Americans use more efficient and renewable energy technologies

Oct 24, 2012

(Phys.org)—Americans used less energy in 2011 than in the previous year due mainly to a shift to higher-efficiency energy technologies in the transportation and residential sectors. Meanwhile, less coal was used but more natural gas was consumed according to the most recent energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Wind power saw the biggest jump from .92 quadrillion BTU, or quads, in 2010 up to 1.17 quads in 2011. (BTU or British Thermal Unit is a unit of measurement for energy and is equivalent to about 1.055 kilojoules).

"Wind energy jumped significantly because, as in previous years, many new came online," said A.J. Simon, an LLNL energy systems analyst who develops the flow charts using data provided by the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration. "This is the result of sustained investment in wind power."

Hydroelectricity also saw an increase going from 2.51 quads in 2010 up to 3.17 quads in 2011.

Hydroelectricity jumped significantly in 2011 because 2011 saw large amounts of precipitation in the Western U.S. were able to produce at their maximum levels while keeping reservoirs full. Similar levels of hydroelectric production were seen in 1997, 1998 and 1999 due to wet years.

Overall, U.S. energy use in 2011 equaled 97.3 quads compared to the 98 quads used in 2010. Most of the energy was tied to coal, natural gas and petroleum.

From 2010 to 2011, use of coal fell dramatically, use of oil (petroleum) fell slightly and use of natural gas increased slightly from 24.65 quads in 2010 to 26.9 quads in 2011.

"Sustained low natural gas prices have prompted a shift from coal to gas in the electricity generating sector," Simon said. "Sustained high oil prices have likely driven the decline in oil use over the past 5 years as people choose to drive less and purchase automobiles that get more miles per gallon."

The majority of energy use in 2011 was used for (39.2 quads), followed by transportation, industrial, commercial and residential consumption. However, energy use in the residential, commercial and transportation sectors decreased while industrial energy use increased IF only slightly.

"With the advent of shale gas, it appears that in the United States may REMAIN lower than their historical averages for many years into the future," Simon said. "This has prompted many gas users in the industrial and electricity generating sector to switch from coal or oil to wheN it is technically possible, but might not have been economical at higher ."

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User comments : 27

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nappy
2 / 5 (13) Oct 24, 2012
We used less energy due to a crashed economy. Winid power is an expensive joke. This drivel should not be on a science website.
Lurker2358
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 24, 2012
We used less energy due to a crashed economy. Winid power is an expensive joke. This drivel should not be on a science website.


Why do all the biggest names in physics support Wind power and solar power then?

Over the long term wind power is tens of times as productive per dollar spent as compared to Coal, and it's almost infinitely cleaner and easier to maintain.

If you studied the mathematics of reinvestments of revenues and savings, you'd see how that an energy company could grow it's wind power assets exponentially over human life spans, getting several thousand percent returns per 30 years per initial investment. Even if half of this was paid out as dividends and only half reinvested, the growth rate is beyond the Dow Jones or any other normal stock or mutual fund.

Wind is a far better investment than coal.

People are just too ignorant or too lazy to do the proper calculations to find out why.
El_Nose
4.3 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2012
@lurker

I agree in pricipal, but not in practice.

The issue with wind is that the maintenance on the turbines is very cost prohibative. almost 50% of the inital setup cost is paid again in maintenance in the following ten years.

Solar is a lot better in this regard. However the nay sayers point out that solar power degenerates over time. This is true but so do Coal furnaces. Solar panels will lose about 10% of electricity production over 30 years.

personally I think solar is the way to go, but not as a nation but as a global power generation network. Unfortunately individual countries do have legitimate issues that need to be resolved to make the ambitious goal of a load balanced global power grid a reality.

If North America takes the first step... perhaps Austrailia and India would join. & if they join perhaps the EU will combine and then nothern Africa might come onboard. then you just need the EU region to join the NA region. Then Russia and china would have to join
Lurker2358
2.2 / 5 (6) Oct 24, 2012
El_Nose:

Solar is better in many respects, so I agree with you. I was just disagreeing with the know-nothing above.

Australia is currently in the process of planning and installing enormous solar power grids which will be used to export solar energy to China, as I recall.
christ_jan
4 / 5 (4) Oct 24, 2012
We used less energy due to a crashed economy.


Its a combination of both.
SteveL
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2012
Solar thermal would be a better answer for larger production sites. Energy storage will still be an issue requiring significant investment.
alq131
1 / 5 (5) Oct 24, 2012
Events like these are expensive:
www.youtube.com/w...ndscreen
(windmill disaster search on you tube)
http://www.youtub...e=fvwrel

Lurker2358
4 / 5 (4) Oct 24, 2012
Events like these are expensive:
http://www.youtub...ndscreen


So what?

