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Lesson 11. Who's Got Your Power?
Week Three Lessons
11. Who's Got Your Power?

12. Waterworld
13. Think Different
14. Terrestrial Sequestration
Energy consumption by country | Physical Science

Links on this page: Who’s Got Your Power?-Teacher Sheet | Who’s Got Your Power-Teacher Sheet
| Nuclear Energy Fact Sheet | Who’s Got Your Power?-Student Sheet |

National Education Standards Met:

Sciencemath disciplinesocial studies discipline


Materials (for a class of 30):

  • Internet capable computers (If this is not available, you can get information by calling your local utility company. Ask for information on energy sources or power generation)
  • 30 copies of Who’s Got Your Power-Student Sheet
  • 30 copies of your state map
     

Time: 45 minutes

Standards Met: E3, E4, E8, G4, G5, S7, M1, M6

Procedure:
PREP

  • List sites that might provide this information by state
  • Conduct preliminary research on power/electricity sources in your area.  You may be able to obtain a breakdown of energy sources from your local utility company.
  • Gather information on the power plants in your area and/or state.  Check the internet to determine if this is available or call your local utility company.
  • If you have difficulty finding information, see the examples from Colorado and Xcel Energy included on the Who’s Got Your Power-Teacher Sheet.

IN CLASS

  • Begin class in the dark today. If possible, close blinds and turn off lights.
  • Then, ask students if they know where their electricity comes from.  Is it from a coal-fired power plant? Hydro-electric?  Is the plant nearby?  Have this discussion in the dark.
  • Turn on the lights and point out the ease with which the room was supplied electricity.  Where does the power come from?
  • Explain that students will be investigating this today in class.
  • Divide students into groups of three.  Students will work together to research the source of their community’s electricity. 
  • Hand out Who’s Got Your Power-Student Sheet. Review guidelines for investigating and conducting research.
  • Allow students time to conduct research and complete Part One on the student sheet.
  • When groups are finished, discuss findings.  Review percentages of energy source use and ask students to make hypotheses regarding the breakdown of use.  Is it because of the resources that are nearby?
  • Assign groups to a power plant in your area or state to investigate. Remind them to answer the questions in Part Two on the student sheet while gathering information.
  • If you have not obtained printed copies of power plant information, allow students to research using the internet.
  • When each group is finished, ask them to draw the location of the power plant they studied on a master overhead transparency that has a copy of your state map on it. When all groups are finished, use the completed transparency to show the locations of all power plants in the state.
  • Ask student groups to complete a map with all of the plants on it.
  • Discuss reasons why plants might be located in certain areas:  Availability of resources?  Socio-economic situation?  Population density?
  • Turn off the lights again. Ask students to consider the bigger picture when you turn them back on and, if time allows, have a brief discussion.

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Who’s Got Your Power?-Teacher Sheet

Below is a copy of the breakdown of energy sources for a Mountain County west of Denver, Colorado.  You might be able to obtain similar information from your local utility provider.

Who's Got Your Power?

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Who’s Got Your Power-Teacher Sheet


Examples of information on power plants for the state of Colorado.
From:
http://www.xcelenergy.com/XLWEB/CDA/0,2914,1-1-1_1875_4797-3472-2_175_335-0,00.html

 

 

Who's Got Your Power?

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Ames Hydro

Location:
Near historic Ophir, Colorado, in the Illium valley.

Plant Description: Ames is a hydroelectric generating station.

Power Production Capabilities:
The plant has one unit capable of producing 3.75 MW.

Fuel Source: Water from the Trout Fork drainage of the San Miguel River is stored in Trout Lake and additional storage in a high altitude reservoir, Lake Hope. A second diversion provides water from the Howard's Fork of the San Miguel River.

Plant History: The original project was constructed in 1891. The current powerhouse was built and operational in 1906. The plant was part of the acquisition of Colorado Ute properties by Public Service Company of Colorado, a predecessor to Xcel Energy, in 1992.

Interesting Features: Ames Hydro played an important role in the history of electricity. It was the site of the first use of alternating current, (or AC power), generated, transmitted and sold for industrial purposes in the world. L.L. Nunn and George Westinghouse applied the alternating current theories of Nikola Tesla to generate electricity at Ames Hydro and provide power to the Gold King Mine. At the time, the plant was owned by the first electric utility in the country. The project spurred the creation of the first Engineering School dealing with alternating current in Telluride, CO and led to many innovations in electrical generation and lightning protection. The success of the Ames Hydro project made alternating current electricity the type used in our homes and businesses to this day. Two turbines power the generator; each supplied from separate diversions of the San Miguel River.

Environmental Highlights: With water as its only fuel, Ames Hydro has no air, land or water emissions.

Community Involvement: Each year Ames Hydro provides tours to area colleges and local schools. It is a popular destination for historians and historical groups.

