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How to power a city of 100.000 people using only renewable energy

The house of the future will produce and store its own energy.

The house of the future will produce and store its own energy.

A city of 100,000 residents is not a big city, is actually quite a tiny one, so we don’t need a large amount of energy to power all the households, the administrative buildings, and all the companies headquartered there.

Usually, when we talk about powering a city of 100,000 residents, we talk about the number of households in the city that need to be powered.

A city of 100,000 people contains about 50,000 households, and knowing that the average U.S. household consumes about 1,000 kWh (1 MWh) each month, and 12 MWh per year, we understand that to cover such a demand of energy we need to produce at least 600,000 MWh of clean energy each year.

To produce 600,000 MWh of energy per year using only renewable energy sources, we need to use a diversified source of renewables.

Our portfolio would include green resources like hydro, bio, wind and solar.

A power station that burns biomass to produce energy, usually consumes about 75 tons of biomass per hour to generate about 50 MW of energy.

During the year, the power station will burn about 400,000 tons of biomass (wood chips) to produce about 265,000 MW of energy.

Burning wood chips require a large amount of wood every year, and we know that burning wood generates smoke, something similar to burning fossil fuels like coal and oil.

So, why biomass is considered a renewable energy source? the answer is simple, trees regrow, the wood that is used for wood chips is sustainable harvested, foresters will selectively harvest the trees to protect the birds and other habitats, and they usually take only the tops and the limbs of the trees to grind them into wood chips.

Replanting the trees is also done by the foresters, and the forest is let to replant its own new trees by itself.

If the trees are selectively harvested and the forest is replanted, the wood resource will remain available for generations to come.

265,000 MW of clean power represents only 44% of the energy demand of the city, so let’s see which are the other clean energy sources that we can use to cover the entire energy demand only from renewable energy sources.

The difference of 335,000 MW of clean energy per year required to cover city’s demand would be generated by hydropower, wind and solar.

Today we see a revolution in energy, the old system used to get electricity does not represent a viable solution for the today’s society or in the future.

The time when we had a giant power plant near or inside the city that burned fossil fuels to produce electricity for all the homes and businesses in the town will slowly be replaced with a system that will allow energy freedom for all the residents of the city.

The home of the future will create its own power by placing solar panels on the rooftop, a block of flats will become its own utility by creating on the rooftop all the energy required by the entire building, and so on.

Such an energy system will become a resilient and more affordable system for the masses, and surely will be more clean than the system used today.

Magda Savin
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Magda Savin

I write about the renewable energy sector, electric cars and climate change issues.
I love nature and good food, so I travel all over the world to see new places and meet new people.
Magda Savin
Magda Savin
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5 Responses to "How to power a city of 100.000 people using only renewable energy"

  1. Bryan Elliott says:

    I apologize; I was unable to post the full comment using your site’s system, nor able to post it in pieces. Here is a gist containing its text and sources:

    gist.github.com/Fordi/6e1fbab65d2023ef63639c6e2532dfc8#file-response-to-how-to-power-a-city-md

  2. Bryan Elliott says:

    (I assume that the primary reason for the high biomass deployment is simple: most renewables are intermittent, while biomass is not. The high deployment serves as “spinning reserve”, to deal with the continuously variable production of the other plants, and with continuously variable demand.)

    The difference of 650,000 MWh of clean energy per year required to cover our city’s demand would be generated by hydropower, wind and solar. If we apportion equal money-per-erg to each type (without going into the total cost, for now), we can use the EIA’s LCoE[5] estimates³ to weight our deployment.

  3. Bryan Elliott says:

    Since you didn’t include sources, and got your units all confused, I figured I’d try to rewrite some of this.

    —–

    We’ll use the United States as a model, as it will give us the “worst-case”. The US Population is about 323 million [1], and we consume about 3,900 TWh/year [2] across all sectors – so the per-capita demand for a US citizen and all the support she requires to live, is about 12 MWh/year. For our city of 100,000, therefore, we’ll need about 1.2 TWh/year of clean energy.

    At a capacity factor of 50%¹, a power station that burns biomass to produce energy would consume about 500 tons of biomass per hour to generate about 50 MW of energy². During the year, the power station will burn about 3,000,000 tons of biomass (wood chips and pellets, agricultural waste, etc) to produce about 550,000 MWh of energy per year.

    550,000 MWh of clean power represents only 46% of the energy demand of the city, so let’s see which are the other clean energy sources that we can use to cover the entire energy demand only from renewable energy sources.

    • Magda Savin says:

      Well, we are talking here about how much electricity does an American home use per year because we want to cover the demand of electricity using only clean energy produced by renewable energy sources.

      Here is the source used to gather the info:
      https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=97&t=3

      The numbers can be realistic for a town up to 100,000 residents, not more (like the entire U.S.)

      If we are using the U.S. consumption per capita then yes, we need to cover a demand of 1.2 TWh/year.

      You are wrong when you say that the biomass power station requires “…500 tons of biomass per hour to generate about 50 MW of energy.”

      These figures are taken from an online source? how about a real biomass power station?

      Have you heard about the Joseph C. McNeil Generating Station?

      The McNeil biomass power station burns 76 tons of biomass per hour to generate 50 MW of energy.

      https://www.burlingtonelectric.com/about-us/what-we-do/joseph-c-mcneil-generating-station

  4. Bryan Elliott says:

    The choice is marginal, by these metrics – but there is the issue of that high biomass deployment. (see:newscientist.com/…/mg23130922-600-revealed…/). If going that direction, careful and mindful forestry is necessary over the long term. Similarly, careful and mindful operation is required of nuclear. A hybrid approach (what I normally prefer) would have most of the same advantages as either, but with greater robustness to changes in demand and environmental conditions.

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