Unit 2: Choose Your Power Plant - The Line-Up
With a bit of background about the electric grid, let’s examine types of power plants that industries and utilities currently use to generate electricity. This is only an overview – if you’re interested, there is a lot of complex science and engineering behind power generation and many career options. A few important factors that are applicable to all types of electricity generation are:
- Upfront Costs – This is the cost of construction, manufacturing, transport, licensing, engineering know-how, governmental approvals, among other things, that forms the initial costs of an electricity generation project.
- Fuel Costs – These costs relate to the ongoing costs of producing electricity based on the cost of fuel.
- Flexibility – This factor relates to how easily the electrical output of the facility can be changed to meet changes in demand. This category includes how easily or how long it takes to start the facility from a full stop, how long it takes to adjust the output once powered up, and how long it takes to stop the facility once started. The
- Capacity Factor - how much electricity a power plant actually produces in a year compared to what it could produce running at maximum power over the same time period, is a very useful measure for electric grid planning.
- Environmental Impact – CO2 emissions, other pollutants, warming of rivers/oceans because of cooling water uses, and waste/waste-water generation.
Below, we’ve laid out various forms of electricity generation for comparison. Information is provided according to each category described above, as well as other relevant material. If you want more information about a specific technology, we’ve developed an in-depth series on Electricity Generation, which are available on The Gaia Project website at http://thegaiaproject.ca/energy/generation/. Furthermore, we have developed a video series on how electricity is generated in NB focusing on wind, water, coal and nuclear fission available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/thegaiaprojectcanada
Another high-level resource that is very informative on renewable energy is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) document on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/report/IPCC_SRREN_Full_Report.pdf).