Renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for nearly 18 percent of net domestic electrical generation during the first three-quarters of 2018, according to a SUN DAY Campaign analysis of data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
In addition, the latest issue of EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” (with data through Sept. 30, 2018) reveals that solar and wind both showed growth with utility-scale solar expanding by 30.3 percent and wind by 14.5 percent compared to the first nine months of 2017. Combined, wind and solar accounted for almost 9 percent of the nation’s electrical generation (wind – 6.4 percent, solar – 2.4 percent) and nearly half (49.7 percent) of the total from all renewable energy sources.
Modest increases were also reported by EIA for geothermal and biomass, 5.4 percent and 1.5 percent respectively. Taken together, non-hydro renewables, including distributed solar, grew by 14.9 percent. However, a 5.1 percent drop in hydropower output netted an increase of only 6 percent in electrical generation by all renewables in the first three-quarters of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.
Notwithstanding its lower production, hydropower remained the leading source of renewable electricity, accounting for 7.05 percent of total electrical generation, followed by wind (6.41 percent), solar (2.42 percent), biomass (1.48 percent), and geothermal (0.39 percent).
The decline in hydropower, coupled with a 4.9 percent increase in total electricity produced by all sources (driven primarily by a 15.1 percent expansion of electrical production by natural gas and a 2.2 percent increase in nuclear power), resulted in renewables increasing their share of domestic electrical output, from 17.6 percent in 2017 to 17.8 percent in 2018.
That gain, though, continued to close the gap between renewables and coal with the latter dropping by 5.4 percent. Coal now provides 27 percent of the nation’s electrical generation compared to 30 percent a year ago. A decade earlier, coal’s share of U.S. electrical generation was over 48 percent.
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