Studies reveal growth of renewable energy during Obama Administration

Two recently-issued federal studies highlight the growth in electrical generation from geothermal, solar, wind and other renewable energy sources during the first three-and-one-half years of the Obama Administration.

According to the latest issue of EIA's "Electric Power Monthly" with data through June 30, 2012, non-hydro renewable sources (biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) provided 5.76 percent of net electrical generation for the first half of 2012. This represents an increase of 10.97 percent compared to the same period in 2011. Solar increased by 97.2 percent while wind grew 16.3 percent, and geothermal by 0.2 percent. However, biomass dipped by 0.8 percent. For the first six months of 2012, wind contributed 3.84 percent of net electrical generation followed by biomass (1.40 percent), geothermal (0.43 percent), and solar (at least 0.09 percent). Conventional hydropower accounted for an additional 7.86 percent of net electrical generation in 2012 – a decline of 14.3 percent compared to the first half of 2011.

During 2008, the last full year of the Bush Administration, non-hydro renewables accounted for 3.06 percent of net electrical generation with an average monthly output of 10,508 GWh. By mid-2012, the average monthly electrical generation from non-hydro renewables had grown by 78.70 percent to 18,777 GWh. Comparing monthly electrical output in 2008 versus 2012, solar has expanded by 285.19 percent, wind by 171.72 percent, and geothermal by 13.53 percent. However, electrical generation from biomass dropped by 0.56 percent.

According to the latest issue of the monthly "Energy Infrastructure Update" published by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)'s Office of Energy Projects with data for the first half of 2012, 229 renewable energy projects accounted for more than 38 percent of new electrical generation capacity. This includes 50 wind energy projects (2,367 MW), 111 solar energy projects (588 MW), 59 biomass projects (271 MW), five geothermal projects (87 MW) and four water power projects (11 MW).

New renewable energy electrical generating capacity was more than double that of coal (two new units totaling 1,608 MW). No new nuclear capacity came on line during the first half of 2012. However, 40 new natural gas units came on line with 3,708 MW of capacity (42 percent of the total). Renewable energy sources now account for 14.76 percent of total installed operating generating capacity (water – 8.66 percent; wind – 4.30 percent, biomass – 1.23 percent, geothermal – 0.31 percent, solar – at least 0.26 percent).

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