‘A ‘Wow’ moment’: US renewable energy hit record 28% in April

‘A ‘Wow’ moment’: US renewable energy hit record 28% in April. What’s driving the change? 

The power generated by renewable energy sources reached record levels of 28 percent in April. This is which is a record-breaking figure that shows how crucial renewable energy is becoming in U.S. the energy market.

“It’s a ‘Wow’ moment,” Peter Kelly-Detwiler. He is an energy analyst, and author of “The Energy Switch,” new book that focuses on the shift to a carbon-free economy of energy.

The proportion of U.S. electricity produced by renewable energy sources like hydroelectric, solar and wind dams has been steadily increasing from 8.6 percent in April 2001, to April’s 28 percent. The figures were published in the last week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration that tracks energy information for the entire country.

‘A ‘Wow’ moment’: US renewable energy hit record 28% in April

What is the reason for the increase?

There are many reasons. The most important is the fact that solar and wind installations dominate U.S. energy buildouts.

“Basically, the only things we’ve added to the grid in the past decade are wind, solar and natural gas,” said Harrison Fell, an economist and engineer at Columbia University, where he is the co-director of the Power Sector and Renewables Research Initiative.

It’s due to two factors. One is the cost. Renewables are the most competitive energy source that is available today, Kelly-Detwiler stated.

In 2021 the cost of producing a megawatt-hour electricity using a brand new wind turbine ranged from $26 to $50. The electricity produced generated by the cheapest natural gas plant was $45 to $74 according to Lazard Financial Advisors, a company that releases annually estimates on the costs of electricity production.

Mandates from the federal and state levels as well as incentives to boost the use of clean energy also assist, Fell said.

“When you do the math on what’s the most profitable thing to add, it’s often going to be wind and solar at this stage,” the expert stated.

Did the weather play a role?

Yes. April is the windiest month of the year and this spring was more windy than the average, Fell said.

It’s also less power flowing into the grid from nuclear and fossil fuels during the spring. This is because demand for electricity is usually lower due to the mild weather. Also, nuclear and fossil fuel plants make use of the time for maintenance and refueling. This lowers their production He said.

Another surprising fact is it was that, in the month of April, wind power and solar power generated more electricity than nuclear power plants.

The past few years, nuclear power stations which are carbon neutral, have produced 20% of the electricity in America. In April, that figure dropped to 18%, while solar and wind combined stood at 19.6 percent.

The decline in nuclear power is due to the shut-down of two nuclear plants over the past year. Indian Point in New York state, and Palisades located in Michigan, as well as scheduled shutdowns to allow for maintenance.

Is the trend set to continue?

If each of the U.S. carbon-neutral energy sources are grouped together – wind, nuclear solar, hydroelectric and nuclear nearly 46 percent of U.S. electricity in April was generated by sources that don’t produce greenhouse gases for the atmosphere, as federal data illustrates.

“It’s a milestone,” Kelly-Detwiler stated. “But in a few years, we’ll look back and say, ‘This was a nice steppingstone to the next ‘Wow!’ moment.”

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