Natural gas-fired generators provide largest share of electricity

by Paul Gatling (pgatling@nwabj.com) 44 views 

Natural gas-fired generators comprised of 42% of the operating capacity for electricity generation in the United States, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. These generators account for the largest share of overall capacity for power generation in the nation.

Natural gas-fired combined-cycle units provided 53% or 449 gigawatts of the total natural-gas fired capacity in 2016. “Combined-cycle generators have been a popular technology since the 1990s and made up a large share of the capacity added between 2000 and 2005,” according to the EIA. “Under current natural gas and coal market conditions in many regions of the country, combined-cycle generating units are often used as baseload generation, which operate throughout the day.”

Combustion turbines accounted for 28% of total natural gas-fired capacity while steam turbines comprised of 17%. These are typically run only when demand is high. The average of age of natural gas plants is 22 years, less than hydro (64), coal (39) and nuclear (36), according to the EIA.

Every state except for Vermont has at least once natural gas plant. About 38% of generating capacity is in Texas, California, Florida and New York. Natural gas plants produce more than half of the total electricity generating capacity in the previous states and seven others. Texas produces 15% or 69 gigawatts of the total natural gas-fired capacity in the United States and has the most of any state. California and Florida each have about 40 gigawatts of capacity.

In 2016, natural gas surpassed coal to become the leading fuel source for generating electricity. Last year, 34% of all electricity generated in the United States was produced with natural gas. Since 2005, the use of natural gas has increased as a result of its cost-competitiveness with coal.

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