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Where does your electricity come from?

Displaying poll results.
  5978 votes / 18%
Natural Gas
  1666 votes / 5%
  746 votes / 2%
  4405 votes / 13%
  333 votes / 1%
  3266 votes / 9%
I'm off the grid
  504 votes / 1%
The power company, duh.
  16257 votes / 49%
33155 total votes.
[ Voting Booth | Other Polls | Back Home ]
  • Don't complain about lack of options. You've got to pick a few when you do multiple choice. Those are the breaks.
  • Feel free to suggest poll ideas if you're feeling creative. I'd strongly suggest reading the past polls first.
  • This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.
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Where does your electricity come from?

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  • by NoGoodOnesLeft (241834) on Monday January 23, 2012 @12:19PM (#38792435)

    Some guy at some substation does the wrong thing, and then half my state and the ones next door go dark

  • I have no idea (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ritchie70 (860516) on Monday January 23, 2012 @12:21PM (#38792481) Journal

    I have no idea, and anyone "on the grid" who claims to know is fooling themselves.

    There is both a nuclear power plant and a windmill farm within reasonable driving distance of my house. This being Illinois, I assume there are coal-fired generating plants as well.

    How am I to know where ComEd got the electrons they sent down my wires?

    It's all a big interconnected system. Even if you're paying some special "wind power" or "solar power" rate to supposedly get "green" energy you don't know where it really came from.

    • Re:I have no idea (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheSpoom (715771) <.slashdot. .at.> on Monday January 23, 2012 @12:24PM (#38792527) Homepage Journal

      Even if you're paying some special "wind power" or "solar power" rate to supposedly get "green" energy you don't know where it really came from.

      The idea of "green rates" has always baffled me. It's not like you can verify they're not just lying to you to get you to pay more. It's like a "sucker's tax".

      • Re:I have no idea (Score:5, Interesting)

        by moonbender (547943) <`moonbender' `at' `'> on Monday January 23, 2012 @02:47PM (#38795109)

        We pay extra to get power from renewable sources. The money goes directly to a company which only operates and builds up renewable energy sources. Of course we actually get power from our local utility, but each kWh we use is actually delivered into the German/European power grid somewhere from regenerative power sources.

        Of course, since the plants (wind, mostly) are already built, their power would end up in the network anyway. But this way, the huge and pretty horrible ex-state monopolies don't get any of our money (the local utility company is publicly owned), and instead a company which invests into renewables gets most of it.

        • Re:I have no idea (Score:5, Informative)

          by BlackPignouf (1017012) on Monday January 23, 2012 @06:14PM (#38797895)

          If you live in Germany (as I do), you'd be surprised to learn that almost 100% of your "regenerative power sources" that you pay for are Norwegian dams.
          I thought my money would go to solar panels, windmills and biomass power plants in our neighborhood.
          You can take at look at the website of your electricity provider (EWS, Greenpeace energy, whatever,..) and get more info about it.

      • by rasmusbr (2186518)

        How do you know that?

        I recall reading an abstract from a study done here in Sweden that showed that green rates lead to new investment. More research needs to be done, of course, but the basic concept seems sound. It's not as if it matters what's coming out of your wall socket. You could for example be directly plugged into a coal plant owned by Power Company X and yet have all your payments (minus distribution costs) go to the wind power branch of Power Company X, thus supporting their wind power.

        There's a

      • Re:I have no idea (Score:4, Informative)

        by Macman408 (1308925) on Monday January 23, 2012 @11:50PM (#38800859)

        OK, here's what I do. I pay about 8 per kilowatt hour for my electricity. It doesn't matter where it comes from. I also pay 1.5 per kilowatt hour so that the electric company buys a kilowatt hour of renewable energy. It doesn't have to be bought at the same time as I use it, just some time. Specifically excluded from the program are certain types of renewable energy (like large hydroelectric dams) and ones that have been around for a long time - they are instead required to buy wind and solar from generation sites that first started commercial operation after 1996.

        The point is that this then creates a market for the renewable energy, and encourages more to be built, because customers are willing to pay a premium for it (and thus the electric company will pay a premium for it too, if they have to). The more people that sign up, the more renewable energy they have to buy. (Granted, the infrastructure does not yet exist for them to have 100% of customers on green power - but there's plenty of people that will never pay a penny more than they absolutely have to.)