Contact Information

  • Plant Information and Tour Requests — 1-800-895-4999
  • Media Inquiries — 303-294-2300
     

Arapahoe Station

Location:
Just south of downtown Denver.

Plant Description: Arapahoe Station is a coal-fired, steam-electric generating station with two operating units.

Power Production Capabilities: 156 megawatts (MW): Unit 3 – 45 MW, and Unit 4 – 111 MW.

Fuel Source: Low-sulfur coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming.

Plant History: Arapahoe Station began operating in 1950 when Unit 1 went into service. It was followed by Units 2 and 3 in 1951, and Unit 4 in 1955. Units 1 and 2 (45 MW each) were retired Jan. 1, 2003, as part of Xcel Energy’s voluntary Denver Metro Emissions Reduction Plan.

Interesting Features: Located in an urban environment, Arapahoe Station is home to a variety of wildlife, including foxes and migrating birds.
The plant also shares its property with several other industrial facilities, making the best use of the available land and electric facilities. Air Liquide, an organization specializing in providing industrial and medical gases, operates a liquid gas processing facility on site. Black Hills Colorado owns and operates two 39 MW natural-gas fired combustion turbines and one 52 MW steam turbine at the site. Xcel Energy purchases the electric output of the Black Hills’ turbines.

Environmental Highlights: Air emissions are controlled on Arapahoe Station's Units 3 and 4 by baghouses. Baghouses act like giant vacuum cleaners, removing particulate emissions from the flue gas by more than 99 percent. Unit 4 also has low-NOx burners that reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by about 40 percent and both units have dry sorbent injection (DSI) that reduces sulfur dioxide by about 20 percent.

Community Involvement: Arapahoe Station helps maintain a rest stop along the South Platte River Bike Trail. The plant also collaborates with local emergency agencies, providing space for mutual training exercises.

Contact Information:

  • Plant Information and Tour Requests - 1-800-895-4999
  • Media Inquiries - 303-294-2300
  • Black Hills Colorado - 847-465-3036




Who's Got Your Power?

http://science.howstuffworks.com/framed.htm?parent=
question481.htm&url=http://www.ucsusa.org/energy/brief.coal.html

How Coal is Burned

In the most common type of coal plant, pulverized coal is blown into the furnace where it burns while airborne. Water flows through tubes that run through the furnace. The water is heated to boiling while under pressure. This pressurized steam blasts through a turbine, which turns a generator to produce electricity. After the steam has passed through the turbine, it is condensed into water and cooled, and sent back into the furnace. This cycle is known to engineers as the Rankine Cycle, and is used in nuclear power plants as well.
When the coal burns, it gives off sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide, among other gases. The sulfur particulates are partly removed with scrubbers or filters. Scrubbers use a wet limestone slurry to absorb sulfur as it passes though. Filters are large cloth bags that catch particles as they go through the cloth. Scrubbers are more common, and can reduce sulfur emissions by up to 90 percent, when working properly. Still, smaller particulates are less likely to be absorbed by the limestone, and can pass out the smokestack into the air.

Another type of coal plant uses "fluidized bed combustion" instead of a standard furnace. A fluidized bed is made up of small particles of ash, limestone and other non-flammable materials, which are partially suspended in an upward flow of hot air. Powderized coal and limestone are blown into the bed at high temperature. They burn in the bed, and the limestone binds with sulfur released from the coal. The heat then boils water in pipes which completes the Rankine Cycle. The advantage of fluidized bed combustion is that sulfur emissions are lower than in standard coal plants. The down side is that the plants are more complex and require more maintenance.

Sulfur control methods like scrubbers, fluidized bed combustors and switching to low-sulfur coal reduced sulfur emissions by 33 percent between 1975 and 1990, even while coal use increased by 50 percent. Nitrogen oxide emissions have stayed pretty much the same over this period. Carbon dioxide emissions, which can't be removed from the plant's exhaust, have risen with coal use however.

Coal provides just over half of the electricity produced in the US.

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The Trouble with Power

The National Academy of Engineers called electrification the greatest invention of the 20th century (www.greatachievements.org). There is a strong correlation between quality of life and the amount of electricity available for consumption per capita. Many countries aspire to a certain quality of life that assumes a certain amount of electricity consumption.

Yet, it is important to understand that while electricity has incredible positive impacts for society, generation of electricity also has negative impacts.

  • For example, while over half of electricity in the U.S. comes from coal-fired power plants, the waste products include sulfur dioxide (SO2), which is the main cause of acid rain, and can damage forests, lakes and buildings; nitrogen oxides (NOx – includes nitrogen monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and nitrous oxide) which are a major cause of smog, and also a cause of acid rain; carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the main man-made greenhouse gas; and heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury, which can cause birth defects, brain damage and other ailments.

