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.

June 22nd 2018
Growth Of Renewables In Peru As Enel Opens Largest Wind Farm In Country

Enel is now Peru’s leading renewable energy generator with around 1.1 GW of installed capacity following the commissioning of Wayra I which, with more than 132 MW, is now Peru’s largest wind farm. Built in approximately a year and comprising 42 wind turbines of 3 MW over each, it’s expected to produce 600 GWh per year; enough to avoid the annual emission of over 285,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. The energy generated by the wind farm is being delivered to the Peruvian transmission grid (SEIN) through the Poroma substation. The project is supported by a 20-year energy supply contract with Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines.

June 18th 2018
IET’s Renewable Power Generation Conference Comes To Copenhagen

The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s popular Renewable Power Generation conference will be making its first visit to Denmark this year. The conference, now in its 7th iteration, will be hosted by the Center for Electric Power and Energy at DTU, which also manages the world-class experiment platform for research and development of renewables integration – PowerLabDK. Over 180 new research papers will be presented at the conference. Attendees will be able to find out the latest ideas and thinking around wind power plant modelling and control; wave and tidal energy; renewable energy forecasting; power conversion and grid interaction; Hybrid systems combining multiple energy sources; the impact of distributed generation and use of HVDC.

June 20th 2018
Battery Boom: Wind And Solar Can Generate Half Of Worldwide Electricity By 2050

Coal is to shrink to just 11% of global electricity generation by mid-century, from 38% now, as costs shift heavily in favour of wind, solar and batteries. Wind and solar are set to surge to almost “50 by 50” – 50% of world generation by 2050 due to reductions in cost. “Cheap battery storage means that it becomes increasingly possible to finesse the delivery of electricity from wind and solar so that these technologies can help meet demand even when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. The result will be renewables eating up more and more of the existing market for coal, gas and nuclear.”

June 14th 2018
Major Wins For Solar As EU Increases Renewable Energy Target

The European Parliament, European Council and European Commission have agreed to a binding 32% EU renewable energy target for 2030, up from the original proposal of 27%. James Watson, CEO SolarPower Europe commented ‘The deal is a good one for solar. We see a much more ambitious target than was expected just a few months ago and importantly we have a strong framework for self-consumption and prosumers. Households wake up this morning with the knowledge that they will have a new right – the right to self-generate, consume and store the energy they produce. This is a major achievement.

January 8th 2018
Vestas Sets 10.6 GW Record In 2017 After Year-End Surge; Ups Cashflow Guidance

Vestas has received a firm and unconditional order for 190 MW of 4 MW platform turbines in the U.S. taking the global order intake for the company in 2017 to 10.6 GW, surpassing 2016’s record order intake of 10.5 GW. The surge of orders at the end of the year has resulted in the company revising its guidance for free cashflow upwards. It now expects the free cashflow for 2017 to be €1.15bn-€1.25bn, as compared with the previous guidance of €450m-€900m. Markets have reacted favourably with the company share price experiencing an increase of 5%.