        My local power company is already fairly green; over 40% of the energy they buy is some sort of renewable energy. (About 30% is from an unknown source, and the other 30% is coal and natural gas.) But by paying a little extra (on average, about $3 per month), it means they buy an extra 0.0000005% (yes, I checked) of their total power from a known renewable source. Every year, they are legally required to tell me what I paid for (last year, 95% wind and 5% solar), and where it came from. Sucker tax this ain't.

    • by cduffy (652)

      I have no idea, and anyone "on the grid" who claims to know is fooling themselves.

      That, or well-informed. For my power company (Austin Energy)? 44% coal, 31% nuclear, 21% natural gas, 4% renewables.

      It's not like these things aren't recorded and tracked.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ritchie70 (860516)

        Except utilities sell electricity to each other.

        You know that, if it was generated by Austin Energy, you got that breakdown. You don't actually know.

      • by dingen (958134)
        These values aren't constants. Things like wind turbines are extremely susceptible to fluctuations in power output, as a solar panels. On top of that, there is heavy competition in the energy markets, so power companies are constantly looking for the best deals. This means the composition of different power sources on the grid is constantly changing. One moment there a lot of this, the next moment there is a lot of that.
        • by cduffy (652)

          So? I don't care what it is at any given instant -- quarterly or annualized numbers (such as the ones I gave) are perfectly fine, and in fact, are more useful for just the reasons you described.

          As for the mix of power purchased off the statewide grid -- ERCOT tracks that, so it's certainly not unknowable by any means.

    • by Palshife (60519)

      In Texas, when I buy wind power from my retail electric provider, they are required to turn around and use my dollars to buy physical wind power generation. They don't have to send it to my house. Hell, they don't even have to keep it. They can resell it on the open market to try and make a profit. What I've done by purchasing it is created demand for power generated by wind. This forces electric utility companies to invest money in wind so they can effectively generate and deliver it.

      This is a good thing.

    • It's not perfect but you can get a general idea of the types of power available in your area here: [] Sure companies buy and sell power all of the time. But it's not like they're dumping all of their input into some other market and supplying their consumers entirely off someone else's supply. It's a pretty good guess. If this thing says you get 10% of your energy from nuclear, it's a pretty safe bet that it's well below 15%.
    • by PlatyPaul (690601)
      In NY state, you have the option to select particular suppliers for your energy needs, with your local power company taking up the slack (with whatever they use) during low periods. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good.

      Since we live near Niagara Falls, it's even better. The Fall don't shut down spontaneously, and turbine redundancy handles regular maintenance.
    • by CaptainLard (1902452) on Monday January 23, 2012 @02:14PM (#38794459)

      How am I to know where ComEd got the electrons they sent down my wires?

      Those electrons were always in your wires. The power company just made them move around for you.

    • by Sez Zero (586611)
      If you live in Texas, it is mostly coal and gas [].
    • by Thelasko (1196535)

      This being Illinois, I assume there are coal-fired generating plants as well. How am I to know where ComEd got the electrons they sent down my wires?

      I am from Illinois also, and also have ComEd as a provider. At least once a year they send out an "environmental disclosure statement" that tells you where your electricity comes from. Typically it's predominantly nuclear, but this year it looks like coal won out. []

    • Although I agree with you that most people likely have no reasonably clue where their power comes from, there are exceptions. For example, I live in Blacksburg, VA near Virginia Tech's power plant (on campus essentially, and walking distance from my apartment.) Seeing as how my power bill comes directly from them, it is fairly safe to assume it's mostly made of coal.

      After some research, it looks like VTES gets their electrons from coal, as well as another power company in the area (APCO). APCO is owned by
    • by paazin (719486)
      The EPA has general listings [] for each utility.

      You can do a lookup rather easily for your region.
    • by fusiongyro (55524)

      Where I live, most of the nearby power stations are coal. But I happen to know that the power company buys a substantial amount of their power from the neighboring state's nuclear plant. It's great PR.

