EGEE 439
Alternative Fuels from Biomass Sources

Lesson 3: Electricity Generation 101


Up until recently, approximately 60% of our electricity here in the US was generated by coal. In recent years, that has dropped to ~40%, though the majority of electricity is still produced by coal. So, why has it changed? The production of natural gas has increased because it has become significantly less expensive over the years and has the potential to produce less carbon dioxide (CO2); every methane molecule has one carbon atom and 4 hydrogen atoms - therefore, less CO2 production compared to coal. There is now also an emphasis on producing electricity from biomass, a "carbon neutral" source of energy. This lesson briefly explains a common method of electricity production, steam turbine electricity generation. Background on this topic will prepare you for use of biomass in the same application.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • explain and describe the basics of steam electricity generation from coal and natural gas;
  • explain environmental issues of coal as a fuel;
  • compare energy density of various fuels, on a mass and volumetric basis;
  • utilize and compare current strategies to improve power plant electricity generation.

Lesson 3 Road Map

This lesson will take us one week to complete. Please refer to the Course Syllabus for specific time frames and due dates. Specific directions for the assignment below can be found within this lesson.

Steps for Completing Lesson 3
Step Activity Access/Directions
1 Homework #3 3.5
2 Discussion #3 3.5
3 Exam #1 3.5


If there is anything in the lesson materials that you would like to comment on, or don't quite understand, please post your thoughts and/or questions to our Throughout the Course Questions discussion forum in Canvas. I will check that discussion forum daily to respond. Remember that while you are there, you should also feel free to post your own responses if you are able to help out a classmate.