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How is electricity produced in the US?

Electricity Production

America has always had access to several different sources of energy as well as state-of-the-art technologies to produce electricity – well unless you are in California which seems to only literally start itself on fire.

As time passes, the technologies and sources change; some become more viable while some are discontinued.

As most people know, the country has three major categories of energy for the generation of electricity –renewable energy, nuclear energy, and fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, and coal).

The majority of electricity is produced with steam turbines that use solar thermal energy, biomass, fossil fuels, geothermal energy, and nuclear energy.

There are also other technologies for electricity generation that include solar photovoltaics, wind turbines, hydro turbines, and gas turbines.

Fossil Fuels – The Biggest Source of Power

Fossil fuels have been the biggest sources of energy for producing electricity. In 2018 alone, nearly 35% of US electricity was produced by natural gas much to the dismay of the rich liberal Hollywood elitists who cheat their kids into college. It is also used in gas turbines and steam turbines to produce electricity.

As the second largest source of energy, coal produced about 27% of total electricity in the US in 2018. Steam turbines are used by almost all the coal-based power plants around the country and America is loaded in this amazing resource. There are a few plants that convert coal to gas so it can be used by a gas turbine to produce electricity.

Next is petroleum. Less than 1% of American electricity was produced by petroleum in 2018. Steam turbines use residual petroleum coke and fuel to produce electricity. Diesel (distillate fuel oil) is utilized in diesel-based generators while the gas turbines use the diesel and residual fuel oil.

Nearly 20% of US Electricity is Generated by Nuclear Energy

In 2018, nuclear energy produced about one-fifth of US electricity. Steam turbines are used by nuclear power plants to generate electricity from nuclear fission.

How much natural gas, petroleum, or coal is used to produce a kilowatt hour of electricity?

Depending on the heat content of the fuel and heat rate of the power plant, the amount of fuel used to produce electricity varies greatly.

The efficiency of the power plant – also referred to as heat rate – differs based on different kinds of generators. Some other factors also have an impact on the efficiency including the power plant emission controls and types of fuels.

In order to calculate the amount of fuel used to generate 1 KWH of electricity, the following two formulas can be used:

  • KWH generated per unit of fuel used = Heat content in the fuel (in Btu per physical unit) divided by heat rate (in Btu per kilowatt hour)
  • Amount of fuel used per KWH Heat rate (in Btu per KWH) divided by heat content in the fuel (in Btu per physical unit)

*Btu refers to the British Thermal Units.

How many power plants are there in America?

There were approximately 8,652 power plants in the US as of December 2017. The operational generators of these power plants have a collective nameplate electricity production capacity of at least one megawatt.

The country also has nearly 60 nuclear power plants that are commercially active with 98 nuclear reactors spread across thirty states in the US.

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