  • Roughly 20 percent of electricity is derived from nuclear power, which creates no air pollutants, but with waste that is radioactive for hundreds of years, and while a permanent site for disposal is under construction at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, it is not yet ready to accept spent fuel. Further, transporting nuclear fuel to and from plants poses some risk, although to date, the safety record in the United States has been good.

  • Roughly 16 percent of electricity is derived from natural gas, which creates some of the same pollutants as coal, though at lower levels. However, natural gas must be extracted from wells, like oil. Many people do not want additional wells to be drilled in the Rocky Mountains, or coastal waters, and do not want to import natural gas from foreign countries. This limits the amount of natural gas available for use.

  • Hydroelectric power contributes about 9% of electricity in the U.S. However, no more major rivers can be dammed for hydroelectric use – in fact, many smaller, inefficient dams in the Northeast are currently being dismantled to improve fish passage. Further, in the West, large dams have adversely impacted fish passage for important species, such as salmon.

  • Renewables such as wind and solar power only are only available when the wind blows or the sun shines, so cannot be depended on as a source of constant power. In addition, these sources require large amounts of land compared to the amount of power they create.

Thus, every source has its limits, and it is important to understand that no source is perfect.

The Future of Coal

Coal is abundant in America, and in many countries around the world. The amount of coal that can be mined at a competitive price in the U.S. is currently estimated at about 265 billion short tons. This is evenly divided between low-sulfur coal in the West (100 billion tons), medium-sulfur coal in the West and Appalachia (80 billion) and high-sulfur coal in the Midwest and Appalachia. Underground mining is required for about two-thirds of U.S. coal reserves; the rest can be surface mined.

Annual coal production is projected to remain around 1 billion tons into the next century. At a steady rate of use, our coal won't be depleted for 265 years. At a rate of growth of only two percent per year, however, this depletion occurs after 93 years. At a growth rate of 3 percent, it happens at 73 years.

But while physical supplies of coal may be substantial, and production costs are low, other factors may limit coal use. Pollution controls can remove a significant part of the sulfur and particulate emissions, if properly monitored and maintained. Despite the many innovative coal combustion technologies being developed, the only practical way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal is to get more energy out of each pound of coal -- to increase the efficiency.

The first way to increase the efficiency of turning coal into electricity is to capture the waste heat. "Cogeneration," the generation of heat and power together, is a well-known technology, but is not always applied. One method of cogeneration is to use the waste heat to warm nearby buildings. Such "district heating" systems are common in northern Europe, but are rarely used in the US.

Utilities in New York and Wisconsin are experimenting with ways to burn biomass along with coal in power plants. In New York, fast-growing willow trees are chopped up and mixed with coal; in Wisconsin, switchgrass is being used. Sometimes when biomass is burned alone in a conventional furnace, the temperatures are too low to clean out all the residue, and a slag builds up in the furnace. By burning the biomass with coal, slagging problems are minimized and carbon and sulfur emissions are reduced.

Another technology under development is the coal gasification combustion turbine (CGCT). In this approach, coal is heated until it gives off volatile gases, such as methane, which are burned in a gas turbine. After this hot air passes though a gas turbine, it is used to heat water which drives a steam turbine. This combined cycle is more efficient than steam turbines alone, with efficiencies approaching 50 percent. By gasifying the coal first, emissions are reduced as well. This approach is also being applied to biomass.

An approach with even lower carbon emissions is to run the coal gas through a fuel cell. Fuel cells are battery-like devices that convert hydrogen-rich gases, such as methane, into electricity without combustion. Using pure hydrogen, fuel cells are almost 80 percent efficient. Since gasified coal would contain a number of impurities, notably carbon, the gas would have to be cleaned up significantly. Cost effective cleaning techniques are still under development.

A final approach, still in the research stage, is magnetohydrodynamics, or MHD. With MHD, superheated gases from coal combustion blast through a magnetic field created by superconducting magnets, producing an electric charge as they pass. The gases then power a conventional gas turbine, extracting as much energy as possible from the heat. In this combined-cycle approach, efficiency can get up to 50 or 60 percent. Interest in MHD may be waning though, due to some fundamental technical difficulties. In an MHD plant, gases at 2000 degrees celsius pass through a duct at supersonic speeds, just centimeters away from magnets that must be kept a few degrees above absolute zero (-273 degrees celsius). Since gasified coal run through combined-cycle plants can be nearly as efficient, and offer many fewer engineering problems, MHD is unlikely to be developed commercially.

Despite all of these advanced techniques, it may never be possible to produce energy from coal without carbon emissions. Most of the heat produced from coal is generated from carbon, which provides more than 70 percent of the energy content. Since there is so much coal in the world, and the cost of extracting it is so low, it will take a concerted effort to avoid massive carbon emissions.

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Nuclear Energy Fact Sheet

Who's Got Your Power?