    • How am I to know where ComEd got the electrons they sent down my wires?

      pedant mode on

      To be honest, the electrons are already in the metal wires so you are not paying for electrons. You are paying someone to move them around a bit. :)

      pedant mode off

    • Being on the North end of the DC Intertie in the US and having a relative who worked in Bonneville Power Administration, I have seen the meters on the BPA lines. Most of my power is from the Columbia Basin Hydroelectric system. They are adding a huge amount of wind farms in the area. The local scandal was with the warm windy spring we had last year. The warm windy spring increased the spring snow melt so the spring runoff was high. The investors in the wind farms looked for returns on the investment on

  • There's actually a wind turbine in the heart of our city, less than a kilometer from my home. Part of the wattage I use comes directly from this turbine, through the municipal power grid. Not sure what percentage, but it's cool that at least some of the juice powering my laptop is green.
  • by bziman (223162) on Monday January 23, 2012 @12:44PM (#38792871) Homepage Journal

    I'm in Northern Virginia, and I love my solar photovoltaic system (installed awesomely by Solar Odyssey []). And if the car companies ever make a decent plug-in hybrid car, it'll only take eight more panels to keep that fully charged - and the cost of eight solar panels would pay back in saved gas in less than two years.

    Anyone who says "alternative energy isn't ready" is still living in the 20th century.


    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Anyone who says "alternative energy isn't ready" is still living in the 20th century.

      or lives further north...

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      First it will be 8 Panels plus the batteries to store the energy while your car is not at home.

      Second where are all those panels going to go for the people who live in high rise buildings.

      Third, where is the power to deal with your office and all the business that you visit or use? You seem to have an internet connection so how is that powered? I doubt it is by "alternate energy"; part maybe but not all. Do you watch TV? How is the signal produged and transmitted to your home? Is water pumped to your house

      • by Palshife (60519)

        Just because there is an "alternate energy" solution in the instance of a single family dwelling does not mean that it is viable everywhere.

        Of course it does.

        The panels he's adding to his roof for the car? They'll be putting energy back into the grid during the day. Money in his pocket.

        High rise building? What the hell else should a building manager be using that gigantic, flat roof for? (Other than leasing space to a cell-phone antenna, of course) You don't have direct control over this, so I suggest looking for it as a feature the next time you move, if it's that important to you.

        Why is it that people think that alternative energy sources can

        • by jklovanc (1603149)

          Of course it does.

          The panels he's adding to his roof for the car?

          Consider these factors. The battery in the Chevy Volt is 16kWhr capacity. PVs give ten watts per square foot. Sun is available 8 hours a day.

          16000/10/8 = 200 square feet of PVs to power the car.
          Do you really want to drive around with a 10x20 foot panel on your car?
          If you used the car dimensions 14ftx5ft you would get 70 square feet which is 35% of the required area.

          Also net zero power use does not mean net zero carbon emission. Those coal plants that need to be kept at operating temp for backup because the

      • First it will be 8 Panels plus the batteries to store the energy while your car is not at home.

        No. More likely he'll pump the energy into the grid during the day, and draw from it when he charges the car.

        The grid is an *excellent* virtual storage system - since it doesn't even need to convert electrical to chemical if someone else wants the power now.

        • by LandKurt (901298)

          It's an excellent system for the early adopters anyway. Scaled up it wouldn't work for more than a fraction of the population. Don't forget a grid tie system needs to pump in an entire days worth of energy into the grid in 4 to 8 hours. If a quarter of the users were doing that it would be very difficult to accommodate. Utility companies are going to have to reject further grid tie systems once a small percentage of the population signs on.

          But maybe advances in battery systems developed for electric cars wi

          • by raygundan (16760)

            While it's true that it won't scale up to more than a fraction of the population used this way, that fraction is pretty large. Our daytime peak usage in the US is approximately double our nighttime usage-- until so many people are pumping daytime solar into the grid that our average daytime load drops below our average nighttime load, we can keep right on doing this without even thinking about storage. It's gonna be a while.

          • There's a small hydro plant near me that supposedly pumps the water back uphill overnight, when we have a cheap electricity rate, storing it for when peak demand requires it.

            I could imagine a hypothetical future where everyone has ultra-efficient solar panels, and the "cheap rate" is actually the day rate, when everyone's surplus is used to charge storage mechanisms (be they chemical or potential) for the peak-rate night usage.

            Not saying its likely, but its possible.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      I'm in Northern Virginia...

      Anyone who says "alternative energy isn't ready" is still living in the 20th century

      Or in Seattle...

    • by trout007 (975317)

      How much did the system cost?

  • ... when circumstances progress beyond our local power companies' control, they manage to deliver some. But not recently.

  • many (Score:5, Funny)

    by demonbug (309515) on Monday January 23, 2012 @12:58PM (#38793089) Journal

    Nuclear, natural gas, "renewables" (geothermal, biomass, wind, small hydro), large hydro, "unauditable" in that order. My utility is fairly green - they even blow up random neighborhoods [] to reduce overall demand.

