Alternative Power Generation – Part II

Alright in our last post we covered most of the familiar alternatives to produce power. Now let’s have a look at some of other ideas out there.

Nuclear Power

Pro – No carbon dioxide emitted directly by the process.

Con – Well beyond the obvious waste storage problem, you also have to worry about having the plant base loaded. Nuclear plants don’t hand grid swings well. Also depending the grid setup the plant may be too big. Case in point, Saskatchewan which sits on huge reserves of uranium ore can’t build one. The smallest nuclear plant size is too big for the grid. Additionally it take about a decade to build a plant.


Pro – Good for cooling and heating which can offset power production, but not replace it. Has potential to work with solar hot water to increase energy savings.

Con – Still requires a backup for most heating applications (in Canada) and difficult to retrofit into an existing home. Also a high capital cost.

Clean Coal

(I should point out this option includes several different technologies such as post combustion which uses an amine or chill ammonia process, the oxyfuel process, or syn gas options. Also don’t confuse these technologies with the rhetoric coming out of US where they are applying the term to plans that only clean up their flue gas of mercury and SO2, but still emit carbon dioxide.)

Pro – You can continue to use a cheap fuel like coal for power generation yet have very little carbon dioxide emissions. The emissions would be stored underground instead.

Con – These technologies have not been tested yet at full scale commercial plant. Additionally the cost to build a first of kind plant would be in the billions with lots of associated technology risks. So either the government gives some significant funding to build the first one of these or they need to provide a higher penalty to emit CO2 since with the current price of $15/tonne won’t cover the cost to build a clean coal plant (they need to be closer to $25 or higher). From the companies view it is cheaper to not build a clean coal plant and pay the $15/tonne. Either way our power bills will be going up in the future.

Ok, that’s the tour of varies technologies. I’ve only hit some of the more major ones briefly, should you have any questions please let me know and I’ll try to answer them.

One thought on “Alternative Power Generation – Part II”

  1. I took a power generation course in my last year of univ. There was an interesting comparison done with regular coal plants and nuclear plants. The regular coal plants spit out just as much radioactive material into the atmosphere (in the form of incombustible radioactive isotopes found in coal). For an equal amount of power generated, nuclear and reg coal plants produce the same amount of radioactive waste. The upside of nuclear is all the waste is solid/liquid and therefore easier to handle.

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