If this had been a coal fired power plant with a similar "one component" malfunction, the explosion from a fire would have been potentially large enough to make a mushroom cloud, and the secondary fires likely would have burned down the entire neighborhood.

there's accidents and malfunctions in everything.

It's almost an absurdity that you post this as a "con" against wind power, when other turbine based industrial power plants, coal, gas, nuclear, and hydro, have all of the same fundamental components that can fail, not to mention all of them having much larger collateral damage potential and waste by-products.
Frostiken
1 / 5 (1) Oct 24, 2012
I think solar is the 'way to go' in a decade or so when the science improves. Solar cell technology hasn't exactly made the great leaps others have, though there are promising improvements on the horizon. I think investing in solar right now is a waste of money, simply because of the obsolecense factor.

On the plus side, America has a lot of solar potential. Australia is probably in the best situation, with the most open, unused land in proximity to its cities.

I'd still rather see more coal power transition to nuclear, which pound-for-pound is still the safest, cleanest option, though the nuclear alarmists are doing all they can to make sure that doesn't happen.

Can someone tell me what 'rejected energy' is on that graph? Is that wasted energy that's produced but not used?
marble89
1 / 5 (1) Oct 25, 2012
Frostiken:
Rejected Energy is energy losses incurred in order to produce the energy needed for the actual service.
Note how inefficient the transportation sector is compared to the residential,commercial,industrial sectors.
Transportation consumes 27 quads to produce only 6.8 quads of useful energy. Some of this is due to economy of scale ( lots of little engines are generally less efficient that fewer bigger ones)
Note from the graph that a doubling of the efficiency of our transportation sector would save more energy than that produced by all renewables sources combined - today and for many years to come.

VendicarD
not rated yet Oct 25, 2012
How many ningies in a quad BTU?
VendicarD
3 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2012
No, the Republican party is an expensive Joke.

"Winid power is an expensive joke." - nappy

Winid power is something from planet Conservadopia.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Oct 25, 2012
Wind power is cheap on the face value, but expensive in practice because you need a double infrastructure to actually use it in any larger amounts. Wind power needs the coal and natural gas plants just to operate in the grid, insofar as there isn't enough hydro power, or the dams are already full of water and can't adjust to the load.

That said, I've always wondered what's the point of the BTU? It's close to being a kilojoule, but not quite so you can't easily convert between power and energy. Relating gigawatts to quads becomes more difficult than it should be.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Oct 25, 2012
Note from the graph that a doubling of the efficiency of our transportation sector would save more energy than that produced by all renewables sources combined - today and for many years to come.


The average US resident drives 2-3 times more in cars that use 2x the fuel compared to the European counterparts, despite 2/3 of the population living near the coast or in the megacities regions where population densities are equal or higher than in France.

It's not just about efficiency or the structuring of the society, but the fact that gasoline is still so cheap that people drive everywhere, over long distances just for the hell of it, regardless.
El_Nose
not rated yet Oct 25, 2012
@Eikka

That transportation number is going to looks like that in any society that relies on private automobiles. Mainly due to the fact that most of the energy is lost to heat and vibration and so very little is lost to the creation of kinetic energy generation. likewise the creation of RTSC (room temp super conductors) might possibly lead to hyper effecient energy grids where you don;t lose 20% to energy transportation and you don't overproduce as much because you can get energy from other regions as you increase local turbine loads.
marble89
1 / 5 (1) Oct 25, 2012
It would be interesting to see what this graph would look like if/when we convert a significant fraction of transportation to electric vehicles. You can see that if the electricity comes largely from coal fired power plants (efficiency ~33%) it is possible that the savings in petroleum are moot
VendicarD
not rated yet Oct 25, 2012
For clarity a BTU is defined as the amount of heat liberated in the collected sweat from 14.7 draft horses after they pull a wooden cart laden with 126.72 stone up a 14.6 degree hill for a fortnight divided by the width of the British Queen's backside, as measured in units of 12 standard grain widths * 2 standard grain lengths.

"I've always wondered what's the point of the BTU?" - Eikka
Frostiken
1 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2012
For clarity a BTU is defined as the amount of heat liberated in the collected sweat from 14.7 draft horses after they pull a wooden cart laden with 126.72 stone up a 14.6 degree hill for a fortnight divided by the width of the British Queen's backside, as measured in units of 12 standard grain widths * 2 standard grain lengths.

"I've always wondered what's the point of the BTU?" - Eikka


To be fair, that's no more ridiculous than the oh-so-scientific "meter" which is realistically based on equally esoteric grounds.