  • by DemonGenius (2247652) on Monday January 23, 2012 @12:58PM (#38793091)
    ...where their power comes from. The name "Manitoba Hydro" is just a tad telling.
  • According to the annual report, power production for 2010 was:

    58% coal
    19% hydro
    17% natural gas
    2.5% wind
    2.5% imported
    1% other (waste heat, landfill gas, etc.)

  • CowboyNeal in a giant hamster wheel.
  • I only allow 100% organic, grass-fed, free-range electrons to go throw my wires.
  • Every time a similar question arises, someone brings up Feynmann, so let's get it out of the way [].

  • I pay extra for green power from my power company. That means they buy enough renewable energy to offset my usage. It also means nobody can bitch at me for leaving my workstation on 24/7.
    • I pay extra for green power from my power company. That means they buy enough renewable energy to offset my usage.

      If they didn't actually buy the renewable energy, would you have any way of finding out?

  • That said, there are both coal-fired and nuclear plants nearby. If my power can truly be said to come from anywhere, it's probably both of them.
  • by Kittenman (971447) on Monday January 23, 2012 @03:26PM (#38795751)
    I've solar panels that use a "special liquid" to heat my hot water. Very useful at this time of year (Southern summer). Wish I had the option to go full photovoltaic ...
  • Solar for the win! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Calibax (151875) * on Monday January 23, 2012 @03:34PM (#38795869)

    I installed 48 solar panels on my house which generates around 12,000 kW per year. The installation costs were $65,000 in 2003, or $31,500 after all the direct and indirect rebates. Based on my annual savings, I calculated (in 2003) that I would recoup the cost by the end of 2013, but as electricity costs have risen since that I time I think I'm pretty close to having saved all the installation costs already.

    I do use the local utility company for power during non-daylight hours, but that's just a matter of convenience. I could have installed batteries at the cost of $5,000 - but why bother when the utility company can act as my battery? They pay me for excess electricity that is generated during the day, and I pay them for electricity used during the night. My annual bill in December 2011 was $(-133) - that's a $133 check from the utility company.

    As an added advantage, we leave the house thermostat at the same temperature settings all year - a low of 72 degrees and a high of 76 degrees, so we are always comfortable at home.

    Some people say that solar isn't ready for prime time, and never will be. That's just crap.

    • by LandKurt (901298)

      I think you dismiss too easily the utility company's role in buffering your electricity use. I find it hard to believe that only $5000 worth of batteries would allow you to have normal electric use through multiple days of bad weather when you average over 30 kWh use per day. Seems to me you'd need something like 100 kWh of storage. Since lead acid batteries cost $200 per kWh or so that would be about $20K of batteries. And it would need to be replaced every 5 years or so.

      Grid tie solar with net metering is

  • I have the option to pay the power company to purchase the electricity they buy on my behalf from more sustainable sources, like hydro, solar, and wind... It's an extra ten bucks a month (or something like that).
  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Monday January 23, 2012 @04:05PM (#38796289) Homepage

    The simple pulse of nuclear, natural gas; then, suddenly high above it ... wind.
    A single frequency hanging there unwavering, until ...
    solar takes over, sweetening it into phases of such delight, these were oscilloscope traces I'd never seen before.
    Filled with such longing, such unfulfilled longing, it seemed to me I was hearing the voice of God.

    • The simple pulse of nuclear, natural gas; then, suddenly high above it ... wind. A single frequency hanging there unwavering, until ... solar takes over, sweetening it into phases of such delight, these were oscilloscope traces I'd never seen before. Filled with such longing, such unfulfilled longing, it seemed to me I was hearing the voice of God.

      That's odd. All I'm getting is a 60Hz hum.

  • Well I voted power company, because at least around here (unless you can somehow pull off going completely off grid) you're getting your power from a mixture of the choices. So there's not a great way to pick just one.

  • My state is the third largest producer of natural gas in the United States, so naturally most of our power comes from ... coal.
  • Natural Gas - 26%
    Large Hydroelectric - 7%
    Renewables* - 14%
    Nuclear - 9%
    Coal - 44%

    *Renewable energy sources include biomass and waste, small hydroelectric, wind, solar, and geothermal. So, I guess I'd need an "all of the above" option. This is the first slashpoll where I've actually learned something interesting as a direct result!

  • My electricity comes from a variety of sources. Our hydro system takes it from multiple sources and mixes it all together into one big grid. Hydroelectric and nuclear mainly, with some coal and natural gas, and a tiny bit of wind.

  • New Zealand.

    So Hydro.

    We burn Coal during peak usage, though.

  • Being near the Appalachians, there's a lot of coal mines in the region, which means there's a lot of coal power plants. There are a few nearby hydro plants, and one relatively-nearby nuclear plant, but they probably don't contribute much to my power supply.

  • No one who has voted on this site can truthfully say that they are "off the grid". How do you think you message got to the /. site? What do you think is powering the machines that are storing and serving these comments? It is grid power.

    For someone to be completely "off the grid" one would need to do the following;
    1. Not use any communication services; phone (cell or landline), TV (cable or satellite), internet, etc.
    2. Not use a gas vehicle. (the service station you use is on the grid and so is the refinery

  • by angst_ridden_hipster (23104) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @02:58PM (#38808899) Homepage Journal

    So I get power off the grid when demand exceeds what the solar panels provide, but I push power onto the grid when I'm generating more than I use.

    It sounds great, except for a few things:

    1. the game is rigged so I can't actually make money by generating power, I can only zero my bill
    2. I have an automatic shutdown, so if the grid is down, my power is off (safety, of course. We don't want to cook any linemen trying to fix the circuits). I could manually throw a disconnect and hook up my generator and get the benefit of both solar and generator, but the solar won't power the house in the absence of another power source.
    3. I don't really have enough roof space to put up the number of panels that would meet my power needs, particularly in Winter. I can only fit a 2kW system, when I really need a 3kW system.

  • by JoeRobe (207552) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @02:59PM (#38808915) Homepage

    The EPA has a great page [] that tells you where your energy comes from based upon you zip code and electric company. Mine comes from 40.8% gas, 27.9% nuclear, and 15.1% coal. But I wasn't aware that I also used 4.5% hydro, 4.2% coal, and 5.9% non-hydro renewable.

    I work in NYC, which interestingly is 0.0% coal and mostly gas/nuclear.

  • by pecosdave (536896) * on Thursday January 26, 2012 @09:32AM (#38827613) Homepage Journal

    Having actually worked at power plants in the local area I know the answer.

    Our big "backbone" power plants run coal. I spent extensive time upgrading these plants from token ring to Ethernet about seven years ago.

    Our "booster" plants - or "peak" plants are mostly natural gas however there are some other options.

    I know for a fact our rolling brownouts of recent years (Houston area) were not technical requirements, the modern electric trading scenario is difficult to explain, but electricity is bought ahead of time by the traders and when use exceeds projected demand the plants simply don't generate the power. Houston has the ability to produce approximately 50% power than we need at peak time, at least that was the case seven years ago. Modern computers that require way less power than models seven years ago, the fact compact fluorescents are taking over and everyone's moving from CRTs to LCDs actually means the average individual consumes less power than an average individual of seven years ago. I'm guessing that to mean the requirements of today are about the same as they were then for various reasons.

    I also know if you spend your money on Green Mountain Energy or the other clean power companies you're still getting your power from coal and natural gas for the most part. This doesn't mean you should stop, the modern trading setup practically guarantees that eventually if enough people keep dumping their money into these companies eventually green power will come our direction.

    Currently clean power cannot support metropolis's like Houston. We really don't have the tech, but we getting closer. This doesn't mean we should give up on it. The main thing green energy does at the current time is reduce the amount of time "peak" plants have to run. The continuous addition of green energy will eventually start eating into the production of the big coal plants, but we're not there yet. I personally think the best thing to do is urbanize power generation with solar panel covered parking areas, great for the cars, great for power, building top wind turbines - anchored in the middle of your urban farm, and switching household items to DC. 12v LED's lights for the house, batteries for the home. Switching to DC to DC power supplies for computers (for the time being) or even switching to 12v Atom type industrial boards for less powerful needs.

    We're going back to an argument that was "settled" more than 100 years ago. AC vs. DC. I say AC still wins for distance and commercial use, but we really need to start going DC within a home on as much as we can, too much power is wasted on AC to DC conversion, or in the case of a UPS AC to DC to AC to DC and maybe even some short distance DC to AC again for cold cathodes and the like.

The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work. -- Richard Bach, "Illusions"


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