty that this is the benefit you get from using this technology rather than that technology.”

To go to the LCA Harmonization app click here

© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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