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Renewables Overtake Coal As World's Largest Source of Power Capacity (ft.com) 340

The world's largest source of power capacity is now renewables, as roughly half a million solar panels were installed every single day last year. In addition, two wind turbines were erected every hour in countries such as China, according to the International Energy Agency. Financial Times reports (Editor's note: may be paywalled; alternate source): Although coal and other fossil fuels remain the largest source of electricity generation, many conventional power utilities and energy groups have been confounded by the speed at which renewables have grown and the rapid drop in costs for the technologies. Average global generation costs for new onshore wind farms fell by an estimated 30 percent between 2010 and 2015 while those for big solar panel plants fell by an even steeper two-thirds, an IEA report published on Tuesday showed. The Paris-based agency thinks costs are likely to fall even further over the next five years, by 15 percent on average for wind and by a quarter for solar power. It said an unprecedented 153 gigawatts of green electricity was installed last year, mostly wind and solar projects, which has more than the total power capacity in Canada. It was also more than the amount of conventional fossil fuel or nuclear power added in 2015, leading renewables to surpass coal's cumulative share of global power capacity -- though not electricity generation. A power plant's capacity is the maximum amount of electricity it can potentially produce. The amount of energy a plant actually generates varies according to how long it produces power over a period of time. Coal power plants supplied close to 39 percent of the world's power in 2015, while renewables, including old hydropower dams, accounted for 23 percent, IEA data show. But the agency expects renewables' share of power generation to rise to 28 percent by 2021, when it predicts they will supply the equivalent of all the electricity generated today in the U.S. and E.U. combined.
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Renewables Overtake Coal As World's Largest Source of Power Capacity

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  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2016 @11:35PM (#53151743)
    So, is it time to go back to all the nay sayers who have over the past 10 years asserted this point was impossible, and say "I told you so"? Or will they just continue to assert that the numbers are all lies, and only coal can make electricity?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      "capacity"? You mean if the sun was shining on every single solar panel in the world then it hypothetically would generate as much electricity as coal actually produces. Seriously.

      • by Bongo ( 13261 )

        And while this might sound doubly cynical, that's capacity today. What will their capacity be later on, after wear and tear?

        • Why don't you simply go look? "Wear and tear" profiles on solar panels are widely available. Same with wind turbines.

      • "capacity"? You mean if the sun was shining on every single solar panel in the world

        Even on a mostly cloudy day my solar panels produce about a quarter(1/4) of their normal output. Enough to run the house loads (frig, freezer, PC, lights, tv, etc).

        I cut household electricity CO2 footprint by another metric ton this year. Soon.my PV will be on a solar tracker, that should reduce non-food related CO2 footprint to near zero.. I will be the first person in my republican dominated city to achieve a near zero carbon footprint house. Someone's got to break the mold, and leave FF behind, I hop

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2016 @12:30AM (#53151935)
      Maybe when renewables actually PRODUCE as much power as coal, that might be a better day to beat your chest.
    • by arglebargle_xiv ( 2212710 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2016 @02:00AM (#53152203)

      The headline is wrong, as usual. In fact even reading the summary shows you it can't be right:

      Coal power plants supplied close to 39 percent of the world's power in 2015, while renewables, including old hydropower dams, accounted for 23 percent, IEA data show

      So renewables are around half of what coal is. If you look at the original article, even just the sub-header, you'll see that:

      153 GigaWatts of renewables make up over half the new capacity added globally.

      That's "new capacity added so far this year", not "total capacity" as the headline here claims.

    • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

      Power capacity doesn't mean much for wind/solar. That's just the sum of the peak power outputs when the sun is high and the wind blows just right. There is no way we can turn up the sun to meet demand.
      Compare it to fossil fuel plants or dams where the capacity factor can be controlled to some extent by choosing to burn more or less fuel or by managing the water reservoir level.

      We need to compare compare energy (not power) output to get a meaningful result, and this is where the new problem for solar/wind li

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      no no no no.
      get with the program.
      now its "only nukes can make all the electricity".

