HKNIC - Resource needs
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Resource needs
When we look at the sustainability of an energy resource required for electricity generation, we need to consider its impact on the environment. In other words, how much of a given energy resource we may use, and at what rate, so that the environment will not be adversely affected? We need therefore to consider factors such as:
A 1,000 MW power station will produce typically 7,000 gigawatt-hours each year. The fuel needs of such a power plant are equivalent to:
Resource needs 200 tonnes of natural uranium, converted into 27 tonnes of enriched uranium fuel with a 4% enrichment
Resource needs 2.5 million tonnes of coal
Resource needs 1.6 million tonnes of oil
Resource needs 1.3 billion cubic metres of gas in a combined cycle gas turbine station
Resource needs 8,000 onshore windmills of 20 metre blade diameter, at 0.1MW each and running at full capacity, located at suitably chosen sites such as ridgelines
Resource needs 40,000 onshore windmills of 20 metre blade diameter, at 0.1MW each and running at the typically achievable 20% capacity,
Resource needs 1,600 offshore windmills of 80 metre blade diameter, at 2MW each and running at the typically achievable 25% capacity, covering 300 square kilometres of sea
Resource needs 100 square kilometres of solar panels at 10% load efficiency in a temperate region
Resource needs 50 square kilometres of solar panels at 10% load efficiency in a sub-tropical region
Extracting non-renewable energy raw materials also has an environmental impact:
Resource needs Open cast coal mining will affect the landscape, while underground shaft mines have the potential for subsidence. Ground disturbed by open cast mining can, however, be largely restored by landscaping once the mine is closed
Resource needs Drilling for oil and gas usually produces less disturbance to the landscape, except in the case of heavy oil in shale or natural bitumen where open cast mining is required. The extraction site can be restored after use by decommissioning the facilities and landscaping
Resource needs The extraction of uranium will produce disturbance similar to that of coal mining, although the need for a much smaller quantity of uranium for the same amount of energy implies a much smaller disturbance relative to the quantity of power produced
In comparison, the use of renewable energy to replace conventional generation technologies requires:
Resource needs Construction of dams and reservoirs for hydropower, affecting the environment, ecology, navigation and possibly the displacement of the indigenous population
Resource needs Extensive use of land (and sea) surface for wind and solar at locations where these resources are abundant, sometimes requiring careful balance between harvesting energy and natural preservation
Resource needs Extensive use of biomass often requiring careful balance between harvesting energy and other land use, such as agriculture for food crops and natural preservation
Resource needs Back-up or storage systems to allow for the intermittent nature of supply from wind and solar power, including seasonal, daily and meteorological variations