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Renewables Give Us More Power Than Nuclear August 22, 2011

Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
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IDEA Member Noel Davis with Vela Gear posted this article to the LinkedIn Wind Energy Manufacturers Assocation (WEMA) Group News.

Discusses the recent news that renewable energy (including hydro  as well) now supplies more electricity to the US grid than does nuclear power.  The post then goes on to list some large solar and wind projects in advanced  stages of the development pipeline as a reason for being optimistic that the  solar and wind side of the renewables is rapidly growing in  scale.

by Tyler  Caine, Project Manager and Sustainability Adviser at Lubrano Ciavarra Architects.  Tyler is the author of the blog Intercon, a  forum for critique and discussion of sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @InterconGreen.  Connect with Tyler on LinkedIn.

Read more: http://greeneconomypost.com/renewables-give-power-nuclear-18838.htm#ixzz1VmjpQV1h

For the first time in a while, our portfolio of renewable power sources has  surpassed power production from nuclear generation. According to the latest Monthly  Energy Review from the Energy Information Administration, the most  sustainable forms of energy now produce more for us than the most hazardous,  largely due to rises in wind, solar and hydro production.

In the first quarter, renewable energy clocked in a total of 11.73% of our  total power production at 2.245 quads (quadrillion BTUs) or 5.65% more than  nuclear power.  From the same period last year, solar power generation was up  104.8 percent, wind generation increased 40.3 percent, and hydro expanded by  28.7 percent. Power generated from biomass decreased by 4.8 percent. By  comparison, natural gas generation increased by 1.8 percent, nuclear by 0.4  percent, and coal-fired electrical generation declined by 5.7 percent.

*It is important to note that this represents total power production for the  country, not only the generation of electricity, which leads to why the number  for coal looks low and oil looks high. While renewables produced 12.7% of our  electricity in the same period, nuclear power accounted for 22.1% of our  electrical needs, meaning that there is a large portion of renewables that are  producing energy (notably heat) but not electrons. Coal still reigns supreme  with 47.9% of grid fodder. Oil actually produces a very small amount of our  electricity (3.9%) which is good given that it is the second dirtiest form of  power generation we have.

There are likely just as many people saying “How is this possible?” as “Well  it’s about time,” but in either case the milestone is an important one for  attributing credence to the growth of the renewable sector and the wealth of  unused potential. The events of Japan’s nuclear disaster is just one more nail  in the coffin of the world’s most expensive type of energy to construct, making  it unlikely that nuclear power will be clawing its way back anytime soon.

Related post: “The  Catastrophic Downside Risk of Nuclear, Oil, Gas, and Coal“, argues  that these highly centralized fossil energy systems have catastrophic risk  factors that have not traditionally been accounted for in cost/benefit  analysis.

Some have pointed to the topic of renewable strength as misleading, saying  that although “renewable” sources include a group of technologies such as wind,  solar, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric, they do not contribute equally and  it can attribute an image of strength to parts of the marketplace that are still  providing negligible amounts of energy for us. This is not untrue. Biomass was  the all star, marking a resurgence to provide 48 of all renewable production.  Hydro followed with 35.31 percent. Over three quarters of all “renewable” power  comes from two sources that are not heralded as the cutting edge technologies  that are forecast to reshape the face of the grid. Meanwhile, solar power gives  the country less than one percent of its total power needs. Renewable production  increased 36% from the same period in 2009, which is admirable but far from  enough. If these technologies are to provide significant portions of our power,  we need them to not just increase, but multiply from current levels.

That being said, I am optimistic of what the next 12-24 months will hold for  advances in renewable energy production. While solar may be the ugly duckling  right now, DOE loans are coming through for a new breed of solar installations,  much larger than what typically exists now. Solar arrays of 100-150 MW provide  only a fraction of their standard coal counterparts, but newer fields of 500+ MW  start to offset meaningful amounts of energy from fossil fuels. National Solar  Power is planning 400 MW of solar capacity while First Solar received DOB backing for three California projects of 230 MW, 250 MW and  550 MW. Together the four projects total roughly $6 billion of  investment.

In related post: “Nine  Reasons Why Solar Power Costs a Lot Less Than People Commonly  Believe“, argues that more focus should be given to the many  important benefits that result from increasing the use of distributed solar  power, and lists nine of these measurable costable benefits.

Wind has similar prospects on the drawing board. The world’s largest  land-based wind farm, Shepard’s Flat, is currently under construction in Oregon,  boasting 338 GE wind turbines for a capacity of 845 MW with operation slated for  the end of 2012. This next generation of clean energy projects could signal that  investors and grid managers are done dipping their toes in the water and are  more prepared to take the plunge. Passing nuclear was a nice stepping stone, but  catching up to oil is next.

Read more: http://greeneconomypost.com/renewables-give-power-nuclear-18838.htm#ixzz1Vmj7rntB

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