Energy Carbon Footprint - Renewable,
Alternative And Conventional Energy

The actual energy carbon footprint for each method of power generation is important to know for effective planning of future power supply.

And the figures for an energy generation carbon footprint is likely to stun some advocates of various alternative energy sources.

It is interesting to see claims out there about sources such as solar energy claiming no carbon dioxide equivalent impact on the environment.

But the impact of solar energy is not small. Or at least from photovoltaics.

Sure it is much less than oil and coal technologies. But it is not the cleanest alternative energy source by a long way.

Following is a table resulting from some studies on effective carbon equivalents generation. It comes from several sources although the main one was a University of Sydney, Australia study undertaken in relation to nuclear energy.

Carbon Footprint For Various Energy Generations (grams CO2 Equivalent/kWh)
Energy Source Sub Type Generation Method Carbon Equivalent Carbon Range
Coal Black PF Fuel 941 843-1171
Supercritical 863 774-1046
Brown 1,175 1011-1506
General 955
Oil 893
Natural Gas 599
Turbine Open Cycle 751 627-891
Combined Cycle 577 491-655
Geothermal Power Closed/low 0-1
Open/high 91-122
Nuclear Power Light Water 60
Heavy Water 65
Hydroelectric 15 6.5-44
Concentrated Solar Power 40 25-55
Photovoltaic 106 53-217
Windpower 21 13-40
Biodiesel Waste Grease 125
Soy 383
Carbon Footprint For Various Energy Generations (grams CO2 Equivalent/kWh)
Energy Source Sub Type Generation Method Carbon Equivalent Carbon Range
Coal Black PF Fuel 941 843-1171
Supercritical 863 774-1046
Brown 1,175 1011-1506
General 955
Oil 893
Natural Gas 599
Turbine Open Cycle 751 627-891
Combined Cycle 577 491-655
Geothermal Power Closed/low 0-1
Open/high 91-122
Nuclear Power Light Water 60
Heavy Water 65
Hydroelectric 15 6.5-44
Concentrated Solar Power 40 25-55
Photovoltaic 106 53-217
Windpower 21 13-40
Biodiesel Waste Grease 125
Soy 383

Of interest are figures for some renewable energies with their CO2 equivalents energy generation. This incorporates the whole process of producing the energy including that of building the units for power production.

Graphical comparison for Alternative Fuels Compared to Gasoline - from US DOE sources

Graph Comparing Carbon Footprint of Gasoline to other Alternative Energy Sources from NETL part of US DOE through FPC

The calculations are standard across industries throughout the world.

Biofuel from Soybean origin - iStockPhoto

Of interest in relation to this are studies done on actual carbon equivalents production compared to what is calculated as being produced.

Measurements at sites can vary considerably from published expectations. Why there is such a difference is obviously important to ensure we are dealing with reality - especially in future planning and requirements.

Even an alternative energy carbon footprint is worth knowing about in evaluating what would be our best sources for the future.


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