Gas-fired power plants accounted for nearly half of U.S. electricity generating capacity last year, according to a new report from the federal Energy Information Administration.
The percentage of of U.S. electricity mix availabe from gas-fired power totaled 43 percent. The actual portion of generation created in 2019 from natural gas-fired facilities was 39 percent, compared with close to 20 percent or slightly less each for coal-fired, nuclear and renewables (hydro, wind and utility-scale solar combined).
The U.S. consumed a record amount of renewable generation last year at close to the equivalent of 11 quadrillion British thermal units, according to EIA.
Gas, however, is clearly No. 1 and may still be rising, having supplanted once dominant coal-fired power in 2018 as the top generator, capacity wise. Most of the new gas-fired power plants coming online are more adaptive and efficient combined cycle facilities, combining gas-fired turbines with steam turbines utilizing the exhaust used in the first line of generation.
Not only are combined-cycle systems more efficient than steam or combustion turbines alone, the combined-cycle systems installed more recently are more efficient than the combined-cycle units installed more than a decade ago, the EIA report noted. These changes in efficiency have reduced the amount of natural gas needed to produce the same amount of electricity. Combined-cycle generators consume 80 percent of the natural gas used to generate electric power but provide 85 percent of total natural gas-fired electricity.
The federal energy statistics keeper pointed out that every U.S. state, except Vermont and Hawaii, has at least one utility-scale natural gas electric power plant. Texas, Florida, and California—the three states with the most electricity consumption in 2019—each have more than 35 GW of natural gas-fired capacity.
In many states, the majority of this capacity is combined-cycle technology, but 44 percent of New York’s natural gas capacity is steam turbines and 67 percent of Illinois’s natural gas capacity is combustion turbines.
Earlier this month, the EIA reported that U.S. natural gas consumption achieved new record of an average 85 billion cubic feet per day in 2019; 30 billion cubic feet for power generation. And yet that massively growing consumption doesn’t keep up with the other record of more than 90 billion cubic feet of daily production by U.S. dry gas producers, the report added.
Florida alone has added about 16 GW of utility-scale gas-fired generation since 2008.
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