The USA is in danger of running short of power early in the next millennium, according to a report by Allied Business Intelligence. It is already encountering power shortages in several regions coordinated by the North American Electricity Reliability Council, the report claims.
The study estimates that an additional 150 GWe of genarating capacity will be needed by 2007. Its figures show that only 70 GWe are planned.
Capacity margins in the USA for electricity generation in any single region typically run at between 10 and 15 per cent over peak demand. However in ten years, this margin will only be achieved by one region, Mid-American Interconnected Systems, which serves central USA.
Today coal-fired and nuclear power plants supply 70 per cent of US capacity. However, this capacity is either static or declining. New plants rely heavily on combined cycle gas turbine technology. Global demand for the technology is so high, the report says, that shortages may occur. The report also questions the availability of investment capital to fund new capacity.
New technologies such a small turbines, fuel cells and diesel engine cogeneration units could supply half the required new capacity. In addition, wind turbines could provide 10 per cent of US power by 2010. Photovoltaic technology is growing rapidly, with a global manufacturing capacity of over 100 MWe each year.