US Hits Renewable Milestone

US Hits Renewable MilestoneUS Hits Renewable Milestone

Renewable power hit a milestone in the United States this spring, with solar panels and wind turbines teaming up to produce 10% of all US electrical generation in March, according to Department of Energy figures.

Renewables tend to surge in the spring, as the season brings more sunlight and wind to some parts of the country. But they have never hit double digits as a share of American power production until now, the department’s Energy Information Administration reported, environmental and energy news website Seeker reported.

Eight percent of that 10% was from wind power, which comes from the turbines that have sprouted like cactus across much of the western United States in the past decade. But both rooftop and utility-scale solar energy combined to produce another 2% the month’s electrical output, and April’s numbers are expected to hit 10% as well once they are compiled, the agency reported.

In part, it is a seasonal thing, EIA analyst Owen Comstock said. March and April see less need for heat in most of the US, while the demand for air conditioning does not kick in until later in the summer, so it is easier for wind and solar to take a bigger share of generation.

The numbers bounce up and down throughout the year, with the percentage of non-hydroelectric renewables in 2016 ending up at 7%. But the latest monthly figure also grew when compared to March and April 2016, when non-hydroelectric renewables made up 8.6% of US generation, Comstock said. And the amount of power produced grew in 2017, so this year’s March figure is 10% of a bigger number — and it’s likely to be repeated in April, he said.

“We definitely have installed more wind and solar over the past year,” he said. Utilities have been installing more renewable power capacity than fossil fuel generators, and the United States is expected to reach 10% for the year as a whole by 2020, he said.

Even for a month, hitting 10% is a “great breakthrough” for renewables, said Marilyn Brown, who studies energy markets at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. “The trend is strong, and eventually it will push through 10% for the full year,” she said.


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