30 June 2017 2017 10:19 AM GMT

US: Clean Energy Now Providing More Electricity Than Nuclear For The First Time

The latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information’s (EIA) “Electric Power Monthly” (with data through April 30, 2017) reveals that – for the first time since the beginning of the nuclear era – renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar – inc. small-scale PV, wind) are now providing a greater share of the nation’s electrical generation than nuclear power.

For the first third of this year, renewables and nuclear power have been running neck-in-neck with renewables providing 20.20% of U.S. net electrical generation during the four-month period (January – April) compared to 20.75% for nuclear power. But in March and April, renewables surpassed nuclear power and have taken a growing lead: 21.60% (renewables) vs. 20.34% (nuclear) in March, and 22.98% (renewables) vs. 19.19% (nuclear) in April.

While renewables and nuclear are each likely to continue to provide roughly one-fifth of the nation’s electricity generation in the near-term, the trend line clearly favours a rapidly expanding market share by renewables. Electrical output by renewables during the first third of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016 has increased by 12.1% whereas nuclear output has dropped by 2.9%.

In fact, nuclear capacity has declined over the last four years, a trend which is projected to continue, regardless of planned new reactor startups. From 2013-16, six reactors permanently ceased operation (Crystal River, Kewaunee, San Onofre-2, San Onofre-3, Vermont Yankee, Fort Calhoun), totalling 4,862 MW of generation capacity. Last year, one new reactor (Watts Bar-2) was connected to the grid (after a 43-year construction period), adding 1,150 MW, for a net decline of 3,712 MW since 2013. Six more reactors are scheduled to close by 2021, totalling 5,234 MW (5.2% of nuclear capacity). Two more reactors totalling 2,240 MW are scheduled to close by 2025.**

In addition, nuclear generators are discussing the potential retirements of several more. Against the planned retirement of 7,274 MW of capacity, four new reactors are in construction, totalling 4,468 MW. The completion of these reactors is in doubt, however, due to billions of dollars in cost overruns and the bankruptcy of designer-builder Westinghouse.

If all reactors being built are ultimately completed, total nuclear generating capacity will decline by at least 2,806 MW (3%) by 2025, planned additions against planned retirements. If these projects are cancelled, nuclear capacity will decline by at least 7,274 MW (7.2%) from 2017, accounting for roughly 57,000 TMWh/year of generation.

On the other hand, almost all renewable energy sources are experiencing strong growth rates. Comparing the first four months of 2017 to the same period in 2016, solar has grown by 37.9%, wind by 14.2%, hydropower by 9.5%, and geothermal by 5.3%. Biomass (inc. wood and wood-derived fuels) has remained essentially unchanged – slipping by just 0.3%.

In recent years, the strong growth rates of both solar and wind have resulted in new records being set virtually every month. For the second month in a row, solar and wind combined provided more than 10% of the nation’s electrical generation. In March 2017, those sources provided 10.04% of the nation’s electrical generation. That record was eclipsed in April when solar and wind reached nearly 11 percent (10.92%) of total generation. And, for the first time, wind and solar combined have provided more electricity year-to-date (113,971 thousand megawatt-hours (TMWh)) than has hydropower (111,750 TMWh).

In April, solar alone reached another milestone, providing more than two percent (2.33%) of the nation’s electrical supply. Consequently, solar has now moved into third place among renewable sources – behind hydropower and wind but ahead of biomass and geothermal. In April, utility-scale plus small-scale solar provided 20,928 TMWh compared to 20,509 TMWh from biomass and 5,945 TMWh from geothermal.

And not coincidentally, as renewables’ share of electrical generation has grown, that of fossil fuels has declined. Electrical generation by fossil fuels (i.e., coal, natural gas, petroleum liquids + petroleum coke) dropped by 5.2% during the first third of 2017 compared to 2016.

