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Ron Patterson

Ron Patterson

Ron Patterson is a retired computer engineer. He worked in Saudi Arabia for five years, two years at the Ghazlan Power Plant near Ras Tanura…

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Renewable Energy Outproduces Nuclear In The U.S.

Solar

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

The EIA released the latest edition of their Electric Power Monthly  on May 25th, with data for March 2017. March data includes some milestones which are significant in that these circumstances have not existed for a very long time, if ever.

• The contribution from solar reached just over 2 percent

• The contribution from All Renewables exceeded that from Nuclear

• The combined contribution from Wind and Solar exceeded 10 percent

• The contribution from Non-Hydro Renewables exceeded 12 percent

The graph below shows the total monthly generation at utility scale facilities by year versus the contribution from solar. The left hand scale is for the total generation while the right hand scale is for solar output and has been deliberately set to exaggerate the solar output as a means of assessing its potential to make a meaningful contribution to the midsummer peak.

This year the increase in solar output in March seems significantly greater than in the previous three years. The solar generation capacity in the U.S. increased by over 57 percent for the year 2016 and data is not yet available from the Solar Energy Industries Association for the first quarter of 2017 nor do I have access to the data for the final quarter of 2016 so, it may be that an unusually large increase in capacity has occurred over the last six months. It remains to be seen if the February to March increase in solar output is some sort of aberration or if the steep increase has continued into April.

(Click to enlarge)

The graph below shows the monthly capacity additions for 2017 to date. In March over 70 percent of capacity additions were wind with solar adding just under 21 percent. Natural gas fueled additions were about 1.3 percent with Petroleum Liquids contributing 0.4 percent for a total fossil fuel contribution of 1.7 percent. Other Waste Biomass made up 4 percent, Landfill Gas roughly 0.5 percent and Batteries almost 2 percent.

(Click to enlarge)

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Leave a comment
  • NickSJ on June 10 2017 said:
    So we all get to enjoy more government mandated, tax subsidized, expensive, unreliable power. Pretty soon we'll be doing as well as Germany, where electricity has become known as a luxury item.
  • Josh Gregner on June 11 2017 said:
    The long-term trend for coal looks really bad: We shouldn't forget that running an old, written-off coal plant often reduces costs to pretty much fuel costs only.
    If renewables can gain in such an environment incumbent industries should be on high alert.
  • David Hrivnak on June 11 2017 said:
    It appears these charts are for utility scale solar and if so they are leaving about half the solar generation out. For example most of our solar power is used for the house or for our electric vehicles and so there is no meter on the 60% of our production we use directly. The utility (if they even report it) sees only the 40% we export to our neighbors.

    So I would bet actual solar is at least double what is reported.
  • TimS on June 12 2017 said:
    "apples and oranges"
    An installed-gigawatt of intermittent energy is not equivalent to a gigawatt of reliable carbon-free energy.
    https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/content/assets/images/energy/us/Energy_US_2016.png
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C-cie_FXcAEoQEW.jpg
  • Art Rose on June 12 2017 said:
    Why do you keep referring to solar energy as renewable? Energy can neither be created or destroyed? You can find other sources of energy or use it more efficiently but you cannot "renew it." Energy from the sun arrives here and is taken in by solar cells or long term it is taken in by say plants and animals that after many years becomes oil and gas all originally from the sun- or neuclear or from the orbit taken by the moon in harmony with the rotation of the earth. energy is not "renewable?" There is of course enthropy where energy gets more and more disorganized or approaches Chaos- perhaps from a super orderly origin or big bang assuming that threory is correct? the suns energy is NOT renewable- once the hyrdrogen fusion takes place you have helium - sooner or later the sun will run out of fuel like all stars- what was it Carl Sagan said ? We are star dust gatrhering star light? So what is renewble energy something conjured up by politicians - or wall street- or the Madison avenue followers of bernaise? So far there is no known perfect thermodynamic cycle let alone renewable energy?

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