    • Eh... Not so good in the long run. Frankly, I would drop wind altogether. Expensive, with a short lifetime, wildly unpredictable and also eyesores. Solar looks pretty good, with a 20 year + lifetime. A sane renewable policy has to be based on primarily nuclear and hydro, both high yield and with infrastructure lifetimes of over 75 years, even though they have a slightly higher initial cost for construction.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2016 @11:35PM (#53151745) Journal

    ... they overtake coal for amount generated per unit time.

    Renewables may have higher total peak, but coal plants have level output and can run 24/7, while sun is only about a third of the day and wind varies with the weather - at a power output proportional to the CUBE of the windspeed.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Doesn't matter.
      The peaks are huge and we need to cover them.

      Plus who ever said we need to get rid of base load completely? That's a very stupid argument and you should be ashamed of yourself for putting up such idiocy to deliberately mislead.
      • Doesn't matter.
        The peaks are huge and we need to cover them.

        Plus who ever said we need to get rid of base load completely? That's a very stupid argument and you should be ashamed of yourself for putting up such idiocy to deliberately mislead.

        As long as all the base load is nuclear and we aren't digging carbon out of the ground and burning it, we'll be ok.

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          Monocultures suck even with nuclear.
          A few years back the French had to take all their nuclear generating plants offline for a few weeks to fix a fault that they all had in common. Exactly the same thing could have happened with coal fired or gas fired plants of the similar age to each other, so it's not a problem with nuclear itself it's just to point out that there is no "one true energy", and all eggs in one basket only helps the seller not the consumer.

          If you have a weapons program you can shift some o
          • My issue is with digging carbon out of the ground and burning it.

            As for the constipation, no, it doesn't work like that. It is time for a new sig though. That one is ancient.

    • ... they overtake coal for amount generated per unit time.

      Renewables may have higher total peak, but coal plants have level output and can run 24/7, while sun is only about a third of the day and wind varies with the weather - at a power output proportional to the CUBE of the windspeed.

      There are some issues there, perhaps you don't know about them. A turbine generator hates a widely varying load, and designing one for peak power is uneconomical. So many power generation facilities have a method of evening out the load. At night time, when the demand load tends to be much lower, they pump water into reservoirs to be released during the daytime when demand is much higher, running other generators. There is not one reason that a method used for a proper coal fired plant cannot be used for th

    • by burni2 ( 1643061 )

      "at a power output proportional to the CUBE of the windspeed"

      Basically true, but in respect to modern wind turbines its a bit off(1) due to pitch control.

      This does not take into account that you can pitch the blade angle out of the wind when reaching the nominal windspeed of the turbine (which every pitch controlled turbine does). Meaning when the nominal wind speed has been reached the power output will remain mostly steady.

      Todays turbine development is going into the direction of increased rotorsize(look

  • Hydroelectric (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 25, 2016 @11:52PM (#53151809)

    Do we know how much of the produced renewable energy is from hydroelectric stations (water dams)? I would suspect that it's still more than 70%.
    The article mentions mostly wind and solar power, perhaps they're the main growth factory.

    By the way, do they count burning wood as renewable energy? Renewable and green should not be confused.

  • Coal's not cheap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2016 @12:17AM (#53151891)
    when you can't externalize [google.com] the environmental costs.
  • ... Title is wrong (Score:4, Informative)

    by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2016 @01:17AM (#53152071)

    Its not saying renewables produce more power but that more renewable capacity was added this year than non-renewable capacity. But the bulk of capacity remains non-renewable.

    It said right here:
    ""
    But the agency expects renewablesâ(TM) share of power generation to rise to 28 per cent by 2021, when it predicts they will supply the equivalent of all the electricity generated today in the US and EU combined.
    ""
    So by 2021, they hope it will be up to 28 percent of total capacity. Thus... no, renewables are not the majority of power generation and the title is wrong.

