April 14, 2011

Renewable Energy Edging out Nuclear

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law today requiring power companies to generate 33 percent of all electricity from renewable energy sources like wind and solar power by 2020.

By comparison, Massachusetts' renewable performance standard requires 6% of all electricity from renewable energy sources in 2011 and 15% by 2020.  We're lagging behind the national average. 

In 2010, all forms of renewable energy provided 8.2 quadrillion BTUs of primary energy production in the United States, a little less than 11% of our total production of 74.9 quads.  At the same time, nuclear power provided 8.4 quads, a little more than 11% of the total.

This is data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review for March 2011.  Given that renewable power continues to grow at a healthy clip, while nuclear power has stagnated in recent years, renewables may well deliver more total primary production than nuclear sometime this year.
Here's some more detail on how energy production breaks down within the renewable resource category (via Cleantechnica):

  • biomass/biofuels — 51.98%
  • hydropower — 30.66%
  • wind — 11.29%
  • geothermal — 4.68%
  • solar — 1.38%
The EIA reported these changes in energy production from 2009 to 2010:
  • wind energy increased by 28%
  • biomass/biofuels increased by 10%
  • solar and geothermal increased by 4% each
  • hydropower dropped by 6%
Since 2007, nuclear power has been flat while renewable resources have delivered 22% more primary energy.  So, again, it's entirely possible if not likely that renewables will deliver more primary production than nuclear sometime this year 

Google Inc. is investing $168 million in an alternative power project that aims to produce enough solar energy to light 140,000 homes. The investment in BrightSource's solar energy plant represents Google's biggest bet on so-called clean energy so far. The company, based in Mountain View, Calif., ended last year with about $35 billion in cash.
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