“In light of their growth rates in recent years, it was inevitable that renewable sources would eventually overtake nuclear power,” noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign.  “The only real surprise is how soon that has happened — years before most analysts ever expected.” “Renewable energy is now surpassing nuclear power, a major milestone in the transformation of the U.S. energy sector,” said Tim Judson, Executive Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.  “This gulf will only widen over the next several years, with continued strong growth of renewables and the planned retirement of at least 7% of nuclear capacity by 2025. The possible completion of four new reactors will not be enough to reverse this trend, with total nuclear capacity falling by 2,806 MW (3%) through 2025.”

** Planned nuclear reactor retirements (state – capacity – year): Palisades (MI, 811-MW, 2018), Pilgrim (MA, 688-MW, 2019), Oyster Creek (NJ, 637-MW, 2019), Three Mile Island 1 (PA, 829-MW, 2019), Indian Point 2 (NY, 1,028-MW, 2020), Indian Point 3 (NY, 1,040-MW, 2021), Diablo Canyon 1 (CA 1,118-MW, 2024), Diablo Canyon 2 (CA, 1,122-MW, 2025).

The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organisation founded in 1992 to aggressively promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels. Founded in 1978, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) provides information  and analysis on energy and radioactive waste, and monitor policy developments on the national and state levels.

October 17th 2017
Grids Integration, Energy Networks Boosted By Distributed Generation Growth

Renewable energy has continued to develop at ever increasing rates, with remarkable growth seen since the start of this decade. The pace of the energy transition is driving innovation and growth in related sectors. For energy networks and grids integrating small gas turbines, micro-turbines, fuel cells, biomass, small hydropower, wind and solar energy; distributed generation installation provides significant solutions in the restructured electricity regime. This is particularly so, where there is a larger uncertainty in demand and supply.

October 16th 2017
Nordex Adds To Successes In Argentina, Winning 100 MW Pomona Wind Farm Order

The Nordex Group has added a further chapter to its success story in Argentina with an order for 26 N131/3900 turbines for the “Pomona” wind farm. The contract will be executed on a full EPC basis, including civil and electrical engineering, procurement, construction and manufacturing, delivery and installation of the wind turbines. Preparations for construction will be commencing in 2017, after which the wind power systems will be installed at the beginning of 2019. In addition, a ten-year full operation and maintenance contract has also been signed. 

October 16th 2017
Uganda Inaugurates Breakthrough Tororo PV Plant. A Future Model For Africa?

Production has commenced at the Tororo PV power plant; which, with 16 GWh of renewable energy generated annually, will cater for the energy requirements of 35,838 people and help reduce CO2 emissions by 7,200 tons. Overall, $19.6 million was invested to build the 10 MWp plant, with the engagement of several major organisations including KfW and FMO Development Banks, the World Bank and the EU. Attilio Pacifici, EU Ambassador said, “One of the key objectives of this plan is to encourage private sector participation in higher risk investments and we’re happy to demonstrate that Uganda is well positioned to be successful and a good model for replication.”

October 10th 2017
Enel Starts Construction Of Australia’s Largest Solar PV Project

The Bungala Solar One facility is part of the Bungala Solar PV Project and will have an installed capacity of 137.7 MW out of a total of more than 275 MW for the whole project, that will be able to produce 570 GWh per year. The facility will cover an area of approximately 300 hectares and will consist of about 420,000 polycrystalline PV modules mounted on single-axis tracker structures which will follow the Sun’s path from east to west; increasing the amount of energy produced by the plant, compared to PV modules with fixed structures. The overall Bungala Solar PV project is expected to become fully operational in early 2019.

October 10th 2017
EDF Completes Blythe Installation Of Potent New Turbines, Powering 34,000 Homes

The Blyth Offshore Demonstrator project will produce enough low-carbon electricity to power approximately 34,000 UK households, using 8.0MW wind turbines with a power mode uprating them to 8.3MW. It will save around 57,600 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year and is the first offshore wind project to connect using 66kv rated cables. It’s also the first time that a “float and submerge” gravity-based foundation (GBF) has been used for offshore wind turbines. Each GBF is made up of more than 1,800m3 of concrete and weighs over 15,000 tonnes when fully installed on the seabed, and the structures have a total height of around 60 metres from the base to the access platform.


 

   

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