  • Renewables Overtake Coal As World's Largest Source of Power Capacity

    Although coal and other fossil fuels remain the largest source of electricity generation

    So, renewables are the largest source of power... except for the fact that coal and fossil fuels are the largest source of electricity generation? WTH? Is there a difference between power capacity and electricity generation?

    • It's OK, the headline is wrong, see the other replies that have pointed this out.

      Positive side: You've demonstrated reading comprehension, which is better than the editors here have done.

  • by burni2 ( 1643061 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2016 @04:36AM (#53152583)

    The U.S. were once pioneers of wind power(4) in size not only in space but in wind turbines (you might think that the danes were the only pioneers?).

    You need to take a look at the good old west. Water pumps powered by wind turbines. Offgrid farms getting their first electricity from wind turbines.

    Wind power plants are indeed smaller production unit than a big coal or even a nuclear power plant, that needed to be manufactured as well as their parts (also done in the US). While manufacturing solar panels got outsourced like chip manufacturing.

    Meaning! you can employ more people with wind power than with coal power, coal power and nuclear power destroys much more jobs that it generates!

    It is different with wind turbines, they need good old american craftsmanship to build a solid turbine that sustains harsh conditions.

    Some american wind power history:

    1941
    American visionary Palmer Putnam built a 1.25 Megawatt! turbine(1) in 1941.

    Indeed after some time it threw a blade. But before that it produced more energy and ran longer than the german multi million dollar 1980s disaster called Growian.

    Whiners fall down and never try again. Pioneers stand up shake the dust off, don't mind their bruises and climb that horse again, and again till they succeed.

    1982-1988
    MOD-2 a 2.5 Megawatt turbine with 91m (~275 ft.) diameter rotor. (2) and so on ..

    Pioneers can and will fail, but as Kennedy said, that you don't go to the moon because its easy, but because its hard! And generating power from wind is hard but in the recent 30 years we got quite a good understanding how to do it and how to size up the turbines!

    Can you feel the changing wind right now? Do you got faith of the heart or fraid of the trump? (3)

    This is what made america great, having faith of the heart and this is what can make america great again.

    (1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    (2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    (3) https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
    (4) https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • The hell? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I saw the title of this submission, and it immediately set off my bullshit detector.

    The thing you need to recognise is just how much energy we get from fossil fuels. It's insane. We use 2% of our natural gas production to produce ammonia, for example, but to do the same thing using renewables would take 30% of the world's entire renewable and nuclear power capacity. Then there's steel production. Then there's concrete production.

    The only way this submission is accurate is if you define your terms in such a

    • Yes, it is a total Bullshit headline.

      The capacity of new renewable installations, overtook the capacity of new coal power stations and since nobody is building any new coal power stations, someone could cook up a headline.

  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2016 @10:02AM (#53154065)

    How many carbon based power plants were taken off-line and replaced by renewable generation capacity last year?

    After much research, I haven't found a single instance of that happening - ever.

    Have renewables caused a moratorium on all new carbon based power plants? I don't think so. Asia (as of last year) was opening more than one coal power plant PER DAY:

    http://climatechangedispatch.c... [climatecha...spatch.com]

    Renewables have two mathematically inescapable problems:

    1. Renewable's land requirements per kWh are far too high.
    2. Renewable's storage requirements to meet base load demand simply do not exist - presumably because storage costs are also very high.

    I ran the numbers on a very small 2kW self-installed system - it would take me over 10 years in a best case scenario to recoup the costs at current utility rates.

    Until renewables become far cheaper, generate more kWh per square-foot, and solve the storage problem - they will never reduce or replace carbon based generation.

  • Cheap natural gas, made possible by tracking.

  • The title is correct, but then we have to define "renewables". It includes solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric.

    With that in mind, know that wind and solar, the big newer, flashier energy sources in the media, are not the major sources of renewable energy. Hydroelectric (falling water) accounts for over 70% of renewable energy. Wind is at 15%. Solar is at 4%.

    Percentage-wise, solar and wind have grown very quickly, but in the grand scheme of total energy production, wind and solar are still sma

Some programming languages manage to absorb change, but withstand progress. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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