Solar and wind accounted for 16.8% of total U.S. energy generation in March, the highest single-month output the two resources have ever accounted for and 34.3% greater than March 2020.
The latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) “Electric Power Monthly” report shows that for the first quarter of 2021, solar and wind increased by 24.3% and 10.5% respectively. The figures included the growth of distributed rooftop systems.
The growth by solar and wind proved to be necessary down to the last kilowatt, as output by hydropower was down by 7.5% in the month, biomass was down 3.6%, and geothermal was down 1.5%. Non-hydro renewable generation rose by 11.2% during the first three months of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020. Generation by all renewables, including hydropower, grew by 4.4% compared to the previous year. Renewables’ share of the nation’s electrical generation in Q1 was 21.6%, up from 21.2% a year earlier.
While renewables expanded, electric generation by natural gas during the quarter fell by 10.5%, and by 14.8% in March alone. The fuel’s share of the nation’s electrical generation during the first quarter of 2021 was 34.3%, down from the 39.2% mark achieved a year ago. Higher prices led some power generators to favor lower-cost coal-fired generation over natural gas.
Electrical output by nuclear also fell in Q1, this time by 2.8%. Collectively, renewables outpaced nuclear power during both the first quarter of 2021 and the month of March alone by 8.7% and 26.2% respectively.
Coal-fired generation grew 34.8% in Q1 2021, compared to Q1 2020, as economics favored coal. Electrical generation by coal during the first quarter exceeded that of all renewable sources combined by 7.4%. However, by March, renewables had bounced back and eclipsed coal’s output for the month by 29.6%.
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When I was looking at this earlier I was doing the mental comparison for coal and NG against 2019 since that is a more “normal” year than 2020. Based on this coal was down 10% and NG was down 2% for the first quarter.
Summer should be interesting with so much solar pv coming online. And next year will be more interesting.
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