That's why I measure all distance in lightyears and planck lengths :)
chromosome2
not rated yet Oct 27, 2012
The vast majority of the work to be done is in making devices more efficient. The rise in tablet and phone based computing is great for that. Any device designed to run off a battery is designed, generally, to use very little power for what it does. If people are using phones and tablets instead of laptops and desktops, there's a wattage decrease there.

As always, watch your: transportation, heating, cooling, lighting, and refrigerator. If it's summer time and you're at home alone, turn off your AC and go nude a bit. It won't kill you, and it's free power savings. Might take you what, ten seconds to answer the door? For cutting your energy bill in half.. worth it.
Eikka
not rated yet Oct 27, 2012
To be fair, that's no more ridiculous than the oh-so-scientific "meter" which is realistically based on equally esoteric grounds.


The meter is originally based on the idea of the gradian, which is an angle when the full circle is divided into 400 parts, because it simplifies andd makes the math more intutive. It's still used in surveying.

When you divide the circumference of earth into 400 parts, you get roughly 100 km per grad, so it was then decided that the meter should be defined as 1/10,000,000th of one quarter of a turn around the earth, or more precisely from the north pole to the equator through Paris. That turned out to be a rather convenient figure because it roughly matches the lenght of an average man's stride when walking.

Thrasymachus
5 / 5 (1) Oct 27, 2012
Ever since 1983, the meter has been defined as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458th of a second.
Eikka
not rated yet Oct 27, 2012
Ever since 1983, the meter has been defined as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458th of a second.


1st version was calculated by surveying the curvature of the earth along a meridian.
2nd version was made by casting a metal rod corresponding to the calculated lenght and saying this is it.
3rd version was a modification on the second.
4th version was an interferometric measurement of the third version by comparing it against the wavelenght of a specific source of light.
5th and current version is a further refinement of the fourth through measuring the exact frequency of light, which made it possible to define the exact speed of light.

The actual lenght of the meter has changed slightly over the years due to inaccuracies in converting it from one standard to the next, but it's still within 0.2% of the original starting point, which is quite amazing when you think that it was originally decided upon in 1795.
ODesign
not rated yet Oct 28, 2012
This is good news.
.
Does anyone know the ROI curve for investing in renewables as an aggregate?
.
Also What percent of electric costs on aggregate comes from non-renewable sources vs building the infrastructure?
.
Power companies can adequately make a 30 year investment and do so routinely by issuing bonds or other common financials. As I understand it the reason they still build coal plants and don't decommission coal electric plants is the renewables aren't reliable. They have to build the coal plant anyway to accommodate peak load during cloudy days or when there is not enough rain for the hydro power, etc.

The return on investment for renewable electricity generation goes down dramatically if you factor in the need to simultaneously build coal or other on-demand electric generating plants. what percent of the cost of electricity is the coal and how much is the pro-rated cost of the power generation facility?
Eikka
not rated yet Oct 28, 2012
what percent of the cost of electricity is the coal and how much is the pro-rated cost of the power generation facility?


For wind power, it has been estimated that around 80% of the total produced energy always comes from other sources because of the probability distribution of wind speeds. It's because the peak wind output has to stay below the demand curve since you can't store the energy, but when you do that, you'll find that most of the time you aren't getting very much power out.

It's pretty much the same problem with solar power as well, because you have all the solar panels in one timezone working at full power, and 3-4 hours later the output has dissapeared for the next 18 hours. In Germany for example, the average yearly output is below 10% of the peak output, which makes integration a big and a costly problem.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Oct 31, 2012
3-4 hours later the output has dissapeared for the next 18 hours

BS.
Even in Europe we have 12 hour days. And since night time demand isn't nearly as high as daytime demand that's a non-problem

It's because the peak wind output has to stay below the demand curve since you can't store the energy
BS. Storage is just not as large as it needs to be yet. But building it is not impossible. There's plenty of viable methods out there.

all the solar panels in one timezone

BS. Ever heard of an energy grid? There are such things as an European (or even US) energy grid that span multiple time zones)

You keep rehashing the same debunked idiocies over and over again. I know those 50 cents from the oil industry must add up...but man: don't you just want to puke every time you post lies?
djr
not rated yet Oct 31, 2012
"For wind power, it has been estimated that around 80% of the total produced energy always comes from other sources"

Do you have some sources for this figure Eikka - I think you are off by a significant margin - and perpetuating very poor information. Just read this article to get a look at how much progress is being made with wind technology - and what an exciting option it is as we move forward. http://www.earth-...pdate108
marble89
1 / 5 (1) Nov 02, 2012
Has anyone posting here actually printed out and CLOSELY studied this graph?
Please do so before just rehasing your favorite standard mantra.