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NY’s Fleet of Power Plants, First Put in Service

New York's fleet of power plants is a mixture of new and old generating facilities, in general newer then in most states. Our state's oldest fossil generator was put online in 1950, it burns natural gas nowadays. In 2016, several of the coal fired power plants were retired, but as EIA 860 data is lagged by one year, it is not shown on this graph.

Data Source: Energy Information Agency, 2015 EIA-860 Data. Shows total summer megawatts from each generating plant in New York State that was in operable condition in 2015 (e.g. could be started up to generate electricity if needed).

How it Works: Water for Coal

"Coal-fired power plants, which produce almost half of the country’s electricity, have significant impacts on water quantity and quality in the United States. Water is used to extract, wash, and sometimes transport the coal; to cool the steam used to make electricity in the power plant; and to control pollution from the plant. The acts of mining and burning coal, as well as dealing with the waste, also can have major effects on water quality."

An alarm clock or cellphone charger might consume 10 watts on average plugged into the outlet. If that 10 watt device is left in the outlet 24 hours a day for 365 days a year, it will consume approximately 87.5 kWh year.

For the sake of this analysis, let’s assume that we use 100% coal fired electricity, sold a residential home for 15 cents per kWh:

  • $0.15 per kWh (Hudson Valley price)
  • 1.04 lb of coal consumed per kWh (modern coal plant with NOx and SOx controls)
  • 0.35 lb of coal ash produced per kWh (modern coal plant with NOx and SOx controls)
  • 0.7 gallons of water consumed per kWh (modern recirculating water coal plant, water discarded as vapor in cooling tower)

In one year that 10 watt device will use:

  • $13.13 in electricity
  • 91 lb of coal burned
  • 30.6 lb of coal ash landfilled
  • 61.25 gallons of water

NY’s Power Plant Fleet – How Long It Takes to Go from a Cold Start to Full Output

In 2015, New York State's power plants had 40,248.7 MW of output capacity during the summer months. However, power plants aren't like automobiles, they are large industrial machines that can take hours to go from a cold stop to full output.

30% of the state's power plants take more then 12 hours to reach full output after a cold start (base load power), while 37% take 1-12 hours (intermediate load). This reduces the flexibility utilities have to meet demand, but unfortunately many efficient fossil generating technologies are slow to change their output to meet the demands of the grid.

Data Source: 2015 Energy Information Agency, Form 860.

Google World Maps: Percentage Of Energy Comes From Fossil Fuels

This Google World Map looks at the percentage of each country's energy that comes from fossil fuels. Generally more developed economies rely more on fossil fuels then less developed countries.

Data Source: World Bank, World Development Index. Chart 3.6 Energy Production and Use.

Energy data are compiled by the International Energy Agency (IEA). IEA data for economies that are not members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are based on national energy data adjusted to conform to annual questionnaires completed by OECD member governments. Data for combustible renewables and waste are often based on small surveys or other incomplete information and thus give only a broad impression of developments and are not strictly comparable across countries. The IEA reports include country notes that explain some of these differences. All forms of energy - primary energy and primary electricity - are converted into oil equivalents. A notional thermal efficiency of 33 percent is assumed for converting nuclear electricity into oil equivalents and 100 percent efficiency for converting hydroelectric power.

New London School explosion

"The New London School explosion occurred on March 18, 1937, when a natural gas leak caused an explosion, destroying the London School of New London, Texas,[1] a community in Rusk County previously known as "London". The disaster killed more than 295 students and teachers, making it the deadliest school disaster in American history. As of 2014, the event is the third deadliest disaster in the history of Texas, after the 1900 Galveston hurricane, and the 1947 Texas City disaster."

Trump’s Proposed Budget Would Cut Conservation Right Where It’s Needed Most

"A broad coalition committed to safeguarding the future of our country’s fish and wildlife populations, outdoor recreation opportunities, and national heritage is dismayed at the deep level of cuts recommended by President Trump in an official budget request released today."

"If enacted, Trump’s budget proposal would offset a $54-billion boost to defense spending by cutting foreign aid and domestic programs. This includes a proposed 12-percent decrease to the Department of the Interior budget, which is likely to slash resources needed to manage public and private lands, support state management of fish and wildlife, and enact conservation across the country. This would have devastating impacts on the ground for natural resources, historic sites, and the rural American communities that thrive off outdoor recreation and tourism spending."

GISS Land-Ocean Global Means Temperature, 1880-2016

The average land and ocean temperature globally between 1951-1980 was 56.7 degrees fahrenheit. NASA, with it's vast earth monitoring system of satelites and ground based equipment measure temperature around the globe to follow trends over time. They put out GISS numbers monthly and yearly, that look at the difference in temperature between the 1951-1980 average compared to today. Those numbers are widely cited on climate change blogs. While scientifically accurate, their analysis is confusing to the layman who finds it hard to understand negative and positive Celsius numbers of a few degrees.

Most of us know the weather only by Fahrenheit, and rather then use negative numbers and departure from the average, I used actual global temperature averages. In 2016, the global temperature was 58.42 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, in 1960, the global temperature was 56.2 degrees Fahrenheit. While 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit difference in global temperature over 66 years doesn't seem like a lot, it does mean spring comes earlier across the globe, areas freeze up later, and summer days are somewhat hotter. As the oceans are a powerful heat sink, actual global land temperature changes are less then 2.2 degree Fahrenheit difference between now and 1960, but still there is a noticeable increase there too.

Forces like el nino and la nina, and other weather patterns do change global temperatures a bit from year to year. But as carbon dioxide emissions have rapidly increased, so have temperatures. Within the next 20-30 years, it's almost certain global yearly temperatures will exceed 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a big jump from 56.25 degrees Fahrenheit at the turn of the 20th century.

Data Source: Combined Land-Surface Air and Sea-Surface Water Temperature Anomalies (Land-Ocean Temperature Index, LOTI).

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Hits Record Levels

"The CO2 measured at the Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory in Hawaii hit 405.1 parts per million last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced. That’s an increase of 3 parts per million, which matched the record of 3 parts per million in 2015. It marks five consecutive years of CO2 increases of at least 2 parts per million, an unprecedented rate of growth, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist at NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network."

“The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last ice age,” Tans said. “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”

"The number is significant because the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million from about 10,000 years ago until the start of the Industrial Revolution. The monthly global average nosed above 400 parts per million for the first time in March 2015 and is now increasing at a faster pace, according to NOAA researchers. What’s more, carbon emissions stay in the atmosphere for years, so even as some emissions have been reduced in recent years, the global average level continues to climb. In 1960, they were about 300 parts per million, suggesting a precipitous climb in a relatively short period of time since then."

Carbon Dioxide Is Rising at Record Rates

"Last year marked a milestone, with levels passing the 400 ppm mark permanently. This year scientists expect carbon dioxide to briefly reach 410 ppm this spring before the seasonal cycle of northern plant growth brings it back down a bit, continuing the ever-rising seesaw."

"The rapid rise of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has caused the planet to warm roughly 1.8°F since the start of the Industrial Revolution. The world has had back-to-back-to-back hottest years on record since 2014. The corresponding heat has also caused glaciers to melt, seas to rise and altered atmospheric circulation patterns around the globe."