Coal-fired power plant capacity and generation

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From 1990 to 2009, the net capacity of the U.S. coal-fired power plant fleet remained virtually unchanged, increasing by only 8.2 Gigawatts (GW) or 2.8% during the entire 19-year period. Between 1990 and 2007, the output of these plants, increased from 1,572.1 billion Kilowatthours in 1990 to 1,998.2 billion Kilowatthours (Kwh) in 2007, a 27% increase. This means that although the existing fleet was not growing in size, plants were being run more intensively. This is reflected in the average capacity factor of the fleet, which rose from 61% to 75% from 1990 to 2007. (Capacity factor refers to the ratio of the actual output of a plant to the theoretical maximum output if the plant ran continuously.) Between 2007 and 2009, coal plant capacity grew slightly but output fell by 12.4%, due to the effects of the U.S. recession, competition from natural gas, and increased availability of wind power. From 2007 to 2009, output of electricity from natural gas increased from 814.8 billion Kilowatthours to 840.9 billion Kwh, and output of electricity from wind increased from 34.4 billion Kwh to 70.8 billion Kwh hours. Between 2007 and 2009, overall electricity output fell from 2,878.5 billion Kwh to 2,629.5 billion Kwh.[1]

Table 1: Coal-fired power plant capacity and generation[1][2]

Year Net Summer Capacity (Million Kilowatts) Generation (Billion Kilowatthours) Capacity Factor
1950 N/A 154.5 N/A
1960 N/A 403.1 N/A
1970 N/A 704.4 N/A
1980 N/A 1,161.6 N/A
1990 296.5 1,572.1 61%
2000 305.2 1,943.1 73%
2005 303.4 1,992.1 75%
2007 303.2 1,998.4 75%
2009 304.7 1,749.6 66%



  1. 1.0 1.1 "Electricity Net Generation: Electric Power Sector, 1949-2009," U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Review, Table 8.2b
  2. "Electric Net Summer Capacity: Electric Power Sector by Plant Type, 1989-2009," U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Review, Table 8.11c

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