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U.S. Renewable Energy Exceeds Nuclear Power

windenergymapTwo new reports reveal that the renewable energy industry continues to grow in the United States. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest report, renewable energy accounted for 11.1 percent of U.S. production in April 2009, exceeding nuclear power. Contributing to the increase is the U.S. wind energy industry’s installation of 1,210 megawatts (MW) of new power capacity in the second quarter of 2009, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

With the additional 1,210 MW of new power, the total capacity added this year is just over 4,000 MW, according to the AWEA’s second quarter market report. This amount is larger than the 2,900 MW added in the first six months of 2008.

Despite the installation growth, AWEA said it is seeing a reduced number of orders and lower level of activity in manufacturing of wind turbines and their components. According to the report, many existing supply chain companies have stopped hiring or have furloughed employees due to the slowdown in contracts for wind turbines.

During the second quarter, the U.S. wind energy industry installed a total of 1,210 MW in 10 states, enough to power the equivalent of about 350,000 homes, reports AWEA. These new installations bring the total U.S. wind power generating capacity to 29,440 MW, according to the report.  The U.S. wind power generating fleet now offsets an average of 54 million tons of carbon annually, reducing carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 2 percent or the equivalent of taking 9 million cars off the road, said AWEA.

The state posting the fastest growth in the second quarter was Missouri, where wind power installations expanded by 90 percent. Pennsylvania and South Dakota ranked second and third in terms of growth rate, expanding by 28 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

The study also shows that Iowa passed the 3,000-MW mark with a cumulative total of 3,043 MW installed and consolidated its position as #2, behind Texas (8,361 MW) and ahead of California (2,787 MW).

Another key finding reveals that three wind turbine and turbine component manufacturing facilities were opened, four facilities were expanding, and eight facilities were announced during the past quarter. This brings the total of opened, expanding and announced facilities up to 20 since the beginning of the year, according to the report.

Overall, the production of renewable energy for the first third of 2009 — January 1 to April 30 — was six percentage points higher compared to the same time period in 2008, according to the latest Monthly Energy Review from the U.S.  Energy Information Administration, according to SUNDAY Campaign. A key finding indicates that renewable energy sources accounted for 11.1 percent of domestic energy production and exceeded the amount contributed by nuclear power in April 2009.

For the first four months of 2009, U.S. renewable energy production was comprised of hydropower (34.6 percent), wood + wood wastes (31.2 percent), biofuels (19.0 percent), wind (9.3 percent), geothermal (4.7 percent), and solar (1.2 percent).  Most of these sources grew compared to the first third of 2008 with wind expanding by 34.5 percent, biofuels by 14.1 percent, hydropower by 8.2 percent, and geothermal by 2.6 percent. The contribution from solar sources remained essentially unchanged while wood + wood waste declined by 4.9 percent.

The report also shows that total U.S. energy consumption fell 5.7 percent during the first four months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008 with fossil fuel use accounting for almost the entire decline, said SUNDAY Campaign.

Here’s a look at the production, in quadrillion Btu by sector, as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. See the full report here.

nuc-vs-renewCritics of these figures note that nuclear energy contributed more megawatthours in April. During that month, nuclear power generated 59 million mWh of electricity, compared to the 25 million mWh generated by conventional hydropower and the 12. million mWh generated by “other renewables” during the month.

The amount of electricity generated by coal fell from April 2008 to April 2009. In April of 2009, coal generated 126 billion mWh, down from 147 billion mWh the same month in 2008.

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6 thoughts on “U.S. Renewable Energy Exceeds Nuclear Power

  1. Interesting, does this mean that renewable energy sources are now a more mature industry than nuclear and thus do not require the mandated subsidies that are being proposed in the Waxman-Markey legislation. It would be nice to see a level playing field for all sustainable energy sources including nuclear.

    I feel Waxman-Markey bill’s provision to require utilities to insure that 30% of their power distribution will come from renewable sources will eventually lead to the use of more fossil fuels. The reason is that nuclear, though a sustainable form of energy, does not meet the Waxman-Markey definition of renewable. This combined with the unreliability of wind and solar to produce power during peak demand and the inefficiency of solar and wind on a cost per kilowatt basses will lead to more fossil fuel use. What is the country going to do if we fail to meet the Waxman-Markey lofty “renewable” goal? Turn off the lights. True it is a solution but who thinks the US is in a mood to cut back on jobs when we can just produce more power with the use of fossil fuels.

    You can not build a nuclear plant overnight you need at a minimum of at least seven years in the US to get a plant up and running. This is the time utilities need to start planning. Why not change the definition in Waxman-Markey to sustainable power and up the requirement from 30% to 60%. This way all carbon free producers are on a level playing field and the free market will decide which carbon free sources are more efficient at producing power. One needs to realize that in the end it is all about producing carbon free power.

    Viva the nuclear renaissance,


  2. Yeah……not so much guys. I think you’ve confused capcity with actual production. According to the Energy Information Administration, in April 2009, nuclear power generated 59,129 thousand megawatthours of electricity, 20.45 percent of the total electricity produced in April 2009; hydropower and non-hydro renewables like solar and wind contributed 25,224 (8.73 percent) and 12,252 (4.24 percent) thousand megawatthours, respectively. For the first 4 months of 2009, nuclear generated 263,755 thousand megawatthours which is 21.04 percent; hydro and non-hydro renewables generated 87,799 (7 percent) and 46,038 (3.67 percent) thousand megawatthours, respectively.

    Looks like nukes are still producing way more power.

  3. All these graphs and plots with no description of units of any kind on them should immediately raise some skepticism…

  4. hey i’m researching nuclear power for chen class and im opposing it. but, in another site i read which was a .info kinda site said that nuclear power accounted for around 20% in 2009, how is 11.1% higher then that. is it actualy at 21.1% or is renewable energy just getting better than what it used to be.

  5. For the construction price of one nuclear plant, you could outfit 1000 homes with solar panels. Those would require no employees, no additional fuel that badly pollutes the environment just to dig from the ground, cause no wide spread contamination of the environment from normal operations, and don’t permanently destroy whole regions when they are damaged by an earthquake or other disaster. Our nuclear plants are mostly over 30 and some over 40 years old, are dilapidated and should have been decommissioned at 20 years as they were designed to be. Now, greedy energy companies are trying to have them re-licensed, even though they represent social insanity and suicide. From the mining of uranium and its associated venting of radioactive strontium gas and pollution of ground water with tritium to all the other releases in the fuel cycle, you can’t even justify the acquisition of fuel for Nuke plants from a public health perspective. Add in all the medical costs that have arisen due to the contamination from our “normally operating” nuke plants and they should already be abandoned. The plant near San Diego is sitting on a fault line and next to one that is under the ocean just like the Japanese fault that caused the tsunami last week. That plant is in proximity to 7 million citizens who can’t adequately evacuate in a disaster. If you like nuclear power, then you should go move next door to that one. It’s time to plumb them up and pump them all full of concrete. I would rather freeze in the dark than glow in the dark.

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