Renewable energy production in the United States has surpassed the production of nuclear power for the first time, a government study reports.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, during the first quarter of this year, renewable energy sources (biomass/biofuels, geothermal, solar, water, wind) provided 2.245 quadrillion BTUs of energy, or 11.73 percent of U.S. energy production.
More significantly, energy production from renewable sources in 2011 was 5.65 percent more than that from nuclear power, which provided 2.125 quadrillion BTUs and has remained largely unchanged in recent years. Energy from renewable sources is now 77.15% of that from domestic crude oil production.
The multi-year upward trend in renewable consumption is driven by increasing consumption of biofuels and wind capacity additions.
According to the USEIA, from 2005 to 2009, the annual growth in U.S. wind capacity averaged 40 percent. Since 2006, 36 percent of total electric power industry capacity additions have been wind generators.
Economic and regulatory uncertainties conspired to reduce wind capacity additions in 2010.
In the context of this study, renewable energy consumption is defined beyond electric power generation from hydro, wind, solar, and geothermal sources.
Sources including biofuels for transportation (such as ethanol and biodiesel) and biomass (such as wood and wood wastes) for space heating and industrial steam production as well as for electric power generation are counted as renewable resources.