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OVERVIEW - US solar grows 30% in Jan-Sep 2018, wind up by 15%

Solar park in US equipped with Soltec's SF Utility trackers: Author: Soltec

November 29 (Renewables Now) - Renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for nearly 18.0% of net domestic electrical generation in the US during the first three-quarters of 2018, according to a SUN DAY Campaign analysis of just-released data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

In addition, the latest issue of EIA's "Electric Power Monthly" (with data through September 30, 2018) reveals that solar and wind both showed strong growth -- utility-scale solar expanded by 30.3%* and wind by 14.5% compared to the first nine months of 2017. Combined, wind and solar accounted for almost 9.0% of the nation's electrical generation (wind - 6.4%, solar - 2.4%) and nearly half (49.7%) of the total from all renewable energy sources.

Modest increases were also reported by EIA for geothermal and biomass -- 5.4% and 1.5% respectively. Taken together, non-hydro renewables, including distributed solar, grew by 14.9%. However, a 5.1% drop in hydropower output netted an increase of only 6.0% in electrical generation by all renewables in the first three-quarters of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.

Notwithstanding its lower production, hydropower remained the leading source of renewable electricity -- accounting for 7.05% of total electrical generation, followed by wind (6.41%), solar (2.42%), biomass (1.48%), and geothermal (0.39%).

The decline in hydropower, coupled with a 4.9% increase in total electricity produced by all sources (driven primarily by a 15.1% expansion of electrical production by natural gas and a 2.2% increase in nuclear power), resulted in renewables increasing their share of domestic electrical output only marginally -- from 17.6% in 2017 to 17.8% in 2018.

That modest gain, though, continued to close the gap between renewables and coal with the latter dropping by 5.4%. Coal now provides 27.0% of the nation's electrical generation compared to 30.0% a year ago. A decade earlier, coal's share of US electrical generation was over 48.0%.

*The growth in "total solar" (i.e., including distributed small-scale solar photovoltaic) was 28.2%, comprised of a 30.3% increase in utility-scale solar and a 23.6% increase in small-scale solar.

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Ken Bossong is Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign, a non-profit research and educational organiсation promoting sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels.

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