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulates nuclear power plants and the use of nuclear materials in the United States to protect public health and safety and the environment. The NRC issues licenses for the use of nuclear material, and then inspects those users to make sure they follow our rules for safety.

Uranium is a fairly common element on Earth, incorporated into the planet during formation. Uranium is originally formed in stars. Old stars exploded, and the dust from these stars aggregated together to form our planet.

Uranium-235 has an interesting property that makes it useful for both nuclear power production and for nuclear bomb production. U-235 decays naturally by alpha radiation. U-235 also undergoes spontaneous fission a small percentage of the time. However, U-235 is one of the few materials that can undergo induced fission. If a free neutron runs into a U-235 nucleus, the nucleus will absorb the neutron without hesitation, become unstable and split immediately.

The process of capturing the neutron and splitting happens very quickly, on the order of picoseconds (1x10-12 seconds). An incredible amount of energy is released, in the form of heat and gamma radiation, when a single atom splits. The two atoms that result from the fission later release beta radiation and gamma radiation of their own as well.

Something on the order of a million electron volts is released by the decay of one U-235 atom (if you would like to convert that into something useful, consider that 1 eV is equal to 1.602 x 10-12 ergs, 1 x 107 ergs is equal to 1 joule, 1 joule equals 1 watt-second, and 1 BTU equals 1,055 joules). That may not seem like much, but there are a lot of uranium atoms in a pound of uranium. In fact, a pound of highly enriched uranium as used to power a nuclear aircraft carrier is equal to approximately a million gallons of gasoline. When you consider that a pound of uranium is smaller than a baseball, and a million gallons of gasoline would fill a cube 50 feet per side, you can get an idea of the amount of energy available in just a little bit of U-235.

Well-constructed nuclear power plants have an important advantage when it comes to electrical power generation; they produce much less air pollution.


Taken from: http://science.howstuffworks.com/nuclear-power1.htm

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Nuclear Waste Storage

Two types of waste: High-level and Low-level.

High level waste consists of spent - or used - nuclear fuel. This type of fuel is highly radioactive because it contains the fission byproducts that were created while the reactor was operating. Some of these fission products will take many years to decay (called half-life), or lose their radioactivity. A special disposal site is needed for this type of spent fuel, so the Department of Energy is building a high-level waste disposal site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The waste must remain isolated for thousands of years. The NRC must approve and license this site.

Low-level waste can come from nuclear reactors or other users of radioactive material, like hospitals or research institutes. Low-level waste is less hazardous than high-level waste, and can be shipped to disposal facilities where it is packaged, buried in trenches, and covered with soil. States have responsibility for selecting new disposal sites, or using those already existing.

ASK A SCIENTIST! E-mail us at
OPA@NRC.GOV and someone from the NRC will try to help you!
 

Who’s Got Your Power?-Student Sheet


Name: _______________________________  Date:  ______________________

Part One:  Complete the following questions.

Step 1. Go to www.energy.gov

Step 2. Click on the "Offices and Facilities" tab

Step 3. Click on "Power Marketing and Administration"

Step 4.

If you live in the pacific northwest, click on " Boonville"
If you live in the southern US, click on "Southeastern"
If you live in the eestern US, click on "Western"
If you live in the south western US, click on "SouthWestern"

1. What is the name of your local utility company?

 

2. How long has this company been providing electricity to your home? (How long has it been in business?)

 

3. List the sources of energy that the utility company uses to provide electricity. (ex:  coal, nuclear, etc.)

4. Using a pie graph, show the percentages of use for the energy sources that your utility company uses.  Be sure to use a key.

Who's Got Your Power? Who's Got Your Power?

5. Write a hypothesis about the percentage breakdown in your pie graph. Why do you think your utility company uses those energy sources?

 

Part Two:  Power Plant Research
 

  1. What is the name of the power plant you are researching?

     
  2. Where is the power plant located within your state?  List two nearby towns or cities.

     
  3. Mark the location of the power plant on your state map and circle or write the names of two nearby cities/towns.

     
  4. What kind of energy source does your power plant utilize?  (coal, water, nuclear, etc.)

     
  5. What are the power producing capabilities of the power plant? (in Megawatts)

     
  6. Where is the source of the power plant’s fuel?

     
  7. How long has the power plant actively been providing power?

     
  8. List two interesting features of the power plant.

     
  9. Mark the location of the power plant on the overhead transparency with the state map.

     
  10. Why do you think the power plant is located where it is?

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The Keystone Center Keystone, CO Office
1628 Sts. John Road
Keystone, CO 80435
Phone: 970-513-5800
Fax: 970-262-0152
www.keystone.org
Denver, CO Office
1580 Lincoln Street
Suite 1080
Denver, CO 80203
Phone: 303-468-8860
Fax: 303-468-8866
Washington, DC Office
1730 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
Suite 509
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-452-1590
Fax: 202-452-1138

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