PS 176 – The Politics of Energy Summer Session B 2020
Problem Set A
Due: Wednesday, August 12, 11:59PM
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Suppose you have one short ton of coal, one thousand cubic feet (MCF) of natural gas, and one
barrel of oil.
1a) Put your ton, MCF and barrel of each fossil fuel in the same units. Which has the most
1b) Find out the price for all three in July 2020 and compare the cost for each one of those units
from each fossil fuel source.
1c) If we wanted to calculate how many kWh each would produce, what additional factor would
we have to take into consideration? Explain why in no more than 100 words.
Suppose you have a 225 MW wind farm that produces an average of 80,750,000 kWh a month.
2a) In your own words, explain what a capacity factor is.
2b) Calculate the wind farm’s capacity factor.
2c) Is this higher or lower than the average wind farm capacity factor in the US?
2d) What is a likely reason that this wind farm is higher or lower than average?
2e) Does a nuclear plant tend to have a higher or lower capacity factor than a wind farm? Why?
3a) What is the basic equation you would use to try to calculate a power plant’s costs?
3b) What factors are the largest for a nuclear plant? Which are the smallest? Explain why
3c) What factors are the largest for a solar PV plant? Which are the smallest? Explain why.
Explain what this figure means and its importance (100 words max).
In a maximum of 50 words per item, please answer the following:
5a) What is the difference between ‘power’ and ‘energy’? Provide one unit we would use to
5b) Historically, people burned wood to heat their homes. Explain how this is similar and
different from burning fossil fuels, like natural gas, to heat homes today.
5c) What is the main concern with using natural gas as a ‘bridge fuel’?
5d) On a percentage basis, approximately how much of global primary annual energy production
is from fossil fuels? Which fuels? How has this changed since 1990?
5e) Compare the natural gas prices in France, Japan and the United States. How is this different
from oil prices in these three places? Why?