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Another Record for U.S. Renewable Electricity

The latest figures from the Energy Information Administration show that net U.S. electrical generation from renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, solar, water, wind) reached an all-time monthly high in May 2009. Combined, those sources accounted for 13 percent of total electrical generation in the U.S., according to recent analysis from the Washington, D.C.-based Sun Day Campaign.

More specifically, Sun Day reports that renewable sources generated 40,395,000 megawatt-hours (Mwh) of electricity in May 2009 (the latest month for which EIA has compiled and released data). That level is 7.7 percent higher than that produced in May 2008 (37,515,000 Mwh) and appears to be the highest monthly figure ever reported by EIA for renewably-generated electricity.

Total net electrical generation in May 2009 from all sources, including renewables, fossil fuels, and nuclear, was 311,411,000 Mwh – a drop of 4.1 percent from the 324,589,000 Mwh generated in May 2008.
The 13 percent share of U.S. net electrical generation provided by renewable sources in May 2009 consists of 9.4 percent from conventional hydropower and 3.6 percent from non-hydro renewables. The latter figure includes approximately 1.8 percent from wind, 1.3 percent from biomass, 0.4 percent from geothermal, and 0.3 from solar thermal and photovoltaics (totals do not exactly equal due to rounding).
Comparing the month of May 2009 to the month of May 2008, net electrical generation from wind sources increased by 12.5 percent; higher wind generation totals in the state of Iowa accounted for 52.2 percent of the national increase. This large increase occurred as 11 new Iowa wind farms began generating electricity at the end of 2008. Conventional hydropower increased by 10.2 percent, reflecting an increase in generation of 2,705,000 Mwh. Solar thermal and photovoltaics combined increased by 3.5 percent.
On the other hand, coal dropped by 14.8 percent, petroleum liquids by 8.3 percent and nuclear by 0.6 percent. Natural gas expanded by 10.6 percent.
“Month-after-month, the U.S. government’s own numbers refute those attempting to dismiss or belittle the rapidly expanding role being played by renewable energy sources in the nation’s electricity supply,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the Sun Day Campaign. “Moreover, non-hydro renewables are already well beyond the levels of the Renewable Electricity Standard proposed in energy legislation now being considered by before the U.S. Senate, which calls for just 3 percent renewables by 2013.”
For the 12-month period ending May 31, 2009, all renewable energy sources combined accounted for 9.6 percent of net U.S. electrical generation with conventional hydropower accounting for 6.4 percent and non-hydro renewables accounting for the other 3.2 percent. By comparison, for the 12-month period ending May 31, 2008, the corresponding numbers were 8.4 percent, 5.7 percent, and 2.7 percent.

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