Comparison of renewable and nuclear energy production:

Total world renewable energy production compared to production from a nuclear power plant

by Wm. Robert Johnston
last modified 7 July 2005

Graphs show total world energy production from solar and wind power, compared to energy production from a single nuclear plant, South Texas Nuclear Project. The top graph shows primary energy production (thermal energy production in the case of solar thermal and nuclear power). The bottom graph shows electrical energy production.

Solar energy figures include both solar thermal and solar photovoltaic. Solar photovoltaic accounts for about 2% of solar electrical production. Total wind and solar energy production in 1999 accounted for about 0.04% of world energy production, or one part in 2,500. South Texas Nuclear Project includes two PWR reactors.

In 1998 the total global wind and solar electrical energy production attained that of one pair of nuclear reactors.

The following tables include data pertaining to the above graphs.


Table 1: World solar photovoltaic and wind power: capacity, output, and performance

yearsolar photovoltaicwind
generating capacity (MW)production (PJ)average production as % of capacitygenerating capacity (MW)production (PJ)average production as % of capacity
1977
19780.01
19790.02
19800.04
19810.04
19820.07
19830.010.11
19840.040.14
19850.060.21
19860.060.49
19870.050.70
19880.031.21
19890.119.79
19900.1411.06
19910.1713.38
19921100.174.8251016.2320.5
19931360.215.0299019.6220.8
19941640.234.5348824.1822.0
19951990.243.9477827.4518.2
19962450.263.4610434.1817.8
19973140.373.8763642.8017.8
19983960.514.11015356.2817.6
19995200.563.41393274.6917.0
2000726(0.87)(3.8)18450109.7118.9
2001982(1.17)(3.8)24927(141)(18.0)
200231633(179)(18.0)
200339294(223)(18.0)
200447317(269)(18.0)

Notes for table 1: Percentage efficiencies for 2000-2003 are estimated and used to obtain production figures.


Table 2: Comparison of energy production (primary and electric) of world solar, world wind, and STNP

yearprimary energy productionelectrical energy production
world solarworld windSTNP Units 1 & 2world solarworld windSTNP Units 1 & 2
19740.110.000.000.040.000.00
19750.140.000.000.050.000.00
19760.190.000.000.060.000.00
19770.270.000.000.090.000.00
19780.400.010.000.130.010.00
19790.600.020.000.200.020.00
19800.870.040.000.290.040.00
19811.080.040.000.360.040.00
19821.320.070.000.440.070.00
19831.620.110.000.550.110.00
19841.910.140.000.660.140.00
198511.900.210.004.010.210.00
198616.160.490.005.430.490.00
198716.950.700.005.680.700.00
198817.771.2130.555.941.2110.05
198923.069.79102.167.769.7933.60
199027.0511.06137.079.1111.0645.09
199128.8913.38158.779.7413.3852.23
199230.5916.23192.6810.3116.2363.38
199332.4119.6214.8410.9519.624.88
199436.0224.18155.8712.1624.1851.27
199539.3327.45210.4013.2727.4569.21
199642.5934.18226.3714.3734.1874.46
199745.7042.80217.2015.4842.8071.45
199886.6956.28228.1129.2456.2875.04
199989.8474.69212.8030.3274.6970.00
2000109.71209.57109.7168.94
2001141.34217.52141.3471.55
2002179.33208.90179.3368.72
2003222.76172.69222.7656.80
2004269.33(200)269.33(60)

Notes for table 2: Primary energy is thermal energy for solar thermal and nuclear plants. Reported wind energy production is assumed to be electrical production. Ratio of electrical to primary production for solar thermal is estimated at 33.3%.

Equivalents for energy units of petajoules (1 PJ = 1015 joules = 278,000 MWh = 23,900 tonnes of oil equivalent = 9.48 x 1011 Btu).

Sources: BP, EWEA, IAEA, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, South Texas Nuclear Project, World Resources Institute (reference list under construction).


© 2002-2004, 2005 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 7 July 2005.
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