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Electric Power the Largest Consumer of Energy

According to the Energy Information Administration's (EIA's) Annual Energy Outlook 2020, in the United States, energy consumption is dominated by electric power followed by the transportation and industrial sectors. Out to 2050, electric power will retain its lead, with industrial consumption moving into second place.

U.S. Energy Consumption by Sector


2020-2050: Natural Gas Dominates, Surge in Renewables, Coal's Decline Seen Leveling Off

With electric power dominating U.S. energy consumption, it makes good sense to take a closer look at this sector. In 2019, 37% of all U.S. electricity was generated from natural gas ahead of coal (24%), renewables and nuclear (both 19%). In 2016, electricity generated from natural gas surpassed coal-fired generation for the first time. In April 2019, monthly U.S. electricity generation from renewable sources exceeded coal-fired generation for the first time ever, and although coal made a comeback later during the year and finished well ahead, it is only a matter of time before renewables push ahead for good. By 2045, renewables are projected to surpass natural gas-fired generation and will account for 38% of electricity produced by 2050 vs. 36% for natural gas, 13% for coal and 12% for nuclear.

U.S. Electricity Generation by Source

Traditionally, hydro dominated electricity generation from reneable sources. In 2019, wind turbine energy generation inched ahead with a 38% share of total renewable generation vs. 37% for hydro. Other renewable sources like solar and geothermal accounted for 15% and 2%, respectively, in 2019, with misc. other sources accounting for the remaining 7%. By 2050, solar is projected to become the dominant renewable source accounting for a staggering 46% of electricity generated from renewable sources. In second place, wind will command a 33% share. Hydroelectric generation is stable out to 2050, however, with wind and solar growing rapidly, hydro's share will decline to just 14% of renewable generation.

U.S. Renewable Electricity Generation by Source
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Power Systems


Market Leaders, Marine Gas Turbines

DDG 51 Arleigh Burke Class AEGIS Destroyer
General Electric LM2500 Marine Engine

General Electric's LM2500 gas turbine, an aero derivative of the CF6 which powers many commercial transport aircraft, is expected to dominate the market for naval gas turbines by value of production over the next 15 years. During the 2020-2034 timeframe, GE will build a total of 182 LM2500s of several variants to power naval ships of about a half dozen countries. GE will build all 182 engines at its Cincinnati plant, while Avio Aero in Italy, IHI in Japan, and Rolls-Royce Power Systems AG in Germany will produce another 45 under license arrangements. Including the smaller LM500, altogether from 2020-2034, GE will command a 32.9% value market share slightly behind Rolls-Royce's 34.4%. The UK manufacturer's very efficient MT30 gas turbine (a Trent 800 derivative) competes nose to nose against the LM2500 in power class and is already installed on Zumwalt class destroyers and Freedom class littoral combat ships. It was evaluated by the U.S. Navy to power Flight III Arleigh Burke class Destroyers, however, the Navy stuck with the LM2500. Rolls-Royce also produces a substantial number of a smaller gas turbines, including the MT7 (3,000 to 5,000 shp) for the U.S. and other navies.

Gas Turbines Enable Incredible Gains
in Power-to-Weight Ratios

In 1941, the U.S. Navy designed the Iowa class battleships that generated 212,000 shaft horsepower using a steam plant that had a machinery weight of 4,443 tons. That is 47.7 shp per ton. Today, four GE LM2500s or Rolls-Royce MT-30 gas turbines can generate the same power output with a machinery weight of 118 tons! That is a change in the Power-to-Weight Ratio from 47.7 shp per ton to 1,800 shp per ton - which equates to an improvement of about 3,800%! Now we know why gas turbines have replaced steam turbines in all modern warships.


1.8 Million Miles of Natural Gas and Oil Pipelines in the United States

Pipeline in Alaska

The United States has by far the largest network of energy pipelines in the world. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the U.S. has over 1.8 million miles of natural gas and oil pipelines crisscrossing the country as well as connecting with other lines from neighboring countries. 88% of pipeline mileage is natural gas. Including other types of pipelines, the U.S. has well over 2 million miles installed. Gas is compressed and oil is pumped by diesels or gas turbines which are fueled directly from the pipelines, while auxiliary power for the stations is also drawn either from the main engines or from additional small diesels or gas turbines.

The largest U.S. pipeline owner/operator is Energy Transfer Partners LP with more than 90,000 miles of pipelines ahead of Kinder Morgan, Inc. with 83,000 miles.

U.S. Energy Pipeline Map


Three Gorges Dam

At present, the largest power generating facility ever built is the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in China. The dam is 7,660 ft long with a maximum height of 607 ft. Construction commenced in 1994 and was completed in 2006. The facility generates power by utilizing 32 Francis turbines, each of a capacity of 700 MW and two 50 MW turbines, totaling the installed capacity at 22,500 MW!

There are presently no dams planned or being built that will exceed this capacity.


Six Largest Power Plants are Hydro

The top six largest generation facilities in the world are all hydro-electric power plants with the 22.5 GW Three Gorges Dam in the lead. The 10th largest operational facility is the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in Washington State, which has a capacity of 6.8 GW. Grand Coulee was the largest power plant in the world from 1949 through 1960 and retook the title from 1979 through 1986 after an expansion. Grand Coulee is still the largest power station in North America.

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa (Japan) is a seven-unit nuclear power facility rated at 8.0 GW. It previously ranked in the top-10 but is among the many nuclear plants in Japan that were shut down in the aftermath of the accident at Fukushima in 2011. As of April 2020, it has yet to restart operations. The owner of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), is considering the decommissioning of one or more units. The largest nuclear facility currently in operation is the 7.4 GW Kori Nuclear Power Plant in Busan, South Korea.

Also known as the Jiuquan Wind Power Base, the Gansu Wind Farm Project in China is the largest renewable power installation in the world. Gansu has a planned capacity of 20 GW of which around 8 GW is currently installed.


Three Gorges Dam (China)


22.5 GW


Itaipu Dam (Brazil/Paraguay)


14.0 GW


Xiluodu (China)


13.9 GW


Belo Monte (Brazil)


11.2 GW


Guri (Venezuela)


10.2 GW


Tucurui (Brazil)


8.4 GW


Jiuquan/Gansu (China)


8.0 GW


Kori (South Korea)


7.4 GW


Grand Coulee (United States)


6.8 GW


Tuoketuo (China)


6.7 GW

Burning Black Liquor

Burning black liquor

That's right; there is a power generation plant in Ashdown, Arkansas at Ashdown Paper Mill that produces 157 MW by burning Black Liquor!! Wow! No wonder it produces a lot of juice! Just kidding - here is the real explanation: It is a biomass facility for renewable energy. In industrial chemistry, black liquor is the waste product from the Kraft process when digesting pulpwood into paper pulp - removing lignin, hemicelluloses and other extractives from the wood to free the cellulose fibers.

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Industrial and Marine Gas Turbine Installation Database