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Non-Hydro Renewables Outproduce Hydro for First Time Ever

For apparently the first time ever, during the first quarter of 2014, electricity generated by non-hydro renewables (i.e., biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) exceeded that provided by conventional hydropower. This is according to data in the latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) "Electric Power Monthly," with preliminary data through to March 31, 2014.

Non-hydro renewables provided 53.16 percent of the net U.S. electrical generation from renewable energy sources for the period January 1 to March 31, 2014 while hydropower provided the balance of 46.84 percent.

This reflects an increase of 11.3 percent in electrical generation by non-hydro renewables compared to the first quarter to 2013 as well as a decline of 4.5 percent in hydropower's output — possibly contributed to by the worsening drought in California. Notably, electrical generation from solar photovoltaic and solar thermal grew by 103.8 percent while wind expanded by12.6 percent; biomass also increased by 2.2 percent, but geothermal dipped by 3.3 percent.

Electrical generation from all renewable energy sources combined, including hydropower, was 3.29 percent higher during the first quarter of 2014 compared to the first three months of 2013 and accounted for 13.09 percent of net U.S. electrical generation. Hydropower accounted for 6.13 percent of net U.S. electrical generation for the period, followed by wind (4.82 percent), biomass (1.46 percent), geothermal (0.39 percent), and solar (0.29 percent). According to the EIA, "these additions understate actual solar capacity gains. Unlike other energy sources, significant levels of solar capacity exist in smaller, non-utility-scale applications — e.g., rooftop solar photovoltaics."

For more than a decade, renewable energy sources — led by wind and solar — have been rapidly expanding their share of the nation's electrical generation. The most recent data affirm that the trend is continuing unabated.

Lead image: Wind turbines via Shutterstock

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