Massive electic generator plants emit much less pollution per amount of electricity generated as comapred to the much smaller electric generators which institutions have for back-up. During periods of heavy demand for electricity utilities which lack sufficient electric generation capacity incentivize customers to activate their own back-up generators and the result is much higher levels of air pollution.
Power plants built since 1970 are subject to stringent pollution controls. But rules for backup generators are far less strict, and, in most cases, there are no pollution restrictions for diesel generators not used more than 500 hours a year. The Pataki administration proposed new pollution rules several years ago, but they have not been put into effect.
Studies have shown that for each watt of power output, diesel generators produce up to 20 times as much particulate pollution, or soot, as the most advanced, natural gas-fired power plants, and up to 200 times as much nitrogen oxides, precursors to ozone, or smog. They even emit several times as much pollutants per watt of power output as the average power plants that burn oil or coal.
“This is pretty much the dirtiest source of electricity you can find,” said Peter Iwanowicz, director of environmental health for the American Lung Association of New York State.
A given quantity of fossil fuel will produce less pollution when burned if it is burned in a massive electric generator plant. This makes intuitive sense. The electric utilities can afford to hire full-time engineering staffs to make their combustion chambers burn efficiently and to make sure their scrubbers work well. Smaller diesel burning generators aren't as optimized or as regulated.
There's a lesson here: Regional opposition to big new electric power plants leads to the proliferation and usage of smaller fossil fuel burning electric power generators. So the opposition to electric power plants leads to dirtier air, not cleaner air.
Local generation of electric power is appealing if it is done in non-polluting ways. But use of fossil fuels for local electric generation is both much more polluting and more costly.
Micro wind turbines and photovoltaics provide very clean locally generated electricity. But these sources cost much more and also aren't available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. An acceleration in the development technologies to lower the cost of cleaner energy sources could bring us a cleaner environment and lower costs at the same time.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2006 August 26 10:25 AM Energy Electric Generators|