In a year that has witnessed strong growth of renewable generation and declines in fossil-fuel production, the new edition of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Electric Power Monthly report confirms solar and wind’s positions as the fastest growing sources of U.S. electricity.
In the month of July, solar, including distributed generation, accounted for nearly 3.5% of the nation’s total energy generation, up nearly 20% over the July 2019 mark of 2.8%. In the period from January to July, solar accounted for nearly 3.4% of the country’s generation, up 22.2% from the 2019 year-to-date mark of 2.6%.
It should be noted that these figures only factor in solar photovoltaic generation, with solar thermal generation providing modest additions.
When all renewable energy sources are taken into account, clean energy made up 9.5% of all electricity generation in July if you exclude hydroelectric, which the EIA does, and 16% if you include hydroelectric. On the year, renewable generation, without hydroelectric, provided 13% of all generation, up from 2019’s 11%. Renewables with hydroelectric provided 21.2% of total electrical output, up from 19.2% a year ago.
This breakout year for renewables has been highlighted by the month of May, where renewable resources reached an all-time high share of the country’s electricity generation at 25.3%.
These gains have been driven by the growth of wind and solar, which have grown in generation by a net of 15.5% in the past year. Wind, specifically, is up by 13.0% thus far in 2020 and has accounted for almost 8.5% of total generation.
Other sources suffer
Hydropower is down 2.0%, geothermal down 2.9%, biomass down 5.6% and biofuels is down 14.5%, all on the year.
Yet as hard as some of those renewable generation sources have fallen, no fuel type has had a harder fall than coal. Renewables have produced almost a fifth more electricity than coal through July, sitting at 19.6%. On its own, electrical generation by coal is 27.5% lower than it was through this point last year and has accounted for just 17.8% of the nation’s total.
And while not as stark as coal, renewables have generated 6.7% more electricity than nuclear power has, with nuclear’s output falling 1.7% over the year’s opening seven months.
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As a Solar friend, I don’t like this headline. Let the green energies expand and the rest will happen without poking in the eye of dirty energy. In fact, we need to entice them to invest in cleantech as they have deep pockets and don’t know how to do it.
From the EIA preliminary daily data coal was down a modest 3% in August while wind was up 15% and utility scale solar was up 2%. In September coal is down another 20%, but both wind and solar also suffered down 7% and 5%. Wind and solar could make modest gains – wind has been fairly strong the last two days. Solar is suffering because of the wild fires blocking the sun. Double whammy for CA.
What is going to really hurt coal is the capacity factors. Through July only July has had a CF above 50% (55.1%). Jan (39.1%), Feb (36.4%), Mar (30.9%), Apr (25.5%) and May (28.4%) were all below 40% and June was barely above 40% (41.4%). And, I have August at 56.9% and Sept at 42.7%.
It is going to be very difficult for coal to make money with these low CF. It would be smart for a lot of these to do what Xcel is doing – go to seasonal runtimes. Operate in summer and winter. But, even then it is not going to be very economical for long – maybe 5 years.
How many Amerians have died of “Black Lung”? Working in undergound, dark, coal mines exposes workers to all kinds of lung diseases and I am sure that if given the coice of installing solar or wind generation in the bright sunlight and fresh air rather than taking that elevator down into the pit, they woud stay topside. Stip mining destroys the lands and watershed poisoning the water and rainwater filled pits are nasty with chemicals. Coal was so 19th Century and today, in the 21st Centrury